Building Sustainability Beyond SCU
By Rachael Underwood '23
Emma Pigott ‘23 and her fellow team-members advanced to the final round of the UNC Business School LIFT Challenge, a competition open to both undergraduate and graduate students that explores investment opportunities to scale up Sustainable Development Goals. The competition is sponsored by Bank of America, and provides teams of 3-5 students the platform to pitch their blended finance proposal for a chance to win up to $15,000.
Emma has taken the lead on her team, choosing to focus on servicing marginalized indigenous coffee farmers in Mexico through zero interest loans from ZiM, a microfinancing institution established by SCU professor Dr. Long Le. The small business at the center of the project, Capeltic Coffee, is based out of Chiapas, Mexico. The company seeks to “decolonize” the coffee supply-chain and bolster Mexico’s participation in the production process. According to Emma, the team plans to “import coffee from Capeltic to be transferred into eco-friendly K-Cups that [they] can then sell to households, universities, and companies throughout the Bay Area. The profits from the K-Cup sales will go toward providing microloans to ZiM clients as well as to the indigenous coffee farmers so they can increase the sustainability of their farming practices.”
As a junior political science major and international business minor, Emma is extremely involved in the SCU community through her participation in the Women in Business Club and editing the International Business Minor blog. Over the past summer, she interned with a nonprofit and political action group in London where she had the opportunity to learn more about British policy making while raising awareness about issues that affect the health and independence of older people. This experience prepared her for her work with ZiM, where she will shortly become the new Operations Manager, as well as her project for the LIFT challenge.
Participation in this competition has taught Emma the “importance of collaboration and building long-lasting partnerships in order to reach much larger goals.” When asked how this project has shifted her perspective, Emma states “This project shifted my perspective in terms of what is possible for all businesses around the world, not just a select group of nonprofits or socially conscious companies. Although I recognize the many challenges and tradeoffs in developing this type of business model, I now have a much better sense of the potential for different types of businesses to balance profitability with sustainability and a positive social impact. I am very hopeful that more companies will begin to move in this direction.”
Emma’s advice for current SCU students is “to take the time to get to know your professors and build strong relationships with them.” She attributes her chance to participate in the LIFT challenge to the support of Dr. Long Le, and recognizes the value of pursuing exciting opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. She also credits the SCU Political Science curriculum for providing her with the skills to consider the social and cultural context of the small businesses that she works with abroad.