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This Cranfield MBA Started Up Hotel Chocolat In The US—She Says Sustainability Matters

Nicki Doggart, former Hotel Chocolat US CEO and MBA graduate from Cranfield School of Management, says sustainability and social responsibility are good for business



Fri Oct 12 2018

If the extreme weather events around the world over the last year weren’t enough to convince you, the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has the verdict: climate change is happening fast, and now is the time to act.

The IPCC’s report lists actions to be taken by governments over the next few years if we are to avoid climate disaster, but some businesses are already making efforts to work sustainably, with MBA grads among those leading the charge.

One such person is Nicki Doggart (pictured right), a graduate from the MBA program at Cranfield School of Management in the UK. After her MBA, Nicki went on to work for luxury British confectioner Hotel Chocolat, whose sustainable ethos is a key facet of their brand.

Before enrolling on the MBA at Cranfield in 2002, Nicki worked in the US as a key account manager, but wanted to experience more of a challenge in her career. She chose the Cranfield MBA to achieve this, later landing her role with Hotel Chocolat in 2007 and leading the company’s startup operation in the USA.

Nicki believes that Cranfield was instrumental in giving her the tools and knowledge to make an impact in her career—and moreover, that more businesspeople should consider doing the same.  

nicki doggart

“Corporate responsibility, and being engaged in ethical and sustainable projects, isn’t just beneficial from a personal perspective,” Nicki says. “It doesn’t serve just to make us feel better; it actually makes business sense."

BusinessBecause caught up with Nicki to find out more.

What were the standout aspects of the Cranfield MBA?

It’s hard to choose! The entire experience was very special to me. 

But, if I had to pinpoint [one aspect], I would say that the other students made it for me. The MBA course attracts such a diverse group of people from varying cultures and industries, and I learnt as much from my peers about business [as] I did from my professors!

I really can’t emphasize enough how beneficial it is to hear such a wide range of perspectives and outlooks on how to be successful. It helps you to grow as an individual and businessperson, and makes it virtually impossible to be closed-minded. 

Where does your passion for corporate social responsibility come from? 

I suppose I have always had a strong ethical awareness, and I believe in being a good person.

However, it was actually on the Cranfield MBA that I encountered ‘corporate social responsibility’ as a concept. At the time, it was a relatively new idea, but it resonated with me.

I became one of the founding members of the Corporate Social Responsibility Council at the business school. For me, ethical and sustainable ways of doing business are not to be underestimated.

For one, it’s a competitive differentiator. It makes you stand out, as was the case with Hotel Chocolat. Secondly, it’s a ticket to play: increasingly, prospective employees are basing their decisions on companies’ ethical policies, just as consumers are looking for an emotional reason to buy when deciding what to purchase.

Value-based conscious consumerism is huge, and it’s only going to get more prominent into the future. 

How do you think the MBA at Cranfield School of Management helped you get where you are today?

I’m now working in a healthcare company within cyber security and have carried the same ethical ethos throughout my career path.  

Essentially, security is a way of protecting our overall sustainability—from an economic perspective, breaches shake up economic systems, ruining companies and ruining lives.

Speaking more generally, I think the MBA has meant that I now always challenge the status quo. I think, ‘Just because we’ve always done it this way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way.’

If something doesn’t quite work out, I want to tackle it, look at it from all angles, and find solutions. 

Also, potentially most crucially, I am able to view everyone I come into contact with, business-wise or otherwise, as an opportunity to learn something new. Every single person can teach you something, about anything, and when you recognise this, you have the potential to go far.