El newsletter del mes de abril 2017 de la División Organizations and the Natural Environment (ONE) d
Current Position: Assistant Professor, INCAE Business School, Costa Rica
Can you describe your background and what brought you to Academia?
I am a Costa Rican who studied economics at the local public university. I wanted to understand why we could not just print money to distribute to the poor. I also earned an MSc in International Economics in the UK and a PhD in Management and Organizations at Stern School of Business, New York University (NYU). Following my MSc, I conducted applied research at the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) at INCAE Business School. During my years at CLACDS, I not only enjoyed conducting applied research to inform the local private sector, but I also observed the impact of this research on local business practices. All of this motivated me to enter Academia.
What have been some of the key moments/events/people in your career development?
Living for a year on the Osa Península in rural Costa Rica was a life-changing experience for me. Lapa Rios Eco-lodge is not only known worldwide for its conservation efforts, but it also works very closely with the local community. The lodge was a profitable enterprise. Realizing that such a business model was possible made me extremely interested in understanding how more organizations could operate this way.
I had the good fortune to have great mentors throughout my career, particularly at CLACDS and at NYU. Andrew King, who co-chaired my dissertation committee, instilled in me the desire to conduct rigorous academic research in the sustainability field. He also connected me to the ONE community, where I have developed great friendships and research collaborations.
Another key event in my professional development was going into the field to collect my dissertation data. Complementing the quantitative dataset with more than 70 interviews with farmers in developing countries (i.e. visiting flower farms in rural areas of Colombia and Ecuador) showed me the type of research methods I would use in my academic research, especially in countries where access to quantitative databases is limited. I love doing fieldwork, so I often talk to businessmen and practitioners to complement any quantitative analysis that I perform.
What does the organizations and environmental (ONE) field mean to you?
The ONE field has been growing in recent years. The pressing and complex challenges that firms face in order to operate sustainably attract scholars to explore the interaction between businesses and their natural environment.The field has evolved by becoming more inclusive of the social dimension of sustainability, as opposed to focusing exclusively on the study of natural resources. Our social challenges need as much of our attention as our environmental ones. I believe that sustainability scholars are becoming more aware of the interconnection between the environmental and the social dimensions of sustainability. Thus, one future direction that the ONE field might take is to understand the interaction and trade-offs between these two dimensions.
What are you working on at the moment? Why is it exciting do you?
My current work is divided into two streams of research. One stream seeks to understand the challenges of doing sustainable business in developing countries with high levels of poverty (e.g., social entrepreneurship). The other is linked to my dissertation work on the dynamics around sustainability certification programs. For instance, in one of my projects, I look at how financial institutions use these programs to allocate their loans among firms from developing countries
What do you do to get and stay inspired?
I constantly meet and talk with practitioners, either businessmen or social entrepreneurs. It is fascinating to hear about their challenges and how they are trying to overcome them. I also get inspired by sharing our academic research with them and seeing how it makes a difference in the way that they approach their challenges.
A book, paper, video or essay that inspires you at the moment...
I was inspired by a book titled Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology by Kantaro Toyama. The book is a reminder that we need humans, not technologies, to solve the problems in our society. Toyama provides the evidence to argue that
no technological “quick fixes” exist to address poverty—a reality that is very clear if one lives in the developing world.
What advice do you give PhD students?
Make sure that you work in an area that you are not only intellectually curious about, but also passionate about. The academic career is a long journey, and only passion will help you move forward.