As we see the impacts of climate change happening around the globe, the crisis, in particular, is disproportionately impacting younger generations, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, and those in low-income communities. Manomet firmly believes that the people who will be most impacted by climate change must play a role in developing creative and equitable strategies that respond effectively to this crisis. Yet systemic oppression continues to present barriers for these historically excluded groups.
Manomet’s U360 Business Sustainability Internship Program has committed to consistently increasing the number of participants over the next few years. It is a top priority also to enroll an increasing number of diverse students in the program. As a high-impact internship, U360 provides students with an in-depth understanding of how the triple bottom line approach (i.e. a business’s environmental, social, and governance practices) is applied to small businesses; tools and strategies for creating sustainability solutions; and effective sustainability communications skills.
Students spend the majority of their U360 internship interviewing up to 30 small businesses each about their current practices and administering Manomet’s assessment of their triple bottom line practices. Each student selects one industry or subject matter to focus on for the spring semester and interviews all businesses that fall under that topic. This allows students to dive deep into a subject that interests them, develop relationships with professionals in that field, and research the sustainability challenges for that specific sector.
This spring, nearly a third of our U360 student interns decided to focus 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 owners face, learn how to create sustainability solutions that will benefit those businesses, and elevate the voices and experiences of a diverse cross-section of businesses.
We recently asked some of this year’s class of U360 interns to share some of what they observed and learned through speaking to these business owners.