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Promoting Social Justice Globally

9/23/2011 --

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—"Providing households access to clean and safe energy is an opportunity with enormous social, environmental and economic benefits," says Tina Tam, MBA/MS '11.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Tam first glimpsed poverty's toll while visiting relatives in China. She moved to the United States as a teenager, and now is using her dual-cultural perspective and knowledge gained at the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to promote social justice globally.

Tam developed an interest in environmental justice while working as a content publishing manager at Microsoft. In 2007 she co-founded Microsoft Green, an internal group to promote environmental awareness and influence company policies.

"The experience convinced me that I needed the business skill set to build a case for sustainability," Tam says. "When I visited the Ross School and spoke to Ross and Erb students, they were down to earth and social-minded. It seemed like a good fit."

She also sat in on Andy Hoffman's mini-class for prospective students. Hoffman is the Holcim (U.S.) Professor of Global Sustainability and director of the Erb Institute. "He presented cutting-edge information on corporate social responsibility," Tam recalls. "I knew I had to be here."

Once enrolled, Tam focused on new models that improve rural access to renewable energy. She spent summer 2010 in China as a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow and intern at the Microcarbon Foundation. The United Kingdom startup based in Beijing is committed to alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change by unlocking the barriers that limit the commercial viability of carbon finance for rural communities. Tam performed market and financial analyses for the organization's first business plan.

"The Microcarbon Foundation is trying to get different industries and sectors to work together to create a solution for channeling carbon finance to the base of the pyramid through microfinance loans," she says. An estimated 1.6 billion people in the world lack access to modern sources of energy, which creates a tremendous opportunity for economic and social innovation.

In summer 2009 Tam did internships with Ashoka, a social entrepreneurial organization with a new initiative working to bring affordable solar energy to the world's rural communities, and with the Institute at the Golden Gate, an incubator for social innovation. Along with classmate David Weinglass, MBA/MS '11, she conducted market analysis, financial modeling, and strategic planning in preparation for publication of the institute's first business plan.

For her master's project, Tam worked on a comprehensive corporate social responsibility strategy for Banorte in Mexico with a team of Erb students. She also co-authored the case study "Honest Tea: Sell Up or Sell Out?" published by the William Davidson Institute and the Erb Institute. During her final term, she added to her international experiences as a student at IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, a Ross School student exchange partner.

Post-graduation, this marathon runner, snowboarder, and yoga teacher looks forward to working with international social enterprises similar to the Microcarbon Foundation on business planning and development.



For more information, contact:
Dominique Abed, (734) 763-8155 hdabed@umich.edu