In the later stages of the One Planet MBA our cohort have the opportunity to develop and apply innovative business thinking to solve the real-life challenge faced by one of our corporate partner organisations. The following case study comes from Glendon Filer a member of the 2016 graduating cohort.
Two Months in Tokyo with PwC Aarata’s Sustainability Team, by Glendon Filer – One Planet MBA Alumnus Class of 2016
I have recently returned from Japan where I undertook my One Planet MBA consultancy project, having spent the summer living and working in Tokyo, while completing an internship with PwC Aarata, Japan. Based 20 minutes’ walk from the entertainment and shopping hub of Shinjuku, I commuted across town each day to PwC’s office in Shiodome. Boasting views of Tokyo harbour and the famous Tsukiji fish market, it was an ideal place for some MBA level thinking. Outside it was a hot summer with many typhoons. Inside the office, days were long but – ultimately – rewarding.
The project itself was both challenging and rewarding. PwC partner with a government donor in the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) space, and wanted to publish a thought leadership article to push Japanese businesses towards greater engagement and investment. After much desktop research, semi-structured interviews with global staff and local company managers, and requisite MBA critical thinking and analysis, I created a consultancy report summarizing findings. This report provided insight for the thought leadership piece; the client deliverable.
At the weekends and some evenings I managed time for exploring, and of course plenty of Japanese food. A day visit to Kamakura with MBA colleague Junichi Watanabe, exploring the streets and parks of Tokyo, and myriad summer festivals were the highlights. On the food scene, many bowls of raamen, plates of katsu, and yakitori sticks were consumed. And the occasional pint of nama beeru may have been imbibed.
Aside from this project, I had the chance to pitch in on an urgent proposal PwC were completing. I also found time to discus with PwC colleagues what they were working on, and assist other interns. The knowledge and skills gained on the MBA were useful for my contribution to PwC. Managers from within the wider team were also keen to meet and discuss what their respective teams specialized in. While incredibly busy and focused on their own projects, the team was helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable in their respective areas.
Negotiations with PwC began in early January 2016. Using a connection from a colleague on the MBA cohort, we scheduled a conference call between PwC manager Hideyuki Yamazaki and the partnerships team at the business school. The result of the call was agreement on a paid internship. After Skype interviews with a director (Yuki Isogai) and the partner of the sustainability team, I was able secure the role and negotiate a project to complete while there.
Overcoming the logistics of agreeing on the project, setting a timeline, and negotiating the contract and a work visa were significant challenges. As the first MBA student the sustainability team had accepted, there were uncharted waters to sail. Ample time was needed for all stages of the process. (Delays in the visa process meant the project was started from outside of Japan). Of course, accommodation and flights needed to be sorted too. (Airbnb was in fact the best option for ease of choice, the booking process, and determining what homewares the apartment came with).
Balancing the requirements of the MBA consultancy project and an internship was also a challenge. PwC Aarata run multiple projects, and getting involved in some of these would have given a good overview of their business and been enjoyable. However this did not translate easily into an academic project. PwC were flexible enough to allow me to have sole charge of the thought leadership project instead.
Feedback from PwC during the project was complimentary. I believe it was insightful for them to have an intern with specifc sustainability and business knowledge gained on the One Planet MBA. The project too was an ideal chance for them to research an area that was highly relevant to their strategy, but that they had not found time to complete internally.
Looking back, this was a rewarding path to take. The challenges, financial investment, and time taken to organise such a project and internship pale in comparison compared to the experience. Being in PwC’s offices each day was also great for building my network, and of course for ease of access to PwC staff for the project. I’m sure the entire experience will make a great discussion point during interviews, and in years to come some fantastic memories.
About PwC Aarata Sustainability Team
The sustainability practice provide services in corporate sustainability strategy (long term strategy, sustainability rating, integrated reporting etc.), sustainable finance (impact investing, ESG policy, due diligence, etc.), sustainable operations (conflict minerals, human rights, climate change, etc.) as well as international development assistance (BOP/inclusive business, new market entry, impact assessment, etc.). They work closely with large Japanese companies, the public sector (JICA, METI, Cabinet office, IFC, ADB, etc.), and other stakeholders.
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