St. Olaf College | News

A focus on corporate social responsibility in Costa Rica

Gabriel Trejos ’14 used his internship at Dole in Costa Rica to explore his interests in both environmental studies and economics.

At first glance, financial modeling, fruit, and solar panels don’t seem to have much in common.

But Gabriel Trejos ’14 combined all three during his recent internship as a financial analyst and modeler for Dole in Costa Rica.

Trejos, who is majoring in environmental studies and economics with a concentration in management studies, spent much of his internship helping the company examine its energy efficiency and the feasibility of using solar panels.

“Costa Rica is currently facing a big challenge with producing electricity,” he says. “Most of the country’s sources of energy are hydroelectric, but due to the droughts in the past years, the amount of renewable energy supply will decrease substantially.”

By researching electricity costs and performing energy audits for the company, Trejos helped raise awareness about the importance of reducing energy consumption and habits that can help corporations achieve this goal.

“The solar panels project aimed to find an alternative way to meet the high energy demand of the company, have significant reductions in costs, and stay committed to the corporate social responsibility projects on sustainability,” says Trejos, who also spent time reviewing capital expenditure requests as part of his internship.

Trejos, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in either public administration or sustainable management, hopes to see solar panels installed in two of Dole’s packing plants by next summer.

His monthlong experience at Dole was made possible through internship funding from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career.

As part of St. Olaf’s commitment to supporting students as they navigate potential career paths, the Piper Center has established several new cohort-based internship programs and significantly increased funding for unpaid or underpaid internship opportunities. Last year the center provided internship and scholarship support to 191 St. Olaf students, and that number continues to grow this year.

The opportunity to combine his passions for economics and the environment during his internship gave Trejos an up-close look at the world of corporate social responsibility.

“The dynamic nature and broad scope of the position made this internship very unique,” says Trejos. “I think that if companies like Dole can change some of their practices to become more sustainable, big changes can happen more quickly than we would expect. It really excites me to think that I could be part of that process through my education.”