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The business of consciousness

One Penn alumnus helps a global manufacturer commit to improving its footprint

“I get excited and geek out when I get to report on and tout the good work that my corporation is doing,” shares Sara Drexler (Master of Environmental Studies ’14), FMC Corporation’s Sustainability Analyst. In her role, Sara reports on FMC’s environmental metrics as well as product innovation and business practice sustainability. “We’re a multinational manufacturer in the agricultural, health, nutrition and energy markets—so we are accountable to many types of stakeholders around the world.”

What started as an internship during her studies at Penn transformed into a full-time career in corporate sustainability. “What drew me to the Master of Environmental Studies (MES)  program was its focus on a pragmatic education.”

The flexibility of the MES degree allowed Sara to tailor her coursework around her professional development, “In my first year I knew I wanted to be in the business world, so I made sure that I took classes in Wharton. Once I started working at FMC, I then studied with Organizational Dynamics to learn management and the School of Engineering for the hard science to put the puzzle together.”

Through Sara’s interdisciplinary environmental education at Penn, she learned how to collaborate with different subject matter experts. She notes that “driving sustainability in an organization requires diverse groups working together to achieve a goal, and having knowledge of the methodologies and mindsets of different technical teams accelerates that process.”

One of the biggest pieces of FMC’s puzzle according to Sara is transparency. “We have a lot of challenges. This year will be our sixth sustainability report, so we are reaching a place in which sustainability is a given in the company and part of what we do,” she continues, “Our products address major global challenges like feeding a growing population and enabling sustainable energy solutions. Advancing the sustainable attributes of those products is a key part of my role.”  

Today, Sara and her team are helping move FMC into a more sustainable future. “Our impact isn’t just in what we make, but how we make it. For 2025 we’re set to reduce our energy, greenhouse gas and waste by 15% and reduce our water use in water-scarce areas by 20%. We haven’t had public goals before, and it’s a big step forward in ensuring that we’re making progress.”

Though Sara’s work is often focused on the big picture, this avid skier and runner has simple advice for everyone who wants to be more environmentally conscious, “Think about it first. That mindset to take the time to recycle or compost in your own home translates to a mindset that is more conscientious. With that, you can influence other people’s behaviors and ensure that you’re making better choices.”

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