The Social Business Certificate was launched in April 2009. Its aim is to contribute to training a new generation of managers, aware of societal challenges and aspiring to be part of the solution, regardless of their professional activity.

Important: In order for the program to meet the agreed objectives, it is essential that students be sincerely interested, highly motivated, and actively involved. This certificate is designed for this calibre of enthusiastic students.


The Certificate consists in two distinct components: a “theoretical” part and a “field” part.


1) Theoretical part

This part entails lectures, cases, conferences, both at HEC and in situ of some social organizations. It is divided in three successive phases: motives / modalities / frontiers.

  • Motives:

Should firms be involved in the fight against poverty? The neo-classical economic theory proposes that this de facto does take place, through the creation of value that is shared among shareholders, employees, suppliers and public authorities (via taxes). While this point is not disputed, we examine in this first part the reasons which could prompt firms to be involved more directly in poverty alleviation, through the creation of “inclusive business models” developed both by entrepreneurs and existing firms. We also seek to gain a more in-depth look at what it means to be poor, both in an emerging and in a rich country.

  • Modalities:

How can firms deal with poverty issues? This part lies at the heart of the Certificate, and we pivot around three dimensions; a) the size of the actor: we examine social entrepreneurship, medium-sized firms and large multinationals, b) the geographical scope : we study activities in poor, emerging and rich countries, c) the actor’s strategic intent: we cover a wide range of business models, from purely economic models (low cost) to purely social models (philanthropy), emphasizing hybrid models such as BOP strategies and Social Business ventures. We also examine alternative finance and marketing strategies that are deployed to sustain these innovative business models. Each time, we seek to go beyond a mere description of the models under study, analyzing what did or did not work, focusing on the both the breakthrough and the roadblocks.

  • Frontiers:

This part comes as a conclusion and aims at introducing new perspectives. We explore how “mainstream” companies can transform themselves, becoming more inclusive and sustainable. We explore this transformation, trying also to highlight, as far as possible, the existing links between this transformation and the new paradigms and behaviors Social Businesses can help create. We look at changes at different levels: new paradigms of how functions can / should reinvent themselves, processes that can lead to this transformation at the corporate level (“change management”), and results in terms of global contribution, that firms can / should bring to society, especially in the context of the new definition of the Millennium Development Goals.


2) Field part

  • The Immersion week:

The name says it all: the objective is for participants to immerse themselves in the field of poverty alleviation by spending one week with social entrepreneurs and social organizations. The objective is both to spend time co-working “in the trenches”, and to meet the managers who are putting their effort in alleviating poverty. Such an immersion is meaningful, humanly rich and full of learnings. It has always made an impact on our participants’ lives. This week is to be spent in groups of two participants.

  • The Fieldwork

Students work with firms and associations that seek their advice and work to reach their poverty alleviation targets. For instance, students help them conceive innovative social business models. This work is conducted in groups of 3/4 participants, and is running throughout the length of the Certificate.

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