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To kick off 2020, the Full-Time MBA cohort travelled to Copenhagen for our Business Insights in Europe trip, where we learned about how the city has become one of the most sustainable cities in the world, networked with Copenhagen Business School MBA students and experienced a new city!

Day one: Copenhagen Business School

On our first day in Copenhagen, we went to Copenhagen Business School (CBS) for a lecture on sustainability in Scandinavia. The talk focused on how Denmark has created a better future and is aligning with the UN sustainability goals. Here, Professor Andreas Rasche discussed Denmark’s cultural predisposition to meet these goals along with the steps the government and corporations are actively taking to create a better society. It was a great reminder that change needs to take place from all angles and needs buy-in from the broader community to successfully achieve its goals.

After the lecture, we had a networking session with the Copenhagen Business School MBA’s. This was an excellent opportunity to connect with other MBA students interested in similar industries and learn about their programme and experiences. The first day closed out with a full class dinner.  It was amazing to have all 70 of us enjoying a meal together, excited for a weekend of bonding and fun!

Carly Gerlach Copenhagen view

Day two: company visits

Our second day in Copenhagen, we embarked on company visits. I was in the group that went to Nordhavn and Amager Resource Center.  At NordHavn, we first went to the top of a bike park (yes, a car park just for bikes!) where there was a playground! After some climbing, swinging, and trampolining, we learned how Copenhagen is building new infrastructure and establishing a new neighbourhood in the Northern Harbour. They are using the space they have to create more community and healthy living areas, such as putting a playground on top of the bike park. We then ventured into an old silo that was transformed into office buildings for an intriguing discussion on how Nordhavn has successfully changed the city. 

What stuck with me is how they created such a bike-friendly and family-oriented city. They started by asking, how can we create a place where families will want to live? The answer was to ensure that wherever you were in the city, you were never more than a 15-minute bike ride from a kindergarten, making it easy to get kids to and from school.  They also discussed infrastructure that encouraged biking, such as cleaning the bike lanes before the car lanes after snow.  Little changes like this that make cycling a better option, creating a city and culture that is healthier and better for the environment.  We had a break before our next visit, where we explored a Copenhagen food hall and tried Danish food such as the Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich.

Our second visit was to Amager Resource Center (or ARC), which is the waste disposal facility for Copenhagen. I will admit, learning about waste disposal was not my first choice for a company visit, but I was pleasantly surprised by this facility, how and why it was built, and the sustainable solutions they’ve found in this area.

Carly Gerlach Copenhagen waste disposal

We started with a quick discussion about ARC. It was uniquely created to burn Copenhagen’s rubbish and circle heat and electricity back into the city. This not only provides a productive use for waste disposal but has a lower carbon emission than a typical landfill. The building was also designed very strategically. Being close to the city centre, they ensured that the design would be appealing to the city skyline but also ensure its safety. The solution for this: put a ski hill on top of the building (complete with an après-ski bar)! Most power plants release emissions through the roof, but this facility is so safe you can ski on top of it year-round!

Overall, I was amazed at how these organizations built a better future for Copenhagen. One of the biggest lessons I am walking away with is how they set goals to achieve their desired outcome. “We want a family-friendly, bike-friendly city, so let’s ensure you can always bike to kindergarten. We want sustainable and safe waste disposal, so let’s not only make sure it passes the regulation tests, but it’s so sustainable you can ski on top of it.” Both organisations set their vision and built goals to achieve it. 

Exploring Copenhagen

Most of our class decided to stay in Copenhagen to explore the city and enjoy our time together.  We had a group walking tour, bar crawl, and dinner organised, and the rest of the time, we wandered and explored. 

We ventured around some of the famous sites such as Nyhavn, various palaces, and the Little Mermaid statue, all meeting up for big group dinners and fun nights out in a new city.  Overall, the weekend proved not only an excellent opportunity to learn about Copenhagen’s sustainable transformation but a fantastic weekend of fun shenanigans with my MBA family. 

Carly Gerlach Copenhagen water
Carly Gerlach

About Carly Gerlach

Carly is currently a Full-Time MBA student. Prior to studying on the Imperial MBA she was working in Chicago at a market research company in sales and account management. Once she completes her MBA programme she hopes to move into the consumer goods industry and work in either marketing or global strategy.