Interviewed June 2007
Paquita is a rising second-year MBA student at UNC Kenan-Flagler. In her first year at Kenan-Flagler, she has become an active member of the sustainability community.
From her family roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Paquita grew up living all over the U.S. and even in Germany while her father served in the U.S. Army. When asked how she developed her interest in sustainability, she said, "I think my background opened my eyes to the fact that everyone does not live in the same manner or have the same luxuries. In saying that, I feel that we should do more when we have more, but I don't believe in hand-outs either."
This sense of responsibility and social justice she developed planted the seed for Paquita's later interest in sustainable business. In her words, "sustainability gave me a framework for how to think about a company's impact on the community while acknowledging fiscal success is essential."
After earning her BS in Computer Science from the University of Virginia, Paquita worked for Traveler's Insurance as, among other things, an information technology project manager. As she implemented projects for the company, Paquita developed a desire to be more involved in the strategy of what she was doing: to know why the projects were important. She decided to pursue an MBA education to gain skills that would enable her to be a strong decision-maker, and to gain flexibility in her career path.
Like many of her peers, Paquita chose to enroll in Kenan-Flagler's MBA program for the people, community, sustainable enterprise program, and the Kenan Institute, which provide the resources and experiences she feels are unique to UNC's program. For Paquita, those experiences included competing in the Sustainable Venture Capital Investment Competition (SVCIC) and working on an environmental strategy and benchmarking practicum for Burt's Bees.
Before coming to graduate school, Paquita was considering a career in nonprofit work, wanting to make an impact in her job beyond just contributing to the company's financial profits. She was introduced to the idea of sustainable business practice at Kenan-Flagler and as she says, "once I understood the concept, it clicked."
The idea of accounting with a triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial) is one Paquita says she will take with her in her future career since, "by linking the core competencies of the firm to a triple bottom line, a company has the opportunity to design creative solutions to their problems while mitigating environmental and social risks."
Paquita believes that incorporating sustainability practice into the core of businesses is simply the right thing to do. She adds, for those who aren't swayed just by doing the right thing, that "they should incorporate sustainability into their general business practices as a part of risk mitigation. Thinking about your product or service holistically gives you the opportunity to truly assess the risks. Knowing those risks can help you mitigate them and prevent any future negative consequences."
This summer, Paquita is working for 3M's Strategic Business Development group in St. Paul, Minnesota. 3M appealed to her because of its focus on innovation and because it was one of the early companies thinking about the environmental impact of its operations—a priority manifest in its Pollution Prevention Pays (3Ps) program.
When asked about how she sees herself affecting change, Paquita replied that she is less concerned with changing the world right now than with her ability to change people by opening their eyes to new possibilities. As she says, "understanding sustainability requires education. Going forward, I do want to raise the question, 'What is the impact [of business] environmentally, socially, and financially?'" As she does, change will certainly follow.
Nominee for Sustainability Superstar:
AVEDA. As part of my practicum for Burt's Bees, my team researched personal care industry leaders with sustainable practices. AVEDA stood out because they have a very holistic approach to sustainability; they start at their mission, implement it through their operational practices and procedures, and bring it to consumers with the manner of their advertisements.