Estevan Astorga, MBA ‘20
A big influence that led me to this project was my experience in the Peace Corps, in Senegal. My work there caused me to look more closely at labor unions, the need to advocate for workers in developing nations who manufacture raw materials for the Western world, and realizing that there are really limited resources available for them. There’s a huge gap between what we demand of these workers, and want protections we offer.
I wanted to go to business school because I wanted to see greater impact and investment in these kinds of emerging economies. Georgetown is in the center of the global intersection between business and policy. And I came to Business for Impact, because I wanted something beyond the classroom that would involve hands on learning, that would reveal something new to me of different interests, would build a new experience that could be applied outside the classroom.
There’s Always A Plot Twist
I work with the VF Corporation to help improve working conditions for employees in emerging countries. The original idea was to convene a lot of the big stakeholders in shoes and apparel, to highlight the current issues when it comes to creating global standards for sustainability and labor rights. But that hasn’t happened yet.
A big learning throughout the process is realizing these organizations work their own means and their own guidelines. There’s not really specific entity that is providing any reinforcement for what they’re doing. So the standards that they create are for themselves and by themselves, their own moral compass.
You see a lot of organizations are doing good things. I’m really understanding the depth of these issues these organizations are facing, and how fragmented the approaches are. There’s no standardization that makes the process more easy.
I feel like it’s been an excavation process. We’re still working towards the solution. We’re trying to figure out the best way to add value to these stakeholders. Initially, our team thought we know what to expect and knew what we’re looking for. But as you dig through you find there’s more and more and more, so you keep going.
The great opportunity for student leaders is to work with faculty on something that’s beyond the classroom, something we’re equally passionate about. With this project, we’ve started working more closely with faculty, especially those who have experience in global supply chain. They help our team know the right questions to ask, and figure out the growing pains for these organizations; to find things they may have tried in the past that didn’t work,or things that they considered yet.
The sense of community is the thing that I’ve found most surprising. I didn’t expect to have such great camaraderie with my peers, and the collaborative environment comes together really naturally. The team I’m working with on this project, we clicked, and our passion for solving these problems was really real to us; we would have not accomplished what we have so far without being able to work with each other.
It’s the hard that makes it great
Doing this work has been much more challenging than I anticipated. But that in itself is encouraging. You realize how much attention needs to be put forward to these efforts. You realize how much opportunity and room there is for people to enter and get things organized.
It’s been a real testimony to real world issues. It’s not something that is just created as a learning opportunity for MBA students, it’s beyond what you get from a textbook. It’s real life application and understanding, even if you’re not a professional in that domain or that sector. You realize those professionals are working to solve those issues as well.
The truth is, it’s the challenge that is the most attractive part, knowing you’re with a community who is also trying to figure it out. We’re all asking ourselves: how will we improve this, how will we create an impact?
With this work, you can have a positive impact on other people, other communities, and on our planet; becoming more self aware of the things that we do on a day to day basis that we take for granted, on an industry that makes up a big percentage of GDP and employs a ton of people. If I can have some influence, put my hand in that basket, that would be a really valuable experience.
Estevan Astorga, MBA Candidate ’20, is part of a student team working with the VF Corporation, a major apparel company, to help improve working conditions for employees in emerging countries. Students travel into the field to explore the environment and identify solutions.