Why Sustainability Matters in your MBA Choice


Juan David Hernández
One Planet MBA student 2014/5

Studying abroad is one of those choices that you will never regret. In my case, I took the decision to start an MBA not only to boost my career to the next level but also because I believe that are many other issues that need our attention. The rapidly changing world and the dynamic business environment require multidisciplinary approaches, multicultural skills, and out-of-the-box thinking in order to face 21st century global challenges. Huge problems such as global poverty, increasing world population, food security, climate change, and overexploitation of natural resources are some of the challenges that today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will need to face; not only to rethink human living and behaviours within the planetary boundaries, but also to ensure good living standards for present and future generations.

Since I started my career in political science I strongly believed that I wanted to be part of the change. Living in Colombia, the third most unequal country of the world, made me realise that being part of the problem makes it easy to complain about our social realities, and it’s also the perfect excuse for not being part of the solution. My first step was in the governmental sector where I learned how things occur in real politics and how these decisions affect entire communities.  I wanted to be part of the change, but in a corrupt and mindless political and social structure I realized that this was going to be a complex task. Fortunately, this experience was the turning point to discover that things can also change through business, and that through micro-solutions we can still achieve important goals. For this reason, I began to work in the flower industry trade in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs and I learned how the private sector could push towards the development and realisation of other people’s lives, whilst at the same time the business succeeds and makes a profit.

However, I realized that CSR is a short approach to global problems such as inequity, tackling poverty, lack of opportunities and poor access to health, education and financial services for the people in developing countries as mine. Fortunately, the University of Exeter and Syngenta offered me a scholarship to start the One Planet MBA programme and to find new ways to address the right solutions for rural agricultural communities. Right now, I am starting to work on value chain engagements with small and medium size farms supporting them to change their cultivation and farm management practices in order to increase their productivity and profits, enhance biodiversity, and conserve nature. That is how I now envisage change, however there are certainly multiple alternatives to start to create solutions in a more complex world.

Certainly, business must be seen as an ally to solve these problems rather than the main reason for them. An MBA with a strong emphasis on sustainability gives you the tools to understand social, environmental and economic complexities in the changing business environment, whilst it also increases your understanding of how global challenges can be faced with creative, innovative and practical business insights. By using real and practical cases, the One Planet MBA at Exeter integrates the core business skills needed to succeed in a more competitive market whilst also providing a sustainability framework.  According to some global leaders and academics, this will be the key driver of global economic change over the next 50 years. The One Planet MBA offers you top leading education with a cross-cultural approach for sustainability-minded leaders.

The special ingredient of the One Planet MBA and is the cross-cultural experience that gives you a deep understanding of the cultures and realities of the globe. In a globalised world, the term ‘multicultural’ has been gaining huge importance since businesses are becoming aware of the opportunities that a world without boundaries brings. In this sense, the One Planet MBA programme gives you the chance to learn from the variety of experience and knowledge that your colleagues bring, and also from the interesting class discussions that Professors promote by using the different experiences, profiles and backgrounds of the students to analyse common problems with a multicultural perspective and according to global realities. The One Planet MBA will enable you to learn from the diverse insights of your international colleagues and also will give you cultural awareness, experience, and skills that are becoming more important for public and corporate leaders in the world.

Finally, living in the UK is a remarkable experience since you find a variety of people from different cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds that enhance not only your knowledge but also your life perspective. Right now, this is the most important experience of my life and I would like to keep making the most of it since I understand that this is a unique chance to have a pause in my career and see what the future will bring. However, the difference between before and after this experience is that I’m now really confident about the skills and competences that I’m learning in the programme, and I’ve no doubt that now I can offer more solutions and fewer excuses to make my own contribution to my present and future generations.

Recently in an Economics lecture, we discussed the tyranny of small decisions and how individual choices do not lead to optimal or desired outcomes. From my point of view, this is what sustainability can offer to business; a different approach to how global leaders will start to face world challenges, and how individuals can start to move toward creative, innovative and out-of-the box solutions for the critical challenges of the future.

So, if you feel like this too, what’s your next move?

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