Championing business sustainability at INSEAD

Andre Calmon, Assistant Professor of Technology and Operations Management & Patrick and Valentine Firmenich Fellow for Business Sustainability
Andre Calmon, Assistant Professor of Technology and Operations Management & Patrick and Valentine Firmenich Fellow for Business Sustainability

Since INSEAD launched the Force for Good campaign in October 2018, the school has been responding dynamically, innovatively and successfully to the UN’s call for action to meet its ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda to end poverty, protect our planet, and ensure that we can all enjoy the benefits of peace and prosperity for decades to come. Our response has once again been appreciated and acknowledged.

Sustainability Prize Winners

INSEAD Professor Andre Calmon and Adjunct Professor Jackie Stenson have won the prestigious Page Prize for Sustainability Issues in Business Curricula for 2018. The prize is awarded annually by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business. Other competitors included faculty from Harvard Business School, the University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina.

Their winning submission was a combination of pedagogical material from their two INSEAD MBA elective courses – Business Sustainability, and the SDG Bootcamp – with contributions from David Drake, a former INSEAD PhD student who is now Assistant Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Operations at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado. Over the last five years, more than 2000 students and participants have encountered the course material either at INSEAD, in corporate training, or as part of the UNLEASH Innovation Lab, itself aspiring to provide solutions for the SDGs.

Dispelling the Myth in the Classroom

Dean Ilian Mihov maintains that “teaching MBA students to integrate sustainability in business models provides insights and skills that deliver value to businesses, communities, and the planet” – what he calls “a crucial skill set for today’s leaders”. Faithful to INSEAD’s commitment to the achievement of the SDGs, the prize-winning courses develop the students’ abilities to analyse, improve and create new business models that are sustainable and profitable. 

Calmon, Assistant Professor of Technology and Operations Management, and the Patrick and Valentine Firmenich Fellow for Business Sustainability, says that the courses dispel “the myth that profits are incompatible with positive social and environmental impact”. 

Katell Le Goulven, Executive Director of the INSEAD Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, expresses pride in how our faculty is “bringing sustainability into the classroom, and accompanying students to learn through creative experience to design ventures that contribute to societal progress”. 

Case Studies and Student Blog

In the classroom, the course draws on 12 case studies that address numerous concepts including those related to the importance for business of both the scientific implications of climate change, and the different science-based definitions of sustainability. It also utilises student blog post articles that address the SDGs – recent articles include Where is our snow? and Can Burger King do the IMPOSSIBLE?

THE SDG Bootcamp

The SDG Bootcamp is an intensive experience directed by the students themselves. Working in teams, they apply the business and sustainability concepts they have learned in class and so gain experience in framing problems, and developing unique, actionable solutions – Calmon sees this as “the critical first step” in addressing “the world’s broad and complex sustainability challenges”. He says that students leave the Bootcamp equipped with a “toolkit” that “ensures that they can continue to develop their ideas and apply the learned processes in their future business and sustainability endeavours”. The Bootcamp particularly impressed the Page Prize judges. 

Empowering and Deeply Aligned 

Professor Calmon, who has won the INSEAD MBA Best Teacher Award three times and received the Dean's Commendation for Excellence in MBA Teaching on five occasions, says that these courses employ an innovative teaching method that includes providing students with opportunities for self-reflection and self-assessment. An approach that, as he puts it, “engages students as agents of change and empowers them to design and scale sustainable, profitable businesses”. He adds that it’s “inspiring to see what our students and alumni create”. Recently, nearly 50 MBA students formally requested that these electives become core courses. They emphasised that “the principles taught are relevant, no matter what area of business we go into” and that they are “deeply aligned with INSEAD’s values”. 

Calmon and Stenson’s award is well-deserved recognition of INSEAD’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, our academic excellence, and our expertise in equipping future business leaders to be Forces for Good. 

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