When I started my MBA, I never imagined that alongside studying corporate finance and marketing, I would be travelling around Europe for casual four-day jaunts to visit some of Europe’s largest and most innovative companies. We were lucky enough to be sent to Copenhagen by the Full-Time MBA programme for the Business Insights in Europe trip and be given the chance to visit one of three large Copenhagen-based corporations, and one of three social innovation driven startups.
After an early-morning flight (and the requisite panicked sprint through security with five other MBA classmates) we made it. Nothing to bond you like the fear of missing a flight! Once in Copenhagen, we started with a lecture on environmental policy and sustainability in Copenhagen led by a Copenhagen Business School professor and were given the opportunity to network with local students. They were unbelievably welcoming and gave us recommendations for their favorite places to eat, sights to see, and gave us a tour of their school.
The professor who taught us was absolutely fabulous: he was clearly passionate about environmentally-driven policies and he set the scene for what we were going to be studying in Copenhagen.
The next day, we embarked on a visit to Maersk, one of the largest shipping companies on the world. While it is always fascinating to get to deep dive into what drives a mega corporation, what struck me most was Maersk’s commitment to environmental sustainability. All Copenhagen businesses seem to hold environmental responsibility near and dear to their mission statements, and we spent our morning learning how Maersk manages to weave profitability and sustainability together.
After Maersk we wandered down along the waterfront and ended up stumbling across The Little Mermaid Statue, created in honor of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-beloved tale (which, spoiler alert, is much sadder than the Disney version). From there we were off to enjoy that best element of travelling – eating! We dug into local smorgasbords and got to know each other a bit better as we waited to visit our second company, and we took the time to explore the city a little bit.
Our second company was HOFOR, otherwise known as the Copenhagen power grid: it was one of the most phenomenal experiences I have ever had. The entire city of Copenhagen aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025 (and are ahead of schedule to do so). We were walked through how Copenhagen is accomplishing this: by using an integrated power system in which the city alternates between energy sources to employ the most efficient one at any given time. Due to this innovative system, Copenhagen is able to alternate between natural gas and wind power among others.
HOFOR is set up to be engaging to audiences of all ages, and part of this includes a tour of what the sewer system used to look like. Cue the HOFOR staff whipping open a door and inviting us to climb into a gigantic model toilet to descend into the “sewers”:
In order to stoke a passion for the environment in children, HOFOR has built a working city model in their front yard complete with the grades of Copenhagen’s inclines. They create fake rainstorms and send the children (or, in our case, the children-at-heart) sprinting around trying to shore up model buildings with sandbags to prevent them from being flooded. It’s a unique approach that makes the unpleasant realities of rising sea levels all the more relevant, and left all of us with a strong sense of how important it is to create sustainable cities so that we don’t end up actually having to sandbag our homes.
After this unique, if wet, trip the group travelled back into the city center to explore the local nightlife: after eating huge bowls of ramen at a hole-in-the-wall shop, we all descended upon a variety of shops.
While some of the MBA cohort flew back to London, most remained and explored Freetown Christiana and the canals, while a friend of mine and I hopped on a train into Sweden after indulging in donuts from The Donut Shop, a well-loved local bakery:
Zooming over the water for less than 40 minutes brought us to Malmo, where we were able to enjoy some of the local greenery and, of course, eat a huge tray of Swedish meatballs.
As an avid cook, we wandered the city until we found a bookshop where I could purchase as many cookbooks as I could carry in my bag (in this case, three). Sweden is similar to Denmark (at least southern Sweden) but is slightly colder, though we were lucky enough to miss the pouring rain that afternoon in Copenhagen. We particularly enjoyed taking in the ornate architecture displayed at Malmo City Hall:
We returned to Copenhagen in time to meet with the vast majority of our cohort for drinks and toast to the success of our trip, and finally, straggled back to our respective hotels. Our final day in Copenhagen came too quickly: after a brief breakfast some members of the cohort and I explored the palace and local squares.
What struck me (aside from the stunning architecture and sense of history seeping from every stone) was the hopefulness of Copenhagen. Copenhagen has set a new standard for urban planning and is putting their weight behind their words in proving that it is indeed possible for a city to design itself in a way that is not only healthy for the environment but also for its citizens. The focus on wellness (both environmental and social) was inspiring, and perfectly reflected the innovative and socially driven values that the Imperial MBA programme instills in all of its students.
While I was sad to leave Copenhagen, new adventures await – Lusaka, Zambia for the Global Experience Week is next!
Watch Anirudh Dastidar’s Copenhagen video diary: