Interviewed June 2008
It took coming to North Carolina for an MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School for Fernanda Abbud (MBA 2004) to find and fit that last piece of the puzzle. With an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master's in marketing from Brazil universities, along with her work experience, Fernanda already had an extensive background in business. She found the missing piece when she discovered the sustainable enterprise program at UNC.
A concentration in Sustainable Enterprise prepares MBA students to apply the knowledge and skills in sustainability to their chosen field. Fernanda has found stakeholder engagement to be an area where her training has been incredibly useful. "To work with sustainability means being able to constantly link many different stakeholders. During the MBA, I developed the communication skills to, for example, promote multi-stakeholder dialogues so everyone at the table comes away happy."
This is incredibly important in Fernanda's current role as Advisor to the Executive President at Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) Brazil. Founded in 1997, BCSD Brazil is a coalition of big companies with a presence in Brazil, with annual revenues corresponding to 40% of GDP. BCSD Brazil is a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), leading a network of 60 councils worldwide. It was one of the first institutions in Brazil to work on integrating economic, social and environmental dimensions. "I am responsible for organizing events such as dialogues on sustainable mobility, energy efficiency in buildings, and sustainable finance, among others. I also have a more specific role in the technical chamber of sustainable finance, composed of the six largest financial institutions in Brazil. This technical chamber is now developing a strategic work plan with the insurance companies, and promoting a stakeholder dialogue to approach subjects such as analysis of social and environmental risk of small and midsized companies, and the co-responsibility of financial institutions in relation to their clients."
With her exposure to so many businesses across the spectrum, Fernanda has some insight into why it is important for
executives to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of their business. "Although we are still far from
an ideal scenario, the comprehension of sustainability issues by companies is improving. The market leader companies are the
ones that invest the most in sustainability, and the valuation of intangible assets — brand, reputation, ability to
communicate with stakeholders — is growing. At BCSD Brazil, we work to show executives that if they do not place sustainability as a priority, they may suffer from this pressure on their bottom line."
With the picture coming into focus, Fernanda continues to work to improve things in the world and sees herself as contributing more pieces to the sustainability puzzle. "I believe the most significant changes towards a more sustainable world will be led by the companies, so I see myself helping those companies to take the steps necessary to make this world a better place."
The executive president of BCSD Brazil, Fernando Almeida, is well known as a thought-leader in the sustainability
area. In his latest book, "Os desafios da sustentabilidade — uma ruptura urgente" or "The Sustainability
Challenges — an urgent rupture," he dedicates a good part of it to the importance of future leaders in conducting the changes in the actual business model. He concluded, and unfortunately I have to agree with him, that there is no leader of sustainability today such as Martin Luther King was for the civil rights movement or Nelson Mandela was for the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development