Students in Sustainability Consulting
Interview with Paolo Costi on Lighthouse | Corporate Sustainability
by Chiara Richter
Hello Paolo! Can you tell me about yourself and your background?
Hi, I’m Paolo and I come from Italy. I did my bachelor’s in economics in Italy, went to Poland on Erasmus and took a gap year after my studies to plan my next steps. Then, I went to do my master’s with ESCP Business School and went to their campuses in Madrid, Berlin, and Paris.
It was in Madrid in 2019 that we founded Lighthouse together with other master students. During my studies at ESCP Europe, I specialized in sustainability management as I had a strong interest in sustainability. Also, I was very interested in startups, and it was via one of my professors in Berlin that I got to learn more about impact investing. However, this is a niche that is quite hard to enter, so I decided to join a “normal” venture capital (VC) firm. So, I joined APX which is an early-stage VC.
Currently, I work with Best Nights VC, Jägermeister’s corporate venture capital firm. More specifically, I’m an investment analyst, meaning I analyze startups and assess whether they are good investments and a good fit. My work is still very interesting to me, and I enjoy the element of social interaction that it creates. Especially now with the covid crisis, it is great to bring people together.
How do you define sustainability? And how do you approach it?
As we founded the association, we studied the concepts behind sustainability a lot. I’m sure that today’s students know a lot more on the topic compared to us when we founded Lighthouse.
For me, sustainability is a very broad concept, encompassing many dimensions -environmental, social,…-. In terms of company sustainability, to me that means actively taking steps towards sustainability. I don’t really believe in pure carbon offsetting or net zero approaches.
Real sustainability means having a strategy which incorporates that, not just because of external pressure, but also because you believe in more sustainable solutions.
Of course, in our economic system, profits and competition play a key role in decision-making, but sustainability needs to be a priority as well.
What is Lighthouse – Corporate Sustainability? What drove you and the co-founders to create this association?
Lighthouse is the first sustainability consulting association at ESCP Business School, and its focus lies on supporting SMEs in their sustainability transition.
Our motivation in founding it was that we felt a lack regarding sustainability within certain classes, yet it is an issue of major importance for us and many other students. As the new generation, we care about it deeply.
Therefore, we wanted to give opportunities to the students to work on real-life projects, providing practical examples with companies.
In the first year, we were mostly setting everything up and needed to do lots of research. We tried to bring people with a shared interest together for Lighthouse.
Now, the association is already working with several startups on consulting missions.
What have been the major challenges in this journey?
Initially, we didn’t know how to start in terms of organizing everything. We needed to define Lighthouse’s purpose and goals, shaping the organization, which is never easy, especially as a student. Also, we created the network and prepared for the future years to leave a foundation to build onto.
And what were the highlights?
As for the first year, we tried to organize many events and we succeeded in creating probably 3 or 4 during that year – I’m very proud of that.
During the second year, we were able to create a basis for the association and witnessed it grow, which made us very happy.
This year, I’m very glad to say that Lighthouse is working with several companies and already finished a few consulting missions successfully.
Lastly, it’s great that I’m able to support the association by leveraging my network and bring in startups that are happy to work with students.
What is your current role within Lighthouse?
I’m part of the advisory board, and we each bring our new work and network experiences to the association.
How is the association progressing?
I’m quite proud about the progress, as I wasn’t really sure how Lighthouse might evolve. Even though I’m not active in it anymore, the association is running smoothly, the students are engaged, having fun, and learning a lot! So, I’m very satisfied with the development and their work on consulting projects.
What are your hopes for the future of Lighthouse?
I hope that things are going to continue as they are currently. Ideally, there will be even better and more efficient organization, and we will count even more members and projects. There are numerous companies out there interested in sustainability projects such as the ones we offer, so I would want to accept every student that applies to join Lighthouse.