As a Senior Associate at PwC Indonesia, Giovanni Janitra found himself offsetting the intensity of his workdays and filling his cup by volunteering as part of the firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives on weekends.

He left PwC in 2017 to take on a role as Internal Audit Superintendent at PT Indomining, and two years later he became an independent consultant – but he never stopped giving back to the community in his spare time.

However, in 2020, during COVID, Giovanni realised he didn’t want to limit his impact on society to only the weekends. He wanted to use his finance and accounting skills to make the world a better place on a full-time basis.

“As my career developed, I felt like the purpose of my life should be aligned with the work I spend eight hours a day on,” Giovanni explains. “I wanted to make sure that my next role would not only benefit me, but also other people.”

So in 2020 he joined YCAB Foundation in Indonesia – ranked 28th in the World Top 200 SGO (Social Good Organisations) – first as a Financial Controller and now as Treasurer. The foundation focuses on breaking the chain of poverty by offering inclusive middle and high school education to underprivileged children and empowering female entrepreneurship through microfinance. And while Giovanni feels more fulfilled than ever, he wanted to continue to push himself personally and professionally.

In recognition of his exceptional problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and financial reporting expertise Giovanni received a prestigious Australia Awards Scholarship from the Australian Government in late 2021. These international awards are offered to the next generation of global leaders in developing countries to help drive change through study and research, and to help build enduring people-to-people links with Australia. Giovanni decided to use this grant to pursue an MBA specialising in Sustainability and Social Impact at AGSM @ UNSW Business School.

“I was always working in my comfort zone in finance and accounting. But as Treasurer, I also work across operations, human resources and procurement. So, I needed to develop my communication and leadership skills, and learn how to work with a variety of different people and mindsets.”

Soon after enrolling at AGSM, Giovanni became the Director of the Student Sustainability and Social Impact Network. Not only helping UNSW Business School implement more sustainable practices from a student perspective but also learning new ways to assess an organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) strengths and gaps.

Creating positive societal outcomes at UNSW – and beyond

UNSW is committed to advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and plays a central part in fulfilling its vision to improve lives in Australia and around the world.

In response, UNSW Business School established its own Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Committee to develop, coordinate, monitor, evaluate, and communicate the Business School’s engagement with the SDGs in relation to the UNSW’s 2025 Strategy.

“Our vision is to tackle real-world problems through partnerships that bring together our students, staff, alumni and the community, aligning our efforts with UNSW’s expertise and research strengths, Australia’s aspirations and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” says Professor Nitika Garg, Chair, UNSW Business School SDG Committee.

When Giovanni first heard about UNSW Business School’s SDG Committee, he was instantly drawn in.

“I heard the previous Director of Sustainability and Social Impact share his story of working with the committee at an AGSM Student Association event. When I realised I could work in collaboration with the wider UNSW Business School on SDG matters outside of my AGSM student network, it was like a calling for me,” he shares.

Giovanni has been impressed with the way the Business School embeds SDGs into its mission, operations, and curriculum. From research on pressing global issues to hosting global climate week, he says UNSW sets the example of how to “promote a sense of global citizenship.”

“At AGSM every core course I’ve had so far has included a chapter on responsible management. They have a holistic approach that includes the student, academic and organisational perspective. And the UNSW Business School committee is another way we can focus our interest and actions on sustainability and social impact programs from a faculty level – and apply these concepts to real-world situations.”

Thanks to proactive initiatives and the dedication of academics and students like Giovanni, UNSW ranked joint 5th in the world and 1st in Australia in the inaugural QS World University Sustainability Rankings. In the same year, UNSW also ranked 18th in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measures over 1,500 universities' progress towards the SDGs.

Implementing sustainable practices at UNSW Business School

As the Business School Student Director of Sustainability and Social Impact, Giovanni is part of the university’s equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) network – helping promote and champion the wider UNSW SDG strategy and fostering an inclusive community through collaborative teamwork within the Business School.

He has spearheaded several initiatives for MBA students and has coordinated activities to empower individuals with problem-solving skills and effective leadership to create lasting impact in their careers – and lives.

“One of our focus areas is resource efficiency. Australians drink a lot of coffee, so we came up with an education initiative to shift students’ mindsets from using disposable cups to bringing their own sustainable tumblers."

Giovanni also represented UNSW at a number of events including the 2023 Social Impact Summit by ImpactInstitute, hosted by the University of Technology Sydney, bringing back and sharing his learning on social impact and sustainability trends and measurement with his cohort. 

He also organised a group of 22 MBA students to attend SeventeenX. The TedX-style event is designed to champion SDGs and educate and enable people to change the way they do business. Students heard from leaders at Australian giants including Optus and Deloitte about their CSR programs.

Working in conjunction with Professor Nitika Garg, Chair, UNSW Business School SDG Committee, and Mark Clark, Grounds Manager, UNSW Estate Management, Giovanni also coordinated more than 10 MBA and PhD Students to volunteer their time to help the UNSW Landscaping team plant 1,200+ plants alongside the Anita B. Lawrence Centre Building.

“The event created an opportunity for students to contribute to a healthier campus and work towards sustainable goals. The plants are along a pathway many of the students take every day, so they can also watch them grow, which is very rewarding,” he says.

Planning for the future

When it comes to future initiatives, Giovanni already has a clear plan in place. He has joined UNSW SDG meetings to be across pan-UNSW’s initiatives and find events his student Network can collaborate on. And he’s keen to pass on his knowledge and skills to the next generation.

“I want to create a roadshow on sustainable success so that students can learn best practices when it comes to ESG. I'm planning to find speakers from social enterprises or leading businesses with strong sustainability initiatives,” he shares.

Giovanni has also found that his MBA studies and student representative role on the UNSW Business School SDG Committee have led him to ask better questions of himself – and get closer to becoming a more active global citizen.

“UNSW has one of the most diverse communities I’ve ever come across. There are 45 people in my MBA cohort from 21 countries alone. It’s been a great experience working with them and will help me to take on more international humanitarian projects, across borders after I graduate,” he explains.

“Not only does UNSW’s and the Business School’s alignment with the UN’s SDGs help improve sustainable practices at a faculty and university level – it also helps students gain new perspectives and take these concepts back to their organisations to make a positive and lasting impact.”

The SDGs provide an outline for improving outcomes for people and the planet by working together in a global partnership. Universities have a critical role to play in the achievement of the SDGs globally. UNSW’s unique position as a creator and disseminator of knowledge and as key driver of innovation, economic development, and societal wellbeing puts our faculties in a position to lead and effect change from a local, national, and international platform.