Bobby Brewer knows some people see capitalism and sustainability as incompatible. But as the education programs assistant at Graham Sustainability Institute majoring in Program in the Environment (PitE) with a minor in business, Brewer sees the potential for the incorporation of sustainable practices in the corporate world.
“Companies can incorporate sustainability and environment principles into capitalism and be a lot more profitable by incorporating sustainable strategies into corporate supply chains and operations,” says Brewer. “There’s a lot of room in that space.”
Brewer is looking at the trends of millennials as they enter the workforce — the younger generation is driving companies to be more environmentally responsible. As a proponent of sustainable capitalism, Brewer is part of this change. He’s passionate about climate change and wants to inspire others to use energy more responsibly and switch to more sustainable energy resources.
Right now, Brewer is involved in a research team led by Professor Adam Simon in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The team is looking at the way the University of Michigan can move away from fossil fuels and make a carbon neutrality pledge in the future.
“I started out doing some research...on what other universities that are comparable to U-M have done. I particularly looked at Ohio State, because they made an energy commitment with a company called ENGIE. Their goal is to switch to entirely renewable energy.” Brewer looked into the background of what Ohio State did to help him figure out what might be possible for Michigan in terms of sustainable energy use.
Now, Brewer’s thinking about how he can incorporate the knowledge he’s gaining through his sustainable energy research into his projects in sustainability and business, and vice versa. Ideally, he hopes to be able to combine his interests into a professional path focused on making a positive impact in the world.
A study abroad opportunity through Ross he participated in last year gave Brewer an exciting example of how this combination might work in an entrepreneurial context. The trip took him to Chile, where he studied the emerging wine market. Chilean wineries abide by a sustainability code to minimize erosion, energy use, and fuel use while encouraging biodiversity and responsibly managing water.
“Chile is unique because they have vulnerable ecosystems there. But they’ve also managed to develop this wine market and economy into one of the most powerful players in the world. A lot of their wineries have done this with sustainability as a core focus because of the wildlife and environment.”
Brewer was able to see everything he’s been studying happening in real time during his trip. The Chilean entrepreneurs grow and develop their wineries while gaining market share by incorporating sustainable principles. The intersection of business and environmentally friendly practices was inspiring; Brewer hopes he can create incorporate holistic principles of sustainability into the company he dreams of running.
“I just want to make a difference somehow and do my part to make things better in terms of how we handle our environment,” says Brewer. “I want to be involved in educating and raising awareness because I think that’s how we have a big impact, bringing more people into the fold to educate them on their daily lives and how they can work to be more sustainable.”