RARE CEO Brett Jenks Believes Good Leadership Can Save the World

April 14, 2009 brett_jenks_small

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business alumnus Brett Jenks visited the university on April 1 as part of the McDonough School of Business' Distinguished Speaker Series. Jenks, who graduated with an MBA in 2004, is president and CEO of RARE, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that aids global conservation efforts through social marketing campaigns. In an informal meeting with students, Jenks talked about his career path, RARE's projects in more than 40 countries around the globe, and the role that leadership can play in saving the world.

Jenks began his career in the film industry as a production assistant before an unexpected detour led him to his current vocation. "I was in Hollywood working 16-hour days until I finally decided to just leave everything," he said. "I ended up volunteering as an English teacher with World Teach in Costa Rica, which changed my life entirely."

He stayed in Costa Rica for four years, training American volunteers, helping the government develop a national curriculum for teaching English as a Second Language, and working to create jobs for Costa Ricans living in protected areas. "The leadership skills I developed through trial by fire in the film industry came in handy," he said, "both in organizing soccer matches and helping the government develop a curriculum, as well as organizing programs designed to protect Costa Rica's biodiversity. I also learned how important transparency and maintaining a good reputation are to being an effective leader."

Through RARE, Jenks has been able to apply his passion for environmental conservation on a global scale in partnerships with the World Wide Fund and the governments of China, Peru, and Mexico, among others. Jenks detailed the successful campaigns RARE has implemented around the world, such as the Trogon initiative that resulted in a 78 percent reduction in forest fires in the region surrounding Guadalajara, Mexico.

Jenks also discussed the three flagship projects RARE has planned for the next few years: the Coral Triangle project, the Zero Extinction Project, and the Carbon Forest Project, all of which are designed to protect valuable parts of the world's ecosystem. According to Jenks, the world is in critical need of leaders with a vision. "At the moment, we are losing $2 trillion to $5 trillion worth of ecosystem services per year due to environmental degradation. We need change agents, business leaders, and politicians; our planet depends on our collective ability to change the way we live."