MBA Students Step Back in Time: A retreat to St. Michael’s Mount – By: Delfina Zagarzazu


Picture Credits: Chayaporn Kongcharoenkitkul

Conscious of time with deadlines fast approaching in the next few days, we departed Exeter at 7AM to spend a day away from the books. Away from Devon, we  stepped into Cornwall – a first for many international students who had yet to explore all of the Southwest treasures!

The day was co-designed by Hugh St. Aubyn and myself to allow the 30 person cohort a creative and inspiring visit to balance off the business theory from class. We placed colourful and inviting signs to find the emerging leader within each of us.

Don’t ask what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people that have come alive

– Howard Thurman, Great Civil Rights Leader

The day promised to be filled with friends, nature, personal reflections and a beautiful historic castle to carry our minds away into imaginary stories and tales that made us step back in time – couldn’t have asked for more on a cold February morning halfway through Term 2 of our MBA.

The magic about St. Michael’s Mount is that you can only access it during low tide, something very rare in the 21st century of drones, planes and automobiles. The patience and timing for our visit set the pace for the day, as we removed our MBA ‘speedometers’ and tried to slow down to the pace of the tide to connect with the magic of the island and the castle.

Upon arrival we immersed ourselves in the Island’s history through a tour of the Castle & Gardens which took us back 1000 years to hear about the people and incidents which have shaped this incredible island through monks, generals, civil wars and more to get to what it is today. As a tourist destination it receives more than 300,000 visitors per year as well as being home to the beautiful St. Aubyn Family incredibly dedicated to the legacy of the castle for generations to come.

Our afternoon included a one-on-one conversation with James St. Aubyn, who is Lord St. Levan, about the challenges of climate change for the island and how it is responding to them. This was a topic very relevant to the OnePlanet MBA students looking to understand and work with businesses seeking resilience in confronting changing environments.

Sitting on the island, and watching an approaching storm, I can say I felt alive as Howard Thurman proposed. It was an incredible place to reflect upon the impacts of climate change and our fragility as a human race, being so openly exposed to the sea and hearing its strength over us. During this afternoon, sand boards were put up by the local villagers to protect their homes from the arriving storm. Watching the activity rush around us reminded me of the role we each must play in business to learn to be resilient and have dynamic business capabilities to respond to these challenges. Being creative and collaborative during such times is a fundamental aspect of resilience that must not be forgotten at the time of making decisions with such uncertainty as climate change brings us today.

I know my day at St. Michael’s Mount will always remind me to be present of this conversation wherever business may take me post-MBA. I hope to return many more times to enjoy its uniqueness and outstanding beauty. To me, it shall be symbolic of our fragility and humbleness towards nature, to learn to treat nature with more respect than we have as a human race, and to integrate into our daily lives the changes it demands of us to nurture a more sustainable future.

Delfina Zagarzazu

One Planet MBA Candidate 2017


Dear Donald………..

We recently invited One Planet MBA lecturer Morgen Witzel,  business theorist, consultant, lecturer and author of many management books,  to advise President Donald Trump on his first 30 days in office.


Dear Donald

You’ve had a chance to get your feet under the desk at the White House now, and – I think we must be honest with each other – it could be going better. Things aren’t really turning out as you had hoped, are they? Street protests, criticism in the press, judges overturning your executive orders; and worst of all, more and more people are making fun of you.

You wanted to be a leader who was respected, admired, even feared. Instead, you are turning into one that people laugh at. Oh, Donald. There is no sadder figure than a leader who is mocked. Do you really want to be the next Jeremy Corbyn?

But, the good news is, it’s not too late to turn things around. You can become a respected and admired leader, Donald, but first, you have to do a few simple things.

First, stop messing around on social media. People are starting to get the impression that you would rather spend time on Twitter than govern America. Just because you can tweet something doesn’t mean you have to. Listen to Melania; she’s been telling you this all along.

Second, remember that leadership isn’t about you. It’s about other people. As the rugby player turned philosopher Jonny Wilkinson recently said, you don’t get to call yourself a leader. Other people decide whether you are a leader. If you want to lead people, you have to be worthy of them; and that means all of them, Donald, not just the ones who voted for you.

Third, you have to get out of the White House – and off the golf course – and start leading by example. All those people who voted for you out in the rust belts, the unemployed and the underemployed who are expecting you to turn the economy around and give them meaningful work; they’re still waiting. Go to them, talk to them, listen to their needs and fears, and then enact some meaningful programmes for job creation and industrial strategy that will give them hope.

