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Jenna Wiegand doesn’t think that business growth and environmental sustainability are mutually exclusive. After pursuing a College of Business Finance degree and a College of Agricultural Sciences Sustainability degree, she’s now out to prove that a company can succeed and grow while making the health and well-being of people and the planet a top priority as well.
Wiegand, a 2015 graduate of Oregon State University’s Honors College, landed a job working in supply chain with Unilever, a Global 500 multinational company that makes consumer goods, with products ranging from home health and beauty products, such as Dove, to frozen desserts, including Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
Mid-way through a three-year rotational program preparing her for a management role with the company, she’s already finding business solutions to meet social and environmental challenges.
“Business has the potential to solve the problems we face. We don’t have to choose exclusively between profitability and sustainability. A process that saves energy or water or other resources also should save money,” Wiegand said.
She credits her studies at Oregon State, including a leadership seminar she took through the College of Business, with preparing her to think on her feet and make sound decisions.
“A lot of time, there’s not a clear right answer,” Wiegand said. “You learn to trust your instincts and commit to your decision.”
Some of her early successes at Unilever have been on the logistics side. She worked on a delivery route map for the United States and found a way to reduce trucking miles travelled. Wiegand’s model reduces 200 tons of carbon per year.
She’s also improving the efficiency of the cleaning process for ice cream production. The challenge was to reduce the amount of water used. But Wiegand also looked for ways to salvage ice cream that would otherwise be wasted when they shut down to clean the lines every 72 hours.
While at Oregon State, Wiegand took a colloquium for critical thinking through the Honors College that opened her eyes to the scope of impact behind business decisions. She often asks herself, “How will my decisions impact communities and the environment, both locally and globally?”
Wiegand said her proposals have been well-received when she’s been able to make the business case for change. She’s kept her idealism of making the world better through responsibility. And she sees reason to be optimistic, as Unilever’s Sustainable Living brand is growing twice as fast as other products, a trend driven by consumer choice.
She’s proud of Unilever’s accomplishments with Dove's positive body image campaign for women, accessible hygiene products called Lifebuoy and the Vaseline Healing Project aimed at providing medical supplies for people affected by poverty or emergencies worldwide.
Wiegand said her personal goals are well-aligned with Unilever. And there are certain perks that come with working for the company responsible for Ben & Jerry’s, Talenti Gelato and Magnum Ice Cream.
“I have tried a lot of ice cream flavors,” she said. Her favorite is Magnum ice cream bars. “The white chocolate bars are to die for.”