For the nearly 32 million small business owners in the United States, it can be hard to prioritize sustainability. It’s especially difficult when faced with a global pandemic that disrupts everything from operations to supply chains.
But, reducing environmental impacts and improving social and governance practices can help a small business face these many challenges. Additionally, providing small business owners with strategies for reducing their environmental impact can lead to lifelong stewardship that ultimately advances Manomet’s overall conservation goals. And when we engage multicultural business owners in this work, we can help break down systemic barriers and create thriving local communities and economies.
Manomet’s U360 Business Sustainability Internship Program is a high-impact internship that connects college students with small business owners to assess their business’s environmental, social, and governance practices. Students spend most of their U360 internship interviewing up to 30 small businesses, with an opportunity to research a specific industry or subject matter in the spring semester. While focusing on a subject that inspires them, students develop relationships with professionals in that field and research the sustainability challenges for that specific sector.
In spring 2021, nearly a third of the U360 student interns focused on specific business owner demographics, like LGBTQIA+-owned (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, [questioning], intersex, asexual, and [agender]), AAPI-owned (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders), women-owned, and Black-owned businesses.
By focusing on a specific demographic, students hear about the unique challenges these companies face, learn how to create sustainability solutions that will benefit those businesses and organizations, and elevate the voices and experiences of a diverse cross-section of business owners.
In last month’s newsletter, we shared perspectives from Nerissa Yu and Madeleine Mattson about what they learned from their conversations with LGBTQIA+ and AAPI-owned businesses. Several other students focused on women-owned and Black-owned businesses and shared insights with us about what they learned about those communities.