IE Greenwashing: The Saudi Aramco MBA | Op-ed


There’s a term for when someone or something pretends to care for the environment, while actually doing nothing. It’s called greenwashing, and it’s exactly what IE University is currently doing. Greenwashing is when you trick consumers, users, and the general population into thinking that a firm, or its products, are environmentally friendly or that the firm is environmentally aligned.

On the 15th of October 2019, IE launched a ‘custom’ MBA Program with Saudi Aramco – a little known company, but that is owned by a government who commit war crimes in Yemen, murder journalists in their own embassies and is one of the most environmentally damaging companies in the world. The event was important enough that IE’s President, Santiago Iñiguez, was personally in Saudi Arabia for the launch. I can’t speak for the whole student body, but I’ve yet to see Mr. Iñiguez face to face or even hear him speak but that one time in the Aula Magna, and I’ve been here for a significant period of time.

However, fret not, because on the 23rd of June 2020, IE presented its “New sustainability strategy” and the launch of “The 10-year challenge” campaign. The campaign has many focuses, but the main one is IE continuing their “commitment to sustainability from a different perspective”; namely, the different perspective being doing nothing and pretending to do everything, while sharing a bed with the bad guys. The IE Sustainability page is quite a read, especially if you consider Saudi Aramco could be indirectly paying for it.


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What is truly a mockery in its own right is how IE congratulates itself for their 2019-2020 Social Impact achievements. If marketing that you published 260 press releases with sustainability related content isn’t greenwashing, I don’t know what is. Maybe, and who knows, the Saudi Aramco MBA could be one of the “19 programs with specific sustainability content”, focusing on how to keep a repressive regime in power and sustain fat profit margins off the destruction of the planet.

As the IE Sustainability page encourages me to “believe in the great power of [my] actions”, here I am reporting on IE’s farcical environmental goals and double standards with a repressive regime and planet destroying firm. Remember when IE kicked out Gadhafi’s son? Maybe we can get IE to stop the MBA with Saudi Arabia, because if there’s anything that IE hates more than the environment, it’s bad marketing and press.

So, what now?

No clue, but I’ll leave that in your, the readers’, very capable hands. I don’t expect IE to react immediately, but what I do know is that unless the article, the idea, or the fact isn’t questioned by the student body (ahem, Student Government, get your skates on), the IE marketing machine won’t whir to life and we’ll have nothing. The point of the article is to raise an issue, highlighting a major discrepancy between what IE says (like loving nature), and who it shares a probably very oily and greasy bed with.

Unfortunately, the author of this article does reside in a country with a Saudi embassy and consulate, but much like being offered to drink tea with a Russian, will politely decline any and all invitations should they arrive.

The author of this piece would like to remain anonymous.

Editorial note: Op-ed denotes an article that is opposite to editorial. Thus, it does not reflect the official views of The Stork, nor the personal views of The Stork’s editorial board.

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  1. great article unveiling IE’s POSTUREO – I always thought that the best case to learn in a marketing class is IE’s way of attracting new students every year through a solid marketing-based strategy.

  2. Referring to Saudi Aramco as a “little known company” highlights the lack of journalistic quality and research brought forth by the author of this piece. Rather shameful.

    • Totally agree with that, the “investigation” and research is highly superficial and doesn’t match the level of effort it encourages

    • Well to be fully honest I interpreted that as sarcasm since the rest of the sentence mentions a series of events that garnered huge media attention. Even if it wasn`t, it doesn`t take much weight from the points of the article.

      Does IE want to position itself as a huge partner to oil companies with a very questionable governance structure and practices? In my view IE should definitely weight the reputational risk associated with it. It is quite odd for a student like myself who has had plenty of sustainability content in class hear that our university is now an oil and gas hub. Since I doubt this programme is a huge portion of IEs revenues, I am of the opinion that the course should be dropped in order to favour relationships with companies with a better press.

    • 95% sure that calling Saudi Aramco a ‘little known company’ is satire, and that much like the rest of the article, is written in a satirical method aimed at lampooning IE, the MBA and IE’s environmental goals.

  3. Lastly, how can we be approached serious (us student) if some people are able to write this with NO.

    According to the logic of this article I should buy from the supermarket because their suppliers use a diesel car instead of electric. And according to the same person writing the article I am someone who does not care about the environment.

    • The solution is literally written in one of the last paragraphs – drop the MBA with Saudi Aramco – and what’s not written is then IE actually doing something for the environment rather than against it.

  4. Very hard judgement for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, rather then pushing down the effort the university is doing in order to be bring one of the biggest companies in the world and work with them in a country that is going through a huge political change, what you are doing in pushing down those efforts showing a clear bias against the Kingdom, to be honest this author should not be writing as they fail to the basic values of journalism. Aramco is a big company which business model is inspiring and envied by companies that operate in the industry, so let us learn instead from a great company, let us come for ideas for them to be more sustainable innovate, instead of simply going on rants and pointing fingers.

  5. So should IE work with no oil companies or is it only Aramco the writer objects to?

    I see some bigotry and borderline racism behind this ill-tempered article.

    Can you criticize IE? Sure.

    Should you focus on one individual program and country in such an aggresive way, certainly not.

  6. It’s nice to see someone finally criticize IE for their shameful marketing techniques. Love this line – “because if there’s anything that IE hates more than the environment, it’s bad marketing and press.”

  7. This university is truly the worst institution that I’ve ever been a part of. I regret everyday my decision to come to this joke of a “university.” Bunch of smoke with teachers that can’t even speak English and a absolutely disgraceful mentality. Anyone out there considering to join this absolute ripoff, please turn around.

    Cheers, let’s hope the tower isn’t a money laundering scheme

    • I did my MBA at IE and even though it was not perfect I would never describe my experience as bad as yours.
      Can you elaborate?
      What do you mean?
      Is there anything that we can do to help you? I genuinely feel sad that you feel like this and I wouldn’t like any of my IE fellow stidents to ever r expeirencie such a frustating

  8. Since most contributors here are anonymous I will also play that unfair game. The moral superiority and degree of ignorance exhibited by the article’s author leads me to believe that it is not written by an IE member.


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