Stop messing about, Donald. Immigration controls and walls and withdrawing federal funding for abortion services will appease the right-wing nutters, but they’re not the ones who put you in power. Get rid of Bannon and Spicer and Conway and all the other power-hungry, greedy manipulators around you, and hire some real people onto your staff, people who understand what life is like for the majority of Americans. Leave Obamacare alone, it will cost more to dismantle it than to leave it in place.

You’ve spent too long in reality television, Donald. You can’t tell fantasy from fact any more. It’s time to get real. If you don’t, it’s not just history that will judge you. The present will have its say as well. If you want to survive your first term, Donald, then it’s time, as one of your aides said, to get with the programme.

Yours sincerely

Morgen Witzel, Fellow, University of Exeter Business Schoolwitzel

Reflections on Paul Polman’s vision


Coinciding with the 5th Anniversary of the One Planet MBA, Paul Polman CEO of Unilever shared with Exeter graduates, faculty, business leaders and current students his thoughts on how a leading consumer goods organisation can thrive in a global world.

Polman Breakfast-38

Reflections: Tom Sisk, One Planet MBA Cohort member

The recently deceased English writer John Berger wrote “The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.”

We live in a world where financial wealth comes at a cost to us all (including the rich) when contrarian vested interests between shareholders and stakeholders are having destructive effects on the state of our planet. If our planet destructs, businesses too will become extinct and recent OPMBA guest and keynote speaker, Paul Polman CEO of Unilever understands this very well. Corrective behavior has to be a collaboration between corporations and the consumers they serve and the long term survival of businesses is only possible when the interests of both shareholders and stakeholders align.

Paul Polman strongly believes that growing sales and profits, and decreasing negative externalities, are not mutually exclusive and thus he implemented the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) in 2010 with the goal to reduce Unilever’s environmental footprint and increase the company’s positive social impact without decoupling these policies from profit growth.

Paul Polman is a man on a mission, a trailblazer with vision who is determined through his role as one of the 17 eminent persons appointed as an advocate of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to redefine the responsibilities of corporations and their leaders. With a mandate to support the Secretary-General in his efforts to generate momentum and commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030, the SDG Advocates have been working to promote the universal sustainable development agenda, to raise awareness of the integrated nature of the SDGs, and to foster the engagement of new stakeholders in the implementation of these Goals.

Unilever has seen the potential threats of the environment it operates in and has made the choice to pre-empt the risks they face by increasing their ethical standards and in the process finding more efficient and resource friendly ways of conducting their business. As a publicly listed multinational, Unilever also has responsibilities towards its shareholders and Paul Polman has not lost sight of this. Ultimately, Polman and his leadership team have to answer to their shareholders and they, de facto, will decide if he is at liberty to further pursue his views.

The shareholders have to fully support that mission and the price of the shares has to reflect this support. But it doesn’t really end there as the company still has to be financially profitable and therefor is dependent its customers. It is the customers who ultimately represent the vast majority of the stakeholders and this majority will bear the ultimate cost of companies that conduct their business in an unsustainable manner.

Some are critical about Unilever’s motives, linking back to that shareholder accountability but I do believe we owe Paul Polman the benefit of doubt. After hearing him talk, witnessing his passion and drive to steadfastly implement his vision, I feel confident that he is the real deal.

In a talk lasting an hour, Polman also stressed that Unilever will not shy away from using its bargaining power to motivate its trading partners to also adopt best practice. Only the future will tell if Unilever will have truly pioneered a shift in how companies do business and if sustainable practices can drive profits. Unilever most certainly is opening its eyes to reality and Paul Polman is putting personal and corporate short term interests aside as he focuses on the long game.

The Global Challenges of our Times Call for New Business Models

A post by Prof Nicolas Forsans and Jackie Bagnall

Business and society are facing unprecedented challenges that will shape the 21st Century. Economic, societal, environmental and technological challenges are impacting business and with this complexity the expectations placed onto aspiring leaders are changing.

In this two-part series Professor Nicolas Forsans, Director One Planet MBA programmes and Jackie Bagnall, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies and Leadership highlight the significance of those challenges, their implications for leadership and on business models and strategies to thrive in a complex world. Continue reading

Shifting the paradigm in order to create value – Tom Sisk


As individuals on the MBA, we are on a path to transform for the better, to give back to society and make a difference. The One Planet MBA promotes change and innovation and our lecturers and mentors have one year to provide us with a skill set that will enable us to transform ideas into real projects and execute change for good. Continue reading

The People Are the Heroes Now – Morgen Witzel



The people are the heroes now

Behemoth pulls the peasants’ plough

Thus begins the first act of John Adams’s opera Nixon in China, with a chorus declaiming the victory of socialism: the people rule, and Behemoth – a mythical monster associated by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan with the overweening power of the state – subservient and domesticated to the will of the people. It is the people who now lead.

