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Hanley Sustainability Institute

Sustainability in Corporate America as a first internship

By Grace Hungerford

Last September, as a junior studying Sustainability, I decided to make the leap from my comfortable summer job working at a restaurant to a “big girl” internship. Not knowing where to start, I applied to everything that said “Sustainability” or “ESG” (Environmental, Social and Governance) on LinkedIn. 

Lucky for me, something stuck. I got an interview with JOANN Stores in Hudson, Ohio. It was a quick 45-minute drive from where I knew I wanted to be in the summer, Cleveland. Not knowing what to expect, I interviewed with three different employees and hoped for the best. Originating from Long Island, N.Y., I was excited about this new adventure. 

Fast forward to May 22, my first day in Corporate America, I was panicked. Full of self-doubt, not knowing anyone, I reflected on something my junior high basketball coach told me, “Fake it till you make it, Grace.” Taking that and running with it, I knew I could do it. 

Slowly but surely my “fake it to you make it” mindset turned into “you got this.” I learned the ins and outs of corporate sustainability reporting, fabric and textile makeup and how to use pivot tables (my best friend now). 

I successfully completed the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) portion for JOANN’s Corporate Responsibility Report in just shy of 10 weeks. The Global Reporting Initiative is a reporting system that corporations use to track their sustainability initiatives and programs for their past fiscal year. It heavily focuses on the social aspect of ESG. Having a human rights minor and taking the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) course allowed me to comprehend and explain many portions to others and what type of data we have to report on certain topics. 

Within those 10 weeks, I found many things, including my love for Corporate Sustainability Reporting, two great friends that I am still in touch with and how to pack a proper 9-5 lunch. But, more importantly, I found my sense of self. Now, I would be lying if some days on my drive home I called my parents because I was confused. How was I given this task? Why did I get this position? I constantly thought that I was not skilled enough to be given this task or confused on why I felt the need to be so independent and move to Cleveland by myself. 

A month after my internship has ended, I would not trade my experience for the world. 

As the summer internship or job searching (if you are a senior like me) starts, I challenge you to step away from your comfort zone, go for whatever it is you want and, just like me, have confidence in the skills you have gained at UD. They can really make an impact in the workplace and on yourself.

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