When she was 18 years old, Gwenaelle Gerard flew from France to Mexico to volunteer at an orphanage.
She didn’t know that years later she would create a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consultancy in the same country that welcomed her as a teenager.
She also didn’t know she would end up writing a book about what happens when your office gets destroyed in an earthquake.
It was her MBA at EGADE Business School in Guadalajara, Mexico, she says, that made her CSR career possible, providing her with the management expertise she needed to launch her own CSR consulting business as well as the resilience to lead it through a crisis.
CSR Career Stage 1: Why EGADE Business School?
Gwenaelle hadn’t always planned to study in Mexico. She started her business education at Rennes School of Business, in France, which had a partnership with Rutgers University in the US.
She began her Master in International Business alternating between France and the US, and then got the opportunity to do a one-year MBA study exchange at EGADE.
Gwenaelle had traveled to Mexico before to do social work with NGOs, from working with children at an orphanage to devising a business plan to help local women sell their art. She was delighted to be back in Mexico, but this time to study.
The top-ranked business school in Latin America according to the QS Global MBA rankings, EGADE supports social impact ventures and aims to produce entrepreneurial leaders who innovate and disrupt.
EGADE is part of the BBVA Momentum program, which provides training and advice to social entrepreneurs with a social and environmental focus in Mexico.
CRS Career Stage 2: Learning MBA skills
The first thing Gwenaelle noticed about the MBA program at EGADE was the emphasis put on teamwork.
A founding member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, EGADE offers MBA students access to collaborative team projects with students from other leading business schools, including a challenge where students presented cases for breaking into emerging markets.
Gwenaelle came from the French educational system, which she says didn’t always encourage open discussion in the classroom and valued independent study over cooperation.
At EGADE, she enjoyed being able to have mutually enriching conversations with her classmates, she says.
“I was sharing the courses with people who had a lot more experience than myself, and I learned so much from them,” she recalls. “Those different experiences meant we complemented each other.
“The Mexican way of teaching is about the human side of people; it’s about making them trust and express themselves,” she adds.
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CSR Career Stage 3: Building a CSR business
After her MBA, Gwenaelle entered the corporate world, working for a US company based in Mexico. But she felt something was missing.
“It was a very weird situation where I saw things that I didn’t agree with, and I tried to change them but I couldn’t,” she explains.
So Gwenaelle left her job, knowing she would be able to make a difference in other circumstances, and started to focus on a career in CSR.
She became a freelance consultant and eventually founded her own boutique CSR consulting firm in Mexico City, ResponSable, which provides training and advice to help companies integrate social responsibility into their operations without sacrificing profit.
Then, in September 2017, an earthquake struck Mexico City and its surrounding areas. 370 people died and more than 40 buildings collapsed. Among them was the office building where Gwenaelle’s company, ResponSable, was headquartered.
“Nothing was ever the same again, personally and professionally,” she says. Gwenaelle was injured, several of her colleagues died, and she had to relocate the offices.
In 2019, Gwenaelle published a book, entitled Minuto Cero, about her experience and her journey of personal and professional recovery.
“This book is about organizational resilience. It’s an answer to the question I regularly got after, which was ‘How did you survive to this crisis as a company, as entrepreneurs, as people?’”
Gwenaelle credits her MBA at EGADE for her adaptability and has since rebuilt her business. Today, ResponSable works with more than 140 companies including Nestlé, Heineken, and Canon.
From her early work with NGOs to her current CSR career, social responsibility has always been at the heart of Gwenaelle’s personal convictions. But it was her MBA experience at EGADE, she says, that helped her really make a difference.
“It was the MBA that gave me the ability to understand the math of my accountant, the legal arguments of my lawyer, and the logic behind the strategy we build for our clients,” she says.
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EGADE Business School - Tecnologico de Monterrey
Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara - Mexico