Sowing the Seeds of Corporate Social Responsibility

Knowledge Special Issue

June 28th, 2016
Edito Special CSR copyright HEC Paris

This month’s newsletter focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and pinpoints work carried out by HEC Paris’ SnO Center. Its research aims to show how a company will be ahead of its competitors when focusing not only on economic gain, the first pillar of competitive advantage, but also how it aligns its values and operations to contribute to a better society while preserving the natural environment. Taking care of our planet, its limited resources and people has therefore become an essential component of a firm’s legitimacy, the second pillar of competitive advantage. Finding solutions to our planet’s over-exploitation, and unequal access to multiple services is a source of good – and of growth. 

The SnO Center, home of CSR at HEC Paris, advocates that a good business strategy should include such responsibility, with its multiple organizational and competitive dimensions, from managing national policies, subsidiaries, activists, social inequalities, to new business models (among others). 

With this in mind, the Center sets out to re-invent management and find alternative models to balance economic performance with environmental and social impact, both through its research and teaching. Its researchers and professors play a key role across the wide range of HEC Paris programs, by training students and managers to become leading players in the transformation of business and society. As a result both the Grande Ecole and MBA programs offer students an elective or certificate on Ethics & Sustainability and Ethics & Performance. These courses raise ethical questions and provide a framework that unveils common patterns of success and failure in managing ethics and corporate responsibilities.

In parallel to these courses, experience in the field is highly valued: first-year Master students have the opportunity to work for social entrepreneurs and NGOs via the FACT Impact program, which this week won best pedagogical initiative for 2016. MBA participants also have the option of participating in the Global Consulting Practicum (GCP) in partnership with the Wharton School. 

The Center is also involved with HEC’s MSc in Sustainability and Social Innovation, the Certificate Social Business / Enterprise and Poverty, and the SnO Certificate. Last year it also launched two MOOCs. At the PhD level, the Medici Summer School, in collaboration with MIT and Bologna University, gathers 25 selected students from all over the world on a different theme every year: in June 2016, it focused on the topic of inequality in organizations. 

Finally, the SnO Center is also involved in Executive Education, recently launching the "Inclusive Business and Value Creation" open-enrolment program specifically designed for corporate executives. This program also welcomes social entrepreneurs, NGO executives, international aid agencies and impact investors. It aims to develop alternative business practices and is designed as an accelerator to help executives design, implement and scale projects or new business lines with social or environmental aims. The two yearly sessions comprise a core program and two different contexts, one in Honfleur (France) and the other in Johannesburg (South Africa).

All of the SnO Center’s activities are driven by its vision – to engrain a sense of CSR in the corporate mindset, now and in the future.