It is all tosh, of course, with Adams and his lyricist Alice Goodman poking fun at the pretensions of the Maoist state; in reality, in Mao’s China, Behemoth was very much in control and the peasants did what they were told. The illusion of freedom and the reality of dictatorial rule were very much opposed.

But it is forty years since Mao died and the totalitarian edifice he created began to be dismantled, and the world has changed. After the political upheavals of 2016 we are entitled to ask: is it true? Have the people really taken charge of their own destiny, voting for the leadership they want rather than the leadership they are told they should want? And if so, what are the consequences for leadership? Do our old assumptions about what leadership is still stand up in this brave new world? Continue reading

Two Months in Tokyo with PwC Aarata’s Sustainability Team

In the later stages of the One Planet MBA our cohort have the opportunity to develop and apply innovative business thinking to solve the real-life challenge faced by one of our corporate partner organisations. The following case study comes from Glendon Filer a member of the 2016 graduating cohort.

Two Months in Tokyo with PwC Aarata’s Sustainability Team, by Glendon Filer – One Planet MBA Alumnus Class of 2016

I have recently returned from Japan where I undertook my One Planet MBA consultancy project,  having spent the summer living and working in Tokyo, while completing an internship with PwC Aarata, Japan. Based 20 minutes’ walk from the entertainment and shopping hub of Shinjuku, I commuted across town each day to PwC’s office in Shiodome. Boasting views of Tokyo harbour and the famous Tsukiji fish market, it was an ideal place for some MBA level thinking. Outside it was a hot summer with many typhoons. Inside the office, days were long but – ultimately – rewarding.


Continue reading

Engaging with Design Thinking and Regenerative Business Models with design thinking agency IDEO and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation


by Delfina Zagarzazú – OnePlanet MBA Candidate 2016/2017 

One Planet MBA Students at IDEO Workshop (photograph by Tim Pestridge Commercial Photography Photo:

One Planet MBA participants at IDEO Workshop (photograph by Tim Pestridge Commercial Photography :

Starting the first week of the program, the cohort of the One Planet MBA was immersed in exploring, discussing and reflecting upon the complexity of the current global challenges facing the world today (see WEF Report on 2016 Global Risks).

The business world is recognizing that operating in fragments with an isolated vision of the world has great implications on other parts of the ecosystem. It is no longer rational to believe the exploitation of resources in Africa won’t have implications on security, migration or food supply issues tied to other activities. As we enter a more fragile epoch with climate change, these operations will directly or indirectly impact our workers, supply chain and/or bottom line of our business. Digital and technological innovation are disrupting entire sectors and promoting new approaches to production and consumption while enabling new business models. Continue reading

A road to sensible decision making

by Thomas Sisk, One Planet MBA 2017 Candidate

It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” (Isaac Asimov)

This quote by Asimov instinctively feels correct and true, but what does it mean? Nature and history are about evolution, and evolution is about change. If we use the broad definition of entropy as a measure to gauge the process of degradation, we can observe our planet’s entropy is increasing.  When a child is born, we automatically embrace, encourage and accept change in our children and our parental duty is to guide this change. So why do we, as adults, stagnate, fight change and strive for stability and security, essentially an inert state of being, and deny the disarray and damage we cause in the process? Continue reading

Facing the Dragons



“Don’t expect anything from anybody, work hard, put your head down, be good at what you do and good stuff will happen…”

Deborah Meaden, Businesswoman

It’s that moment of high drama and pant-wetting tension.  Five infamous and be-suited business moguls scowling at you as you simper, stumble and struggle to communicate a complex presentation, imploring them for their understanding and agreement (as well as their cash…).  It’s excruciating.  Can you make them believe in you?  Does your business case make sense?  Or will the grumpy one look at you disgustedly and bark something dismissive like “You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, it’s an awful business plan, the finances don’t add up – I hate it – and for that reason:  I’m out…”, as you redden, mumble your thanks and make an awkward bee line for the door…  Is this some kind of nightmare?  A bad reality show?  The moment when your business brainchild and legacy for your kids is cruelly exposed to be nothing but a castle built on sand?

Well, for participants of the One Planet MBA this was, in fact, a reality.  As part of one of their modules (the Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Process:  Starting Successful New Ventures), Tuesday saw each participant facing a panel of successful business professionals to pitch their own, personal business idea. Continue reading