Queen's University

Growing “green managers"

Giselle Weybrecht, Artsci'01, is a woman with a timely message: businesses need to go green, and she has written a book that tells new managers how they can do it and profitably.

Giselle Weybrecht has one of those rare, inspiring stories about how her book got published. It’s a story most authors and publishers wouldn’t even believe, yet it really happened. “I approached a publisher, and they e-mailed me back five minutes later to say ‘Yes.’ It wasn’t until afterwards that I found out that almost never happens,” Giselle recalls.

Of course there was “a little more to the process” than that; after all, she has been working toward this project for most of her life. She grew up in Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Italy, and developed an interest in sustainability issues at a young age. “I found it interesting how there wasn’t enough water in some places, but there was too much water in other places,” she says.

Giselle got involved with the Kiwanis Club in high school, and after graduating from Queen’s she was a member of the Canadian Youth Summit Team that took part in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and she did some work for the United Nations. This satisfied her passion for improving the environment – at least until 2005. She then decided to see what impact she could have in the business sector.

While completing her MBA at London Business School, Giselle decided the way to “green business” is to educate the next generation of business managers. However, she found that MBA programs and other similar programs weren’t providing young managers with the tools they needed to do so.

“I found that a lot of students were interested in incorporating sustainability issues into their careers, but that wasn’t being taught in the classroom,” she says.

Students at London Business School usually write their second-year thesis as a paid consulting project with a company. No stranger to doing things differently, Giselle convinced the school to let her do the project on her own. Her focus would be on how the school could incorporate sustainability into its operations. She put together a makeshift book with all the messages she thought were key, and organized it like a business school course. Within weeks, everyone at the school wanted a copy.

“It just grew and grew,” she says. “Then alumni, entrepreneurs, and managers started asking for copies, and so I decided the best way to make it available to everyone who was interested was to get it published as an actual book.” She sent an e-mail to Wiley publishing, and the rest, as they say, is happy history.

The Sustainable MBA (Wiley, $26.30 Can.) is a guide for those interested in what the business sector can and is doing in business and sustainability, with tips on how to get involved and how to bring these ideas into any job. It covers sustainability as it relates to accounting, economics, ethics, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, operations, organizational behaviour, and strategy.

“I’ve been really lucky to have the support of some incredible people, like the Under-Secretary General of the UN, the Executive Director of UNEP and the UN Global Compact, and the CEO of Unilever, to name a few, all of whom provided endorsements for the book,” she says.

Not only did she become a published author in her chosen field this year, but now Giselle is also a highly sought-after speaker. In late March, she spoke to 100 directors of MBA programs around the world at the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) annual conference in Barcelona about how to embed sustainability in their programs.

And word is spreading. Interface, a worldwide leader in the design, production and sales of environmentally-responsible modular carpet, has ordered books to give to its Top 100 employees, and universities around the world (from as far away as Australia and Africa) are starting to use it in their classrooms.

Giselle loves getting people excited about the issues. “So many people don’t understand what sustainability means to business and the impact we can have as employees and consumers. If we educate the next generation of business leaders about business and sustainability, that’s how we’re going to bring about real change.”      

For more information on Giselle’s book and speaking engagements, visit www.thesustainablemba.com.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2010 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2010 Issue #2
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