On the side of Jouy-en-Josas (Yvelines), it is not uncommon to meet famous masterminds of ecology going to give conferences in a French temple of business, HEC Paris.
"We welcome all those whose voices can inform the debate, even when we disagree with them. We are at a tipping point where dialogue must be opened," said François Collin, Director of Climate and Environment Strategy at HEC Paris. Some students advocate for such invitations and their ranks grow year after year.
"15 to 20% of our students are fully involved. They amaze me"
François Collin, Director of Climate and Environment Strategy at HEC Paris.
"It would be wrong to say that all of them are environmentalists. But 15 to 20% of our students are fully involved. They amaze me," admits the director, for whom such questioning of economic models had not been seen since 1968. We feel, he adds, "a real desire to co-construct a more reasoned society, which respects planetary limits".
Learning to transform
It's time to look for solutions at Excelia. The Grande Ecole Rochelaise was one of the first to focus its research centre on CSR topics and to launch specialized courses.
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"Today, the challenge is no longer to raise awareness, but to train," warns Tamym Abdessemed, Excelia's director of strategy, institutional and territorial development. This involves providing professors and students with knowledge that business schools were not used to delivering until now.
"The ecological transition requires scientific knowledge that goes beyond a simple varnish," warns the director. Future economic leaders have no choice but to rub shoulders with technical and complex subjects: climatology, biodiversity, ocean acidification... Above all, they must not stop at the observation. "We must show these young people that there is no insurmountable challenge. Good practices exist, as well as concrete skills to acquire to transform business models," insists Tamym Abdessemed.
Acting from within
For its part, HEC Paris strives to bridge the gap between the world of large groups and committed students. "In the face of the climate emergency and eco-anxiety, the worst that can happen is that these young people feel paralyzed. However, we need them, "pleads François Collin. Thus, the ecological transition of the school also goes through the Careers department, which now mobilizes coaches specialized in "sustainability" (sustainable development). "Employment is at the heart of the matter. With both a brilliant mind and strong ecological convictions, these students can become the engines of tomorrow's society. The challenge for companies is to attract them enough so that they do not swell the ranks of bifurcators who flee large groups.
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In these institutions, which are likely to love competition, the transition invites the exchange of good practices. "I talk daily with my colleagues from other schools. In CSR, we learn a lot from each other by comparing the measures put in place and their results," says Benjamin Ferran, Sustainable Development and CSR Manager at Montpellier BS. The DD&RS (Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility) label, created in 2015, is a good illustration of this approach.
Specific to higher education, difficult to obtain, demanding, it is also based on cooperation between schools and universities, with institutions obtaining the label becoming auditors of tomorrow's candidates. "The DD&RS label gives us a common roadmap, a CSR methodology that can be applied to all dimensions of a school, from its governance to its teaching or its premises," applauds Benjamin Ferran. Only six Business Schools have achieved it to date.