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Andy Gebhardt. Andy Gebhardt

MSc Development and Project Planning (2003)‌

How did you come to study at the BCID?

Prior to studying at BCID, I did quite a bit of volunteer work in the context of disaster relief in refugee camps in Guatemala and the Balkans (during Yugoslavian war, Kosovo crises 1999/2000), and was somewhat baffled by the lack of co-ordination between disaster relief and development assistance, and was looking to find a professional role at that intersection of disaster relief and development.

Internet research at the time suggested that the BCID courses where more hands-on in their approach to project management than comparable courses, which is what made my choice to come to Bradford.

How was the Bradford experience for you?

I didn’t like the Yorkshire winters very much - dark until 10 am, and then getting dark again at 4 pm…

However, I very much appreciated the international environment students from all over the World (Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia). The exchange with fellow students from all over the World added an invaluable component of learning to the actual studying. I also liked the fact that lecturers at BCID speak from practice (i.e. have significant development and project management experience themselves), which adds weight to the theoretical teachings.

Last but not least, BCID is the place where I met my wife. Together we are now running a consultancy specialising in corporate sustainability management advice in South Korea (and are trying to bring up two kids, 7 & 5…)

Has the degree helped you in what you are doing now? How?

I believe that the know-ledge of international development and the relations to economic development is useful in nearly any line of work, insofar as it helps to see issues in the wider perspective and context, and facilitates understanding of difficult/controversial issues in the perspective of different stakeholders. In addition, the practical tools (log-frames, budget frameworks, etc.) have helped me a great deals to develop our own tools.

Our current work is not directly related to international development. However, it is related to sustainable development from an internal perspective of a corporations (our clients are large companies based in Korea), i.e. how to integrate sustainability (long-term considerations) into management decisions, policies, and management tools. Long-term sustainability issues include climate change, resource intensity (raw materials, energy, water), environmental pollution, ethical behaviour, stakeholder engagement, reputational management, demographic changes, and more.

Corporate sustainability

Whether we like that or not, at the end of the day the most important issue to a company is the balance sheet. The success factor in dealing with corporations is therefore to understand and speak the corporate language. A sustainable successful company – i.e. a company that survives long-term – is a company that is able to produce goods/services that clients want or need, while at the same time controlling costs and risk in an ever-changing environment. Cost and risk are composed of measurable financial cost, but also of the so-called non-financial aspects. A significant part of our work consists of analysing and attaching a value (cost/benefit) to intangibles (the non-financial aspects of company operations), and formulating management solutions based on this analysis. Intangible or non-financial issues include topics such as ethical corporate behaviour, environmental footprint, climate change, labour satisfaction and motivation, supply chain management, corporate reputation, and more.

An example of the financial impacts of “non-financial” issues from a corporate perspective is Shell’s mismanagement of non-financial aspects (environmental management, considerations of local communities and their socio-economic context) in the Niger delta: the non-considerations of these issues has not only lead to disastrous environmental and social impacts on local communities, but also to a significant lower profit margin to the company (compared to other oil extracting operations) due to high maintenance, security, bribery, and clean-up costs. Corporate sustainability is about finding win-win solutions that benefit both the company and the stakeholders involved – whether that is a local community or the wider society.

While there is still a far way to go for corporations to become truly sustainable according to the Brundtland definition, we are encouraged by having witnessed momentous changes in management perspective towards the business value of sustainability in Korea since we started our business in 2004.

From our own business perspective, we are very proud that three of our clients for which we have made and/or significantly influenced the sustainability strategy have been recognised as “globally most sustainable company” in their respective industry sector according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (the most important international benchmark for corporate sustainability, based on annual sustainability evaluation of the World’s largest 2,500 companies.

Maybe more related to international development, we have recently analysed the “sustainable competitiveness” of nations based on 70 sustainability indicators tracked by the World Bank and the UN, grouped in 4 areas: natural capital, resource intensity, sustainable economic development, and social consensus.

Received: 15/10/2012