“You know CBS was my school, right? So, I feel like I have to give back somehow,” says Mia Negru when we call her up and thank her for participating in an interview. And those words really reflect her affection for CBS as the place that initially led her on the path leading to where she is today.
But long before she began studying and embarked on her journey to help companies become more sustainable as they work towards achieving the UN’s SDG Agenda 2030, Mia Negru grew up in a Romanian forest. Her childhood was during the communist era, back when she hid coffee beans in a coded locker and did her homework by gas lamplight.
And growing up in the forest along with studying at CBS later in life both had important impacts on who she is today and what has become one of her most important missions.
From big business to no business
The last word in the world to describe Mia Negru would be ‘lazy’. Rather, she is an impressively energetic and enterprising person who always seems to aim for the skies with whatever activities she engages in.
And so, back home in Romania she got not only one, but two bachelor’s degrees before establishing an event-organizing company with her sister Gabriela Negru and two brothers as sounding boards.
With their business, they arranged corporate meetings, Romanian Fashion Week and weddings. The company was thriving, and at one point they were geographically covering an area of nearly 8,000,000 people.
The booming business called for expansion, so Mia Negru and her sister added a beauty salon and a porcelain shop to their business portfolio. But then the financial crises hit in 2008 and wiped away their customer base. And this was when a long, hard and exciting business adventure abroad began for the Negru sisters.
“When the financial crisis came, we understood that our only chance to make it financially was to try our luck somewhere else,” says Mia Negru and continues:
“My sister wanted to go to London, and I preferred Copenhagen. So, we tossed a coin and it landed on Copenhagen. Then we grabbed our luggage and moved here without knowing anyone or having a place to live,” she says.
“It was quite hard for us to break through”
When Mia and Gabriela Negru arrived in Copenhagen in 2011, they immediately took the initial steps to start up a new business. They began networking and creating contacts with people in the Danish business community. But establishing a company in a completely new country was easier said than done.
“We didn’t know the market and we didn’t understand the language, so as you can imagine, it was quite hard for us to break through,” she says.
We grew up in a forest in Romania and so we were not corrupted by some of the fake values regarding what’s important in life
Mia Negru and her sister had become fond of Denmark and they wanted to stay. So, in order to make a success of their business and personal lives here, they decided to become more integrated in society and get an education.
“I thought that getting an education here would help us to find jobs but also help us to understand the Danish way of thinking better,” she says.
With that goal, the two sisters both became students. Mia began studying for an MSc in International Business and Politics, and joined the first generation at CBS to go through the Sustainability Challenges program, where she learned about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are one of her main areas of work today, four years after graduation.
“So, in many ways, I feel I owe the idea of what I’m doing today to my education and CBS,” says Mia Negru.
“For us, happiness is something else”
Leaving her mother country without knowing Denmark, the language, the market or anyone besides her sister, might be an audacious move to some. But when talking to Mia Negru, it seems as if her can-do spirit and energy are so strong that it does not affect her much.
“Of course, it takes a lot of courage to leave your home country and try out your luck in a totally foreign place. But it helped a great deal that my sister and I were in it together. We could share the ups and downs with each other,” she says.
According to Mia Negru, the Danish business community can be difficult to penetrate from outside in. Therefore, it takes a certain amount of determination and persistence to not get discouraged like some of her international acquaintances.
“For me and my sister it’s different, I think. We grew up in a forest in Romania and so we were not corrupted by some of the fake values regarding what’s important in life. We don’t strive to have the biggest house and the most luxurious car. For us, happiness is something else. And in Denmark, we can find that happiness, so that’s what’s keeping us going,” she says.
When Mia Negru’s sister moved back to Copenhagen after living in New York for two years, she had come up with the idea of developing a game based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
This idea turned out to be a defining moment for Mia and her sister’s careers, because gradually they transformed the concept into the start-up company 2030 Builders, where they are both employed today.
“Our game idea grew into an SDG Strategy Tool, and our mission is to help all companies become sustainable and work towards achieving the UN’s SDG Agenda 2030. At the end of May 2018, I began devoting myself full time to 2030 Builders, developing a product that we want to export globally as a Danish solution for sustainability with the UN’s SDGs as a starting point,” Mia Negru explains.
But the desire to work towards a more sustainable corporate world stemmed not only from her sister’s idea. As Mia Negru repeatedly mentions, CBS also has much to do with where she has ended up today.
“At CBS, I discovered how to have a business approach towards sustainability. The UN adopted the Agenda 2030 in my last year of study, and the Sustainable Development Goals became the new sustainability framework. And this framework is the core of what I am developing today at 2030 Builders,” she says.
“Nature is definitely my friend”
While she strives to contribute to a more sustainable business world on a professional level, Mia Negru is also engaged in sustainability on a personal level. Therefore, creating a better world has become an important factor in all contexts of her life.
“You know, I love being outdoors, and nature is definitely my friend
“You know, I love being outdoors, and nature is definitely my friend.
But nature has begun punishing us for what we have done to it, and that is not normal. That concerns me a lot, because when my kids grow up, I want them to be able to breathe the same fresh air and enjoy nature just as much as I do,” she says and continues:
“And to a large extent, I think solving problems such as nature punishing us for our behavior towards it requires us to become more innovative and come up with new solutions. The solution is not necessarily to stop flying airplanes or quit eating meat. The solution is to find sustainable options for these problems. And that’s what I’m occupied with. Both personally and professionally.”