Best friends and business partners Alexandra Cohen, from Chicago in the US, and Duna Ecija Cousens, from Madrid, Spain, met in Israel as students at IDC Herzliya’s School of Sustainability. Each was already passionate about sustainability, and each had come to Israel feeling that the country, with its chronic water shortages and consequently innovative solutions, was the best place to study and to gain experience in the field.
“Necessity breeds solutions, as the saying goes,” says Cohen. “Israel became a leader in innovation within sustainability out of necessity, and the success achieved now puts Israel in the unique position to be able to export this knowledge around the world at this crucial time. Therefore, I believed studying sustainability in Israel at IDC Herzliya would enable me to be in the same unique position as a professional.”
I believed studying sustainability in Israel at IDC Herzliya would enable me to be in the same unique position as a professional
She says that IDC’s Sustainability and Government track offered her the perfect combination, with its focus on both theory and practical tools. In addition, she was drawn to the chance to study under top-level lecturers such as Shimon Tal, the former Water Commissioner of Israel, who has decades of hands-on experience in water resources management and water supply.
Cohen and Ecija Cousens joined together for their final project in the third year of their undergraduate degree, presenting a project that focused on the severe water challenges in the US state of Florida and proposed innovative technological solutions. As a result, they were invited by the state of Florida to present their findings and solutions at a conference, postponed in light of COVID-19.
After graduating in 2020, the women decided to continue with their partnership and established the water consultancy and distribution company Hydria Water Innovations. Their focus is on brokering sustainable and cost-effective solutions to companies and the public sector.
They are also heading the sustainability branch of the Spanish law firm ECIJA, awarded the title of most innovative firm in Spain. Cohen says that while laying down sustainability infrastructure can be an initial expense, the savings in water and energy outweigh the costs over time, as well as benefit the planet. “The solutions of sustainability and cost savings go hand in hand,” she says.
For Cohen, the entrepreneurial spirit at IDC was a game-changer and helped motivate her to found her own company. In addition, the international aspect of IDC was a major benefit. Through the Raphael Recanati International School, she was able to meet and network with students from over 90 countries, including, of course, her friend and business partner. “Entrepreneurship within IDC’s Sustainability School is a big focus, and this is something I would not have gotten at any other university,” she says.
Entrepreneurship within IDC’s Sustainability School is a big focus, and this is something I would not have gotten at any other university
Dean of the School of Sustainability Prof. Yoav Yair said of the program and its relevance, “Across the globe, governments, the private sector, and the general public are already rethinking the required paths of economical development. Because of climate change and the necessary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, a new balance of energy-food-water nexus is coming. We need to reshape and to transform our economy into a long-lasting and sustainable economy that uses natural resources prudently and responsibly, and allows present and future generations to prosper. There is a growing demand for sustainability experts, managers, inventors, and advisors to design and implement sustainable planning and innovative development policies. The vision of our school is to educate the next generation of these crucial professionals.”