Sustainable Business in France & Italy

Guest Post By: Sohum Shirgaonkar, a Full-Time MBA Candidate. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and he studied abroad through I BUS 570: Study Tour to France & Italy during Spring Break 2024.

During our trip to Paris and Rome, I was fortunate to experience a great deal of cultural and business experience I otherwise would not have had without this program. Our group spent a total of 6 days in Paris, and 5 days in Rome. Although this was plenty of time, there is just far too much to see in both historic cities to cover in just that time. 

The focus of our program was to understand how businesses are conducted sustainably in Europe, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. We visited a variety of businesses ranging from an olive oil farm to an environmental consultancy and even social impact organizations. The pace of life and business in these two cities is much slower, but intentional. In the United States, we focus on economic success and large-scale impact while Europe seems to encourage small-producer businesses. Europe’s largest urban farm, Nature Urbaine, offers a very exciting possibility of urban food development as a complement to farm-raised food. While it cannot supply most of a city’s population, it is still a great way to offset the demands on farmers. 

As MBA students, we brought our business background and former professional experience to many of our company visits. We questioned many of our company representatives quite thoroughly, and often found that they were usually forthcoming with the details of their businesses regardless of the strength of the business. It was evident that many of these stakeholders were not so focused on profitability, but more so in the impact of the work that they do. While the US has this, it is a small subset of the overall business culture. 

While the laid-back European culture is enjoyable, I came to realize that I enjoy the efficiency at which the U.S. operates. Simple things like the speed at which you get served at a restaurant really adds up while in Europe. If we were in a rush, we’d have to go and actively settle our bill because servers would take a very long time to check in with each table. We were told that bureaucracy was a major problem with most government services. While the EU has some great benefits often spoken about, people rarely speak about these smaller issues that affect daily life. This helped paint a more complete picture of life there for me. In its entirety, the entire study abroad was quite an enlightening experience and great way to get to know my MBA classmates a bit better.