Wharton’s EMBA program has a long tradition of organizing international class trips. As second-year Philadelphia student David Trecker explains, “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to appreciate – with 60 classmates– a foreign culture through the lenses of business, government and social leaders.” David, who is director of market and business development for Citigroup in New York City, recently returned from his international trip to Indonesia. We asked him about that experience, and here is what he said:
The theme of the international trip to Indonesia was sustainability, with a focus on political and economic development. We benefitted from candid, first-hand accounts of Indonesia’s challenges from the public and private sector leaders tasked with overcoming them. My classmates and I received what amounted to an insightful, multi-perspective analysis of the world’s largest Muslim country’s efforts to emerge from the “middle income trap” to become a wealthier, more balanced economy. I think it’s fair to say that everyone came away with a new appreciation of the challenges facing the emerging world.
The trip began with a subset of students taking a side trip to Sumatra to tour a fully-integrated pulp, paper and palm oil plant of a $20-billion company. The senior management team showed us from beginning to end how paper is made: from breeding seeds to a textbook Lean Manufacturing facility that produces and packages a mile of paper per minute. We observed impressive and innovative sustainability practices.
For example, instead of using poisons to neutralize rats and other pests from consuming the fruit of palm plants (the palm oil raw material), it imported and bred European barn owls. It’s hard not to appreciate low-cost AND environmentally-friendly efforts! Finally, we talked at length about the many stakeholders a company that relies on natural resources must manage, from the government to environmental groups and local villagers. It was a fascinating visit that none of us are likely to forget.
This post was originally published on the Executive MBA site on November 7, 2014.