Emily Nichols, PEMBA
This January, 22 intrepid MBA students found their way to Salvador, Brazil, to participate in the 6th annual SMG Brazil Field Seminar. Our group was led by Professor Kristen McCormack and her fearless Brazilian counterpart, Pedro Lins, (our “mom” and “dad”) and we were kept safe and generally on track by Gail Justino Miller from the Graduate Programs Office.
The group spent two weeks traveling around Brazil – from Salvador to the Campinas/Sao Paulo area, then on to Rio, with a stopover in breathtaking Paraty. The course was focused on the idea of “sustainable business” – where an enterprise strives to have little or no negative impact on the environment and community, while also being positioned for long-term business success. Obviously, this ideal is a work in progress for most companies, but the ones we visited across Brazil are making great strides in their unique approaches to this concept.
Our visits explored topics as broad as the vast informal economy in Brazil, responsible waste management, sustainable supply chains for beauty products, transparency in food production, cloning trees for less impact in paper production, shopping mall development focused on the growing middle class, and chemical companies funding programs that address the root causes of poor health among impoverished children. We were taught capoeira by kids growing up in Rio’s favelas, visited a project focused on re-building the Brazilian sea turtle population, and met the recipients of microcredit loans who insisted on stuffing us with goodies from their fruit stand.
While Brazilian culture is known for kicking back in Havaianas with a caipirinha in hand, we were moving constantly on the trip to fit as much as possible into our time there (though we didn’t entirely neglect the former). While the trip was certainly an academic undertaking, what we all brought back in our hearts were the people we encountered. We were met with warmth and generosity at every turn, and were truly impressed with the commitment to sustainability we saw at all levels of the companies we visited – from interns and tour guides to the most senior executives. Mr. Andre, an inspiring Santander microcredit recipient, exhorted us all to use what we’ve been given, and “run the world the right way.” We returned to Boston with a renewed sense of purpose and headed back into the semester and our futures, determined to try and do just that.
It’s difficult to summarize two intense weeks in a short post. Each of our team members blogged from the road, so if you want more detail on any of our visits, please click through to the posts I’ve linked to above – or visit the home page of our blog here.
Emily is a part-time MBA student, concentrating in International Management and Marketing. Her day job is working at Cone Communications as a cause strategy and corporate responsibility consultant. You can follow her on Twitter @emilynichols.