Pedro Tarak
Argentina
Pedro Tarak
  • Co-Founder and Current President, Sistema B International (B Corporation)
Born, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1952; Law degree from Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, 1977; LL.M, Concentration in Environmental Law, Indiana University, 1982.
“The market must once again become the place for exchanges of goods and services, but also the hub where we build collective trust, social cohesion, and overall value –not only financial and economic value but also social and environmental value.”

Summary

In this interview, Pedro Tarak, co-founder and current president of Sistema B, narrates the trajectory of his career, explaining how and why he worked to found the organization Sistema B, a group dedicated to solving social and environmental problems through responsible and sustainable business.

With a background in environmental and international law, Tarak always felt motivated to use his legal background and entrepreneurial drive towards the betterment of his society. To that end, he founded the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation in 1984 and also chaired the Argentine senate’s Commission for Natural Resources during the administration of Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín. It was this latter experience—working more closely with government to develop mechanisms through which to enact social and environmental change—when he realized that, in order to successfully implement large-scale solutions, a broader platform was needed. This realization led Tarak to join Avina Foundation, where he worked for many years identifying and promoting social and environmental leadership, and building cross-border ties between sustainability-minded groups across Latin America and Europe.

In 2009, Tarak reached another pivotal moment in his career. “I started to feel that I wanted to be more effective and to build something that would have a greater impact and would give me the feeling that we were going to provide large-scale solutions,” he explains. He was also struck by the degree to which national delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009 clung to their individual interests at the expense of advancing collective solutions. Moreover, he noticed how “private sector rather than systemic interests promoted their positions within national interests.” Both of these realizations motivated Tarak to seek a completely new approach to cross-country dialogue, and new solutions for social and environmental problems.

In the interview, Tarak reflects on his lofty mission: “We needed to redefine the meaning of success, business, market, and economy, thinking about short- and long-term issues; factoring in financial, social, and economic concerns; considering traditional market players (i.e. companies and investors) and integrating all other stakeholders… in other words, we can all co-create the market that we want.” Tarak admits that, at the time he initially proposed this idea, many of his colleagues at Avina were skeptical. However, along with several partners, Tarak ultimately turned this vision into a reality with the founding of Sistema B. The organization was modeled on B Lab and its founders in the United States, however from the beginning Tarak and his partners were conscious of the need to address the issues of their surroundings, rather than try to adopt a one-size-fits-all mold.

Tarak goes on to explain some of the core tenants of B Corporations—“it goes from focusing on profits as the sole purpose of companies, to the creation of overall value”—as well as the complex, and often contentious, issue of certification and the problem of “greenwashing.” He also talks about some of challenges preventing the growth of sustainable business in Latin America, but points to the example of Chile and it’s 133 B Corporations as a source of hope, and notes with optimism how Sistema B and other organizations have seen many successes over recent years—for example the creation of Argentina’s private sector Triple Impact Index and the proliferation of B Corp communities across the country.

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In this interview, Pedro Tarak, co-founder and current president of Sistema B, narrates the trajectory of his career, explaining how and why he worked to found the organization Sistema B, a group dedicated to solving social and environmental problems through responsible and sustainable business.

With a background in environmental and international law, Tarak always felt motivated to use his legal background and entrepreneurial drive towards the betterment of his society. To that end, he founded the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation in 1984 and also chaired the Argentine senate’s Commission for Natural Resources during the administration of Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín. It was this latter experience—working more closely with government to develop mechanisms through which to enact social and environmental change—when he realized that, in order to successfully implement large-scale solutions, a broader platform was needed. This realization led Tarak to join Avina Foundation, where he worked for many years identifying and promoting social and environmental leadership, and building cross-border ties between sustainability-minded groups across Latin America and Europe.

In 2009, Tarak reached another pivotal moment in his career. “I started to feel that I wanted to be more effective and to build something that would have a greater impact and would give me the feeling that we were going to provide large-scale solutions,” he explains. He was also struck by the degree to which national delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009 clung to their individual interests at the expense of advancing collective solutions. Moreover, he noticed how “private sector rather than systemic interests promoted their positions within national interests.” Both of these realizations motivated Tarak to seek a completely new approach to cross-country dialogue, and new solutions for social and environmental problems.

In the interview, Tarak reflects on his lofty mission: “We needed to redefine the meaning of success, business, market, and economy, thinking about short- and long-term issues; factoring in financial, social, and economic concerns; considering traditional market players (i.e. companies and investors) and integrating all other stakeholders… in other words, we can all co-create the market that we want.” Tarak admits that, at the time he initially proposed this idea, many of his colleagues at Avina were skeptical. However, along with several partners, Tarak ultimately turned this vision into a reality with the founding of Sistema B. The organization was modeled on B Lab and its founders in the United States, however from the beginning Tarak and his partners were conscious of the need to address the issues of their surroundings, rather than try to adopt a one-size-fits-all mold.

Tarak goes on to explain some of the core tenants of B Corporations—“it goes from focusing on profits as the sole purpose of companies, to the creation of overall value”—as well as the complex, and often contentious, issue of certification and the problem of “greenwashing.” He also talks about some of challenges preventing the growth of sustainable business in Latin America, but points to the example of Chile and it’s 133 B Corporations as a source of hope, and notes with optimism how Sistema B and other organizations have seen many successes over recent years—for example the creation of Argentina’s private sector Triple Impact Index and the proliferation of B Corp communities across the country.

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Sustainability

Pedro Tarak, a founder of Latin America’s Sistema B, describes how the movement was formed in 2012, including the direct inspiration from the B Corporation movement in the United States.



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Interview Citation Format

Interview with Pedro Tarak, interviewed by Andrea Lluch, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 19, 2018, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/.