Nov 2021

Maren Mende-Benford: Reflecting on EoM From MBA to Present Day

Published November 2021

Maren Mende-Benford is Senior Manager, Global Sustainability at Allianz. She received an MBA from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School in 2017. While studying, she gave a keynote address at the second annual Oxford Economics of Mutuality Forum.

As we draw closer to the start of the sixth annual Forum, we have asked Maren to share her personal reflections on the Economics of Mutuality — from her MBA to the present day.

When I spoke at the Economics of Mutuality (then Responsible Business) Forum in 2017, as one of the keynote speakers, I started with a confession: “I am a banker”. It drew a few laughs and caught the audience’s attention as I proceeded to argue that even bankers can do well AND do good and that I hoped to do exactly that in whatever role I would take on post-MBA.

I’d love to be able to say that I did exactly that. Instead, I have yet another confession to make. I became a management consultant for two years. The job was tough, the hours long – yet on the flipside the places I saw, people I met and technical skills I acquired were unparalleled in my career to that date.

There was a lot of talk about “impact” and no doubt much impact was made. But did we work to ensure the work companies are doing meets the needs of the world around us? Did we strive for holistic, mutual value creation? Perhaps in some projects and tasks but in all honesty, I think not.

In 2019 I had a stress-related breakdown. I had slept too little, worked far too much and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t understand why I was spending what little time I had in this world doing what I was doing and at the same time giving up so much. I wasn’t doing what I had pledged to do two years earlier and what I was so passionate about. I also saw how, despite improvements, we were (and still are) a long way from fully using the power of business to tackle the increasingly pressing societal and environmental challenges around us.

After a short break and a lot reflection, I changed career. I now work in the Global Sustainability Team at  one of the world’s largest insurance companies. I feel excited again by my job and the actions I take every day and during the majority of waking hours of each day. I work with people both inside – and much more importantly outside – the Sustainability team who are extremely passionate and driven to leverage the might of global and incredibly powerful organization to make the world a better place. We’re on an ambitious, at times tough, but also rewarding journey.

The last few years have been a rollercoaster for me and while I have no plans to stand still, I feel I’ve found my direction again. I’m as excited as ever about the Economics of Mutuality work, look forward to the Forum and hearing from and connecting with so many like-minded peers again.

We hope that you will be able to join us for this year’s Forum taking place between 30th November and 2nd December 2021. The theme is ‘Putting Purpose into Practice for This Decisive Decade’. Sessions will once again leverage the Forum’s unique blend of academic research, concrete business application, and MBA insight.

We are delighted to announce an outstanding line-up of speakers including the former CEO of Unilever Paul Polman, the former CEO of Burberry Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff, and the Managing Director of External Affairs at BlackRock Sandra Lawson.


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