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Meet the MBA Class of 2021: Elisa Dierickx, INSEAD

Elisa Dierickx

INSEAD

“Nature conservationist, scientist, co-founder of an NGO in Cabo Verde, interested in business environmental sustainability.”

Hometown: Fontainebleau, France

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve spent two months on an uninhabited, desert island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University (BA with a major in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology); University of Cambridge (PhD in Zoology)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Eurasia Programme Development Manager at Fauna & Flora International (FFI)

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? It was INSEAD’s Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, which focuses on the interface between business and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Institute’s work aligns very well with my interest in nature conservation and the environmental sustainability of businesses.

What club or activity excites you most at this school (and why)? I’m very interested in two clubs that have a strong environmental focus: the INSEAD Climate Action Club, and INDEVOR (social and environmental impact).

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at INSEAD? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I’m looking forward to brainstorming with people from so many different backgrounds about our post-MBA projects and developing exciting new ideas and paths together. I’m also excited to come back to my hometown after 14 years abroad! On the “nervous” side, I don’t come from a typical business background, so there will probably be a steep learning curve.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I’ve set up a nature conservation NGO called “Fundação Maio Biodiversidade” (FMB) on Maio Island, Cabo Verde, that will soon be celebrating its 10th anniversary. FMB’s goal is to protect the fauna and flora of Maio, and at the same time provide long-term, sustainable economic opportunities for the people of the island. Amongst other things, FMB reduced turtle poaching by 85% on the beaches of Maio, and recently received the Marsh Award in Marine Conservation Leadership.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  Through my past work experiences in nature conservation, in particular while advising and partnering with key business stakeholders, I have become more and more interested in the interface between business and sustainability. Conservation does not only deal with fauna and flora – it also deals with people. To be effective, conservation has to mobilize human and economic resources from the business community. As environmental pressures grow, businesses will encounter these considerations more-and-more frequently. I believe that companies will increasingly show interest in sustainability, motivated by image and branding considerations, pressure from consumers and/or regulating governments, or a sincere concern about the ongoing environmental crisis. Having developed scientific and management skills for conservation, I am now gaining a deeper understanding of how businesses operate through an MBA at INSEAD. Combined, these skills will allow me to work with businesses and help them in their transition towards sustainability.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Probably some of the quantitative GRE questions – I was definitely a bit rusty on this type of test taking. I thought that INSEAD’s essay questions were all very interesting and fair, and that the interview process was supportive and informative. It was a very enjoyable application process; that reinforced my feeling that this school was a great fit for me.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I’ve lived in quite a few different countries these past years and, at this point, preferred applying to top schools located in two towns where I had already lived and that I liked (Fontainebleau and Cambridge, MA). Also, since I already did a 4-year Ph.D., I had a strong preference for a shorter, one-year programme like INSEAD’s.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? It was working with businesses on nature conservation projects these past few years, and seeing how powerful this collaboration could be.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Any company with a strong commitment towards nature and environmental sustainability! It is urgent that all companies make this shift. Neal’s Yard Remedies is a good example: they were the first skincare company in the UK to be certified by the Soil Association and grow a lot of their ingredients on their own farm at their “ecofactory.” They were also first high street retailer to obtain the Carbon Neutral guarantee. I worked with Neal’s Yard Remedies on the sustainable sourcing of frankincense from Oman, and saw first hand the effort that they put into their research.

DON’T MISS: Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class of 2021