Sustainability as corporate strategy
“I always felt frustrated at this perceived dichotomy between the market efficient outcome and the sustainable outcome,” said Max Williamson, BA ’18, MS’18. “I personally believe the sustainable option is the economically dominant strategy to go with.”
Through the coterminal master’s in Stanford Earth’s Sustainability Science and Practice (SUST), Williamson took courses in sustainability, systems thinking and design thinking that helped him to “not just think of the immediate consequence, [but] think three degrees of separation out and how that looks today [and] tomorrow, how that scales with time, and changes as the broader environment changes,” he said.
The program gave him a unique professional toolkit to complement his bachelor’s in economics – and new opportunities. After working in investment banking at Bank of America, he accepted a position in business development and corporate strategy at Hive, an Artificial Intelligence company based in San Francisco that focuses on computer vision. The role enables him to apply a sustainability lens to the implications of AI as a data-intensive industry that includes ethical treatment of the different stakeholders involved, he said.
In the long term, Williamson hopes to move further into impact investing through hands-on venture capital or a startup accelerator in order to contribute to market strategy for sustainable products. As he continues to grow in his professional career, Williamson said he plans to operate under the idea that sustainability is the ability to solve the problems of today without compromising the next generation’s ability to solve their own problems.
“One of the central themes in sustainability is this idea of being an empathetic decision-maker and doing fulsome stakeholder analysis before you make decisions instead of after,” Williamson said. “Sustainability as a mindset is challenging the assumptions that lead humans to want to put band aids on things and encouraging and empowering people to want to do the thing that would actually treat problems.”