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South America Waking Up To The Need For Environmental Education

Mexican MBA student Sybil Gomez has come to England to learn about sustainable business

By  Harriet Murdoch

Fri Oct 21 2011

I was reading an article recently about representatives from Exeter’s One Planet MBA heading to an MBA Fair in Bogota to meet potential applicants. The article said that companies in South America are increasingly engaging with environmental and social issues and there is a strong demand for management training in this area.

To find out more I got in touch with Sybil Gomez-Angulo, a Mexican student who has just started Exeter’s One Planet MBA, to find out what she thought about the future of sustainability and management in South America.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Sybil studied Applied Mathematics and later Civil Organisations and Social Responsibility at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), a Mexican university.


With a love for travel and mathematics Sybil has always tried to combine both in her job by working in the hotel and leisure industry. Initially working for Resort Condominiums International in Mexico and Uruguay before moving into fresh pastures at the Mexican hotel chain Grupo Posadas.

Grupo Posadas hired Sybil as their Revenue Manager; “In this role I became an expert in optimising resources to obtain the maximum profit. I think this concept is the basis of sustainable development, because to minimise the natural resources used to satisfy our needs would strongly contribute in ‘not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.”

This sustainability lesson became increasingly important to Sybil and she wanted to learn how to apply this knowledge of allocating natural resources in the most efficient way. “In the same way that hotels have a limited inventory, we must understand that we can’t take more from nature than what nature can replenish.”

Sybil has been zealous about environmental issues her whole life and even though she took an active role in making contributions to sustainability in her everyday activities she decided it wasn’t enough. “When I was working at Grupo Posadas I decided that it was time to really get involved in social and environmental problems and focus ALL my efforts towards making a real change in society.”

Sybil admits that there were many cynics who told her she was crazy to leave such a good job to follow an uncertain path. “It wasn’t easy to take the decision but I received the support of my family and that makes all the difference. So I started looking for a job at an NGO or an International Organisation.”

Competition for work with an NGO was higher than Sybil had anticipated and at this point the idea of studying an MBA came out in order to compensate her lack of experience in that sector. “Although I have a lot of experience in mathematics and optimization, an MBA would help me to learn how to address this experience to social and environmental issues, so it’s my opportunity to change the course of my career and my life.”

Sybil applied to two business schools in Mexico and received offers from both but decided their focus was too much on a general business approach. She broadened the search and looked at over 80 MBA programs all over the world, “focusing on those with a non-profit organisations or sustainability approach.”

Having found MBA programs that claimed to have a sustainability approach, Sybil discovered that many in reality only had two or three lectures on environmental issues, which wasn’t enough for her. “And then I found One Planet MBA which program is totally focused in sustainability and it was really all that I wanted.”

The European approach to sustainability issues is unique; Sybil says there is nothing similar in Mexico. “We are just beginning to become aware of those issues, so introducing them into our education programs will still take time.” Mexican business schools rate among the top ten in Latin America but in terms of environmental concerns fall behind Europe.

Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world and Mexicans are waking up to the reality of environmental issues. “I think education of communities is the first step to be aware of environmental issues as a huge problem and that it is OUR problem, so it’s our responsibility as communities to solve it and start taking care of the planet we live in, as it’s only ONE.”

The One Planet MBA has corporate partnerships with many global companies and Sybil is fortunate to have been given £5000 by Lafarge to cover part of her tuition. “I think it is really important that companies give this kind of support to collaborate for the education towards sustainability and I am really grateful to Lafarge.”

With a cohort from 16 different countries and aged between 23 to 45 there are many different views and opinions. But above all, the entire cohort share the same passion for the environment, “which has given me lots of hope about the possibility of making a real change in the way of doing business. I have always been very optimistic about it, but being part of a group who thinks as me gives me even more strength.”

Sybil hopes to work for an NGO or an International Organization and would like to remain in Europe after graduating next year to learn more of the European approach to sustainability, the processes and ways of facing issues. “But I definitely would like to return to Mexico and apply all that I could have learned in my country.”