Miami Alumni Profile: From Cotton to Coffee

By: Karis Gladieux

Una Hrnjak-Hadziahmetovic is a Miami alum with an impressive resume – having held corporate sustainability positions for two Fortune 500 companies, an extensive history of volunteer work and many honors and recognitions for her achievements. Having just transferred to her new position with Starbucks mere weeks before we spoke, I am certainly lucky that Una was able to fit me into her busy schedule and honored to have gotten to speak with such an inspiring woman.

Una graduated from Miami in 2010 with a B.A. in Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs and a focus in Women’s Studies. When she wasn’t delving into her schoolwork, she was involved as a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta and participated in Miami Mock Trial. She was also extensively active in Associated Student Government (ASG), serving as the Manager of Diversity Affairs for two years. Her last semester was even spent completing Miami’s Inside Washington program. She later earned her Master’s in International Development with a focus in Social Entrepreneurship and International Communications from American University.

Una’s interest in sustainability is derived from her own background. Being raised as a Bosnian refugee, she has the ability to see things through the eyes of the most vulnerable. This led her to a career in broader human rights work, where she started as a management consultant in Washington D.C. This is where the environmental, social and business aspects of her work all began to intersect. From there, she accepted a job in-house at Gap Inc., working in global sustainability and human rights inside the supply chain. While at Gap, she oversaw the Women and Water Alliance, a joint program between Gap and the United States Agency for International Developments (USAID). This program and the people involved are dedicated to working with water-scarce communities in India who have been affected by the apparel industry, addressing the particular issues that women and children face and working to provide opportunities to improve their quality of life.

More recently, Una has taken on a new role at Starbucks, where she works in environmental impact and global sustainability.  When I asked her about the transition from working in the apparel sector to the food and beverage industry she said it has been positive, noting many similarities between companies. “Starbucks and Gap are very purpose-driven companies. That makes it very manageable to align your mission and values in your day-to-day… Our value chain is also incredible, once you start to think about it. Coffee, cocoa, tea, food sourcing, et cetera.” 

According to Una, the overarching social and environmental issues are relatively similar across industries. It is easy to draw parallels between the issues of water usage, scarcity, and cleanliness to both the production of cotton and dairy products. “It’s almost just like you’re replacing cotton for coffee.” 

However, Una’s global impact extends far beyond her career. She continues her passion for human rights and international issues through her volunteer work, holding positions with Global Funds for Women, Women for Women International, the Jericho Foundation and Peace by Piece International. She has also received many recognitions for her achievements in these fields, being featured as one of  Miami University’s 18 of the Last 9 – Alumni Award in 2018, as well as earning her place on GreenBiz’s 30 Under 30 Rising Leaders in Sustainability that same year. 

Throughout our conversation, Una spoke fondly of her experience at Miami, specifically noting how her Diversity and Inclusion experience with ASG prepared her for her future.This role showed her how to bring multiple perspectives to the table in order to create the best opportunities and make sure that every voice is heard. “I think those experiences at Miami really developed my muscle to do that.” 

As for other campus involvement, Una attributes her confidence around strangers and public speaking skills to Mock Trial and is thankful for all of the experiences she was given throughout her time at the University.

Una’s passions for sustainability, human rights and women’s issues are undeniably admirable. She says her life and career have “come full circle” and seems excited and prepared for what lies ahead. “I’m discovering something new every day, and I’m loving it. I love the vast scope that Starbucks has.” She also loves the discounts- a hefty 30 percent. “It’s nice. It definitely makes me want to go every day.” 

With a job that helps to create such a massive impact in the world of coffee, and the world in general, how can you not justify that grande cold brew?

Photo courtesy of Una Hrnjak-Hadziahmetovic

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