In a rapidly changing world, leaders are the people we need to take us into the future. And the future is built upon sustainable choices driven by education.
Sustainability, since a while now, no longer concerns only the sphere relating to the environment and ecology, but has entered forcefully and with a reason into all areas of our lives. The term is broadly used to indicate programs, initiatives, and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource. However, it refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic, and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.
A mindset shift from the individual to the community
Although the debate on sustainability seems to hold its ground in any public discussion and strategic plan, the daily implementation of good practices and virtuous behavior by individuals, companies, and institutions still seems far away. Indeed, the difficulty that this transition presents for mankind is deeply rooted in our history. Accustomed for over 200,000 years of evolution to the exploitation of resources to our advantage, today we find ourselves in the command post among living species with the burden of thinking beyond the immediate satisfaction of our own needs. This shift towards ethical behavior, however, calls into question a significant change of mentality.
The individual and collective mindset of human beings is a fascinating sphere of our social living. Stubbornly nourished by habits, stereotypes, and prejudice, the mindset can suddenly shift into a new direction, for better or for worse, when individuals are inspired by a cause and encouraged to cross their limits. To trigger this change is, precisely, the duty and responsibility of a leader.
The challenges of sustainability require new forms of collaborative inventiveness and, above all, individuals willing to lead the implementation of those changes at all levels of our global society. Indeed, a new cohort of leaders must be forged and the answer to this need can only be sought in education. Providing a new reference frame to talented young people can start a cascade effect ending in the change of people’s values and behaviors, encouraging them to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
Ethics, responsibility, and sustainability: the new pillars of education
ESCP Business School sees in sustainable development a fundamental element in the transformation of our societies and economies, thus marking the issue as its priority. As a leading European academic institution, the School is responsible for promoting sustainable development actions among all stakeholders and encouraging innovation in all its spheres of influence.
Moreover, ESCP Business School recognises the drive toward sustainability as one of the most fundamental transformations reshaping the relationship between business and society, today as for the coming decades. Coping with these transformations is as well a major challenge for management education. That is why its students are constantly inspired and educated to become tomorrow’s business leaders in compliance with the principles of ethics, responsibility, and sustainability, by pushing these questions first into their resumes and creating a fertile and inspiring environment for collective and individual reflection.
Issues linked to sustainability are transdisciplinary in nature and need an integrated approach to be learned and assimilated in all their complexity. Dedicated courses, social impact project opportunities, and norms of conduct are integrated into students’ life right from their admission to the School to systematically work toward the conscious assimilation of these values and further maximise the impact on the personal conduct of the students and in their future professional and social life.
As an example, the students of the Bachelor in Management (BSc) take part in collective projects on new responsible businesses and social impact challenges. They team up with communities and businesses to generate systemic change in various segments (health, physical wellbeing, social agriculture, social inclusion, energy efficiency, etc.). To broaden students’ vision towards business needs in terms of sustainability, numerous collaborations are put in place. This is the case of the ESCP Turin Campus, which designed its collective projects together with SocialFare, the Italian Centre for Social Innovation, and Réseau Entreprendre, a European business community supporting local ventures.
Sustainable choices inspired by global accountability and good examples
Sustainable development is a global issue in which every actor, especially academic institutions, must take direct responsibility in front of their communities. With a view to global cooperation, ESCP has therefore adopted the French national charter for ethics and scientific integrity, ratified by several French research organisations. The School has also adhered to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework to make sense of sustainability issues in its educational content and interactions with stakeholders.
Ethics, responsibility, and sustainability are not only embedded in the School’s programmes and research, but also in the internal resources and administration. There have been several sustainability initiatives designed to improve ESCP’s overall infrastructure planning and management.
Major initiatives regarding electricity use have been implemented in Berlin and London, where lights are activated by motion detectors in every hall and energy-saving bulbs have been installed in every office (as well as 33% of the lights in Madrid and 100% in the Montparnasse location). In London, thermostats have been also set to a maximum of 21 degrees. A paperless policy has been introduced on every ESCP campus and, furthermore, video-conference rooms and a conference call system have been set up, reducing the cost of traveling for the staff by 35% to 40%. Educating by example is the only way to build and internalize a new set of shared values.
Evidence shows that ecological and social sustainability fundamentally impact the sustainability of business activities and society at large, by creating both unprecedented risks as well as opportunities.
Integrating these transformations in the didactical approach is a major challenge for management education. A challenge that we at ESCP Business School enthusiastically accepted. We committed ourselves to the education of tomorrow’s global leaders and thus contribute to a fairer and more sustainable future for all.