Looking at Sustainability in Latin America: Sroufe Offers Advice at International Event, Works Directly with Companies

Posted on May 30, 2012

Dr. Robert Sroufe, Murrin Chair of Global Competitiveness at Duquesne University, was one of six international experts in sustainability invited to form a research agenda to support sustainable business growth in Latin America.

Dr. Robert Sroufe

Sroufe, who also serves as director of applied sustainability for Duquesne’s Beard Institute and helps to coordinate corporate and nonprofit projects with students in Duquesne’s singular MBA Sustainability program, has studied sustainability and supply chain management in North America, Asia and Europe.

At the end of May, he shared his expertise with those in emerging Latin American economies, presenting on sustainable supply chain management at the international conference on Learning from and Improving Latin-American Business sponsored by the INCAE Business School on May 21-23 in Costa Rica. While from different disciplines, the experts all promoted better management of business, process and whole supply chains.

Sroufe shared his expertise on sustainability strategies, next steps and future opportunities with a family-run business in Honduras, Grupo Vanguardia, and the Florida Ice and Farm Co., in Costa Rica.

Because of today’s global society Sroufe said, at some level the issues in Latin America are similar to those faced by Pittsburgh entrepreneurs. “At other levels,” he said, “the Latin American context is more about family-owned and -run businesses with only 25 percent of business in Costa Rica being publicly traded. Doing business in Costa Rica is about relationships, trust and the ability to work within both formal and informal economies.

“Many small businesses work within the informal economy and have to deal with great amounts of corruption. I am constantly amazed at how proficient Costa Rican companies are at meeting the needs of people at the bottom of the pyramid, who live below poverty lines on less than a few dollars a day. We can learn from these companies and see how successful business models within the Latin American context can be applied in Pittsburgh and other places around the world.”

Sustainability, Sroufe said, offers the means for companies to manage impacts and performance across social, environmental and financial bottom lines. The companies involved in this event are some of Costa Rica’s sustainability champions and already have strong social and environmental impacts.

By summer’s end, Sroufe will detail his experiences and suggestions in a book resulting from this event. Its goal will be to highlight how successful Costa Rican companies have integrated sustainability into their practices.

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