How PLS prepared Elizabeth Davis to make an impact on sustainability at Coca-Cola, co-found a consulting firm, and grow a creative agency  

Author: Megan Valley

Elizabeth Davis 600Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis ’12 spent her college career preparing to make a difference in the world of sustainability. 

So when it came time to search for a job, she started emailing CEOs.

“All of the responses I received were, ‘We don’t take young hires,’” the Program of Liberal Studies major said. “They looked for 10 to 15 years of experience — at a minimum.”

Thanks to a Notre Dame alumnus, though, Davis got a start in her dream field. 

Rob Cain ’91, then-chief information officer of Coca-Cola and an English major during his time at Notre Dame, helped her land a global sustainability marketing internship at the company.

A year later, she had a full-time role as manager of strategic initiatives in the office of the chief sustainability officer. 

“It was really because of the Notre Dame family that I got an opportunity working at The Coca-Cola Company,” Davis said.

Understanding humanity

At Coca-Cola, Davis was one of 12 young adults from around the world chosen by CEO Muhtar Kent to provide strategic direction on millennial engagement. She led the millennial-focused efforts of the company’s global sustainability team, managed university partnerships, and designed presentations for the chief sustainability officer.

Since then, Davis helped found a mission-driven consulting firm and recently began working as director of new ventures for Worn, a creative agency empowering women to lead.

What she learned in PLS was essential to it all.

“I honestly don’t think any other major could have prepared me better for what I’m doing now,” she said. “PLS teaches you the evolution of human thought. It allows you to understand where we came from and to appreciate where we are going.”

Focused on the future

Davis, a 2011 Truman Scholar, spent much of her four years at Notre Dame working on sustainability issues. She was an intern in the University’s Office of Sustainability, a member of the GreeND environmental initiative, and helped oversee energy education efforts as part of the Student Energy Board

As she got more involved, Davis created new ways to raise sustainability awareness on campus. She helped start Waste-Free Wednesdays — a campaign designed to limit food waste in the dining halls — and was the first student member of the Social Responsibility Board, which educates, researches, and advises the food service department in sustainable operations

As a senior, Davis wrote a thesis on public-private partnerships in the nexus of nutrition, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. 

“Those opportunities were great for me, especially when I didn’t have a ton of work experience,” she said. “When I was applying for these jobs and having these conversations, everyone could look at my background and see that I had done a lot in this space, even if I didn’t have five years of experience in a company.”

Driven by purpose

Building on her coursework and campus activities, Davis spent her summers working on a sustainable cattle ranch, at a consulting firm for green buildings, and conducting thesis research at a variety of organizations, from PepsiCo to the U.S. Senate. She spent the summer after graduation interning at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C., as part of her Truman Scholar program

After working with Coca-Cola for three years, Davis began looking for new opportunities in New York. While interviewing at Edelman, she connected with Carol Cone, who was leaving the company to start On Purpose, a consulting firm to help brands identify and ignite their purpose. 

“I was looking for a purpose-drive opportunity in New York, and Carol asked if I wanted to start this consulting firm with her, which was pretty amazing,” she said. “I was 25 years old, and I realized I could start a company, be a founding partner, and work with an icon in the field of cause marketing.”

A special network

Now, Davis is moving forward to work on women’s issues at Worn. The agency works with female leaders in a variety of industries to launch new products and brands, produce bold campaigns, and launch powerful content focused on empowering women. Its clients include organizations such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, Marriott, PiperWai, Whole Foods, and the dating app Bumble.

“I was getting really interested in women’s issues, so when Worn reached out to me about the role, it was amazing timing,” she said. “It’s great to be at a place focused on women’s empowerment. I work with three incredible women from different backgrounds, and I’m inspired everyday by the work that we do.”

From her experiences in campus activities to her time in Arts and Letters classrooms to the power of the University’s vast alumni network, Davis credits Notre Dame for helping her find success every step of the way.

“More and more, I see how special Notre Dame is and the family that is Notre Dame,” she said. “There are so many opportunities I’ve had because of connecting with alumni. I could feel prouder to be a Notre Dame alum.”