Featured Staff Profile

For Erb’s new managing director, it’s global 24/7

By Kevin Merrill

Even though ‘Global’ is part of the Erb institute’s name, its new managing director says it must become part of the DNA of its students.

Terry Nelidov knows something about global. He speaks four languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and Guarani from Paraguay) and has worked for companies and organizations in North America, Central America, Europe, and Asia.  In his new job, a primary focus will be on strengthening the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise’s already strong international reputation.

“The institute is global now in its mission and its perspective.  I think the challenge is how do you drive that global mission down to the key areas of research and teaching, and then to business partnerships,” Nelidov said. “It’s not easy to do.”

To do so means even more focus on how business is taking place in emerging economies such as China, Indonesia, and Brazil, and on the issues that companies and industry organizations are struggling with in all markets, such as access to water. Of course, there is another challenge: convincing even more companies about the value of sustainable business practices in the first place.

“We sit down with executives and we’re still making the basic business case why, why social impact matters and why environmental stewardship, what climate change is and how to develop a climate change strategy, issues like governance and human rights,” Nedilov said. “And so I was excited to have the opportunity to step back, so to speak, in the value chain to the executive program, and participate in introducing all of these same core issues, but much earlier on.”

He joined the University of Michigan from Hong Kong, where he was based for Business for Social Responsibility. BSR is a 250-member network of companies focused on making the business case for sustainability. Before that, he spent nearly two decades in business and development in Latin America. He was country representative for Catholic Relief Services in Peru (the overseas development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), where he worked on development issues, including corporate social responsibility and mining issues.

His Latin America experience began with the U.S. Peace Corps, where he was assigned to Paraguay. He later worked at the INCAE Business School in Costa Rica; facilitating startup of a land development company in El Salvador; and consulting assignments in Ecuador, Honduras, and Dominican Republic. He has an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from IESE, the graduate business school of the University of Navarra, in Barcelona, Spain.

Founded in 1996, the Erb Institute operates its own research and outreach programs. It also provides services to and enriches the educational experience of students from SNRE and the Ross School of Business dually enrolled in the M.S./M.B.A. program. These students, including the 72 currently enrolled and another 330 alumni around the world, are often referred to as “Erb-ers”.

Nelidov spoke to Stewards about his new role, the Erb Institute place in global business, and some of the challenges and opportunities ahead:

Stewards: What are some new ways to advance the idea of ‘global’ in the operations of the institute?

Nedilov: It means infusing it into the materials and the dialogue and the discussion and the projects and the publications of the institute and perhaps some cross-cutting global themes. It’s not just about doing business outside the U.S. in one or two other countries.  It’s about a global approach to the unique contribution that business can make so sustainability for its own interest, its own short-term profitability and long-term competitiveness.

Q: What contribution does  the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) make to that effort, and in general to the Ross-Erb partnership?

A: When you think about really complex social, environmental governance, economic problems, you have to think in terms of systems thinking.  It’s not just one company acting alone or even an industry, and it’s not through just one or two variables. It’s really understanding the interrelationships between all the variables.  And I think SNRE thinks a lot about that in terms of earth systems.

So when you ask what value does SNRE bring, for me that’s what it brings.  SNRE brings earth systems to the discussion and I think Ross brings management systems.