University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Intern Spotlight: Caitlin Laney

Caitlin Laney

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Episode Transcript

00:00 Caitlin Laney: I'm really inspired by people who have a passion for sustainability, that couple that well with their professional work. And basically people who think innovatively, very creatively, without being worried of failure.


00:30 Brian Fugate: We're here with Caitlin Laney at Kennedy Coffee in Bentonville, Arkansas. We're right next door to the Environmental Defense Fund, which is where Caitlin works as an intern this summer. Caitlin is a supply chain management intern in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. She is gonna be graduating in 2020, and I wanted to spend a little time asking Caitlin about her internship this summer at the Environmental Defense Fund. So Caitlyn, could you tell us a little bit first about the Environmental Defense Fund?

01:04 Caitlin Laney: The Environmental Defense Fund is actually an NGO that's based on several different pillars, so we have people working in the ocean space on clean oceans, we also have clean air and energy. There's people working on forestry, and then we have the supply chain team, and I'm actually part of the EDF+bus team, which is a little bit different. That's where environmental defence fund works collaboratively with for-profit companies.

01:34 Brian Fugate: So Caitlin, can you tell us a little bit about your role this summer?

01:38 Caitlin Laney: I am a food waste and plastics intern at the Environmental Defence Fund. So basically I have been working on research with single-use plastics in the food supply chain sector, and what I am doing is analyzing the full life-cycle cost of plastic, so everything from greenhouse gas emissions with producing plastics in refineries all the way to what are the cost of plastics when they are thrown away and they aren't recycled by end-customers. And with that I am diving into toxicity a little bit in human health concerns and how single-use plastics are detrimental to the environment.

02:20 Brian Fugate: So Caitlin, as you're working on life cycle analysis and looking at the environmental impact across the supply chain, I imagine you're using a lot of your supply chain background in that. And so I wanted to dig in to that a little bit and ask you what interests you about supply chain management?

02:38 Caitlin Laney: Supply chain management is really just a network that creates value for people. So I've always had a passion for a supply chain because the world basically wouldn't turn without a supply chain. The supply chain drives everything from delivering medical supplies to getting all of your groceries on the shelf at stores to making sure waste management activities go smoothly. Disaster relief. So it really is everything from planning transportation to delivering the end-product customers, so it really drives a lot of impact in customer value.

03:15 Brian Fugate: That's a great answer, Caitlin. So, Caitlin, what inspires you?

03:19 Caitlin Laney: I'm really inspired by people who have a passion for sustainability, that couple that well with their professional work and basically people who think innovatively and very creatively without being worried of failure, people who maybe have start-up ideas, or they're championing sustainability within their companies and they aren't afraid to do that.

03:45 Brian Fugate: What a great fit for you to work here this summer at the Environmental Defense Fund. And so in your summer internship, I imagine that you have some goals that you wanna achieve. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

03:57 Caitlin Laney: Yeah, a lot of companies, they're unsure of what they should invest in other than plastic because plastic is so cheap and readily available. Basically what I want to do is come up with a list of key deliverables for companies in helping them move towards more sustainable packaging and away from plastics. At the same time I'm trying to prove the business viability in switching to more sustainable packaging and how it will help the environment, which is good for the company from a reputational standpoint and risk management. And with that being said, I want companies to just start thinking from more of a full life-cycle lens, instead of increased consumerism and waste, one in which they will start designing products with the environment in mind.

04:47 Brian Fugate: What a great set of impactful objectives that you have. So thank you for doing that. So Caitlin, can you tell us your favorite supply chain course, and why?

04:58 Caitlin Laney: My favorite supply chain course so far, was Supply Management with Remko Van Hoek. And that class really challenged me to think more conceptually about supply chain, but at the same time I was just really passionate about what we were learning in that class. There was a lot on risk management and how you successfully manage supplier relationships. So it's just very real world application and it really drew my interest to sustainable procurement and Ethical Sourcing. So I really enjoyed that class.

05:30 Brian Fugate: That's good to hear. So Caitlin, I want you to imagine that you're talking to yourself a year ago, or to another set of students in the Walton College, juniors, sophomores. Do you have any advice that you would give them?

05:42 Caitlin Laney: It would definitely be to ask a lot of questions when you're unsure of something, and don't be afraid if you don't know something, usually when you raise your hand to ask something, you're not the only one in the room that doesn't know that answer. And build a close relationship with your instructors because everyone at the Walton College of Business is really championing student success, so they care for you and they want you to succeed in their class. And with that being said, don't be afraid of failing at something the first time. It's okay, there's all things that we don't excel at the first time.

06:18 Brian Fugate: So, Caitlin, could you maybe give us an example of maybe when you've done that?

06:22 Caitlin Laney: Actually, in the McMillon Innovation Studio on campus, I was working in a cross-functional group, so there were other majors outside of supply chain, there were other business majors, and there were engineering majors helping us, and we were trying to tackle food waste, we were actually working on an app prototype to reduce food waste, so it's basically a calendar where you could put in your dietary needs and your budget, and it helped food-insecure people manage recipes and do meal prep for the week. We actually encountered a lot of problems with the prototype, we were thinking about solutions before customer discoveries, so we really had to go out and see what the main problems were to begin with, and to brainstorm ideas and just keep iterating. So if you're not getting the solution you want to your problem the first time that's completely normal, and it's okay. So build from your mistakes and just keep going.

07:25 Brian Fugate: Caitlin, it's really exciting to see that you have already started trying to tackle some of these big intractable problems in the world like food, environmental impact, and the things that you're doing at the Environmental Defense Fund. So thank you for doing that and we can't wait to see what else you're gonna do in your intern, and your career, so thank you.

07:45 Caitlin Laney: Thank you.