HEC Foundation Enjoys First-ever Virtual and Interactive Evening
The HEC Paris Foundation marked its 48th birthday with the first-ever 100% online Foundation Annual Gathering. The event was marked by messages of support from alumni who have become top business leaders, political leaders and innovators.
Olivier Sevillia (MBA.90)
The HEC Foundation is a public-interest organization devoted to developing the strategic academic projects at the business school. This it does through funding student scholarships, backing projects devoted to digital transformation, social responsibility and international diversity, as well as boosting students’ forays into entrepreneurship.
Its annual Foundation Gathering is an opportunity to give an overview of the school's achievements and to call for further support. It is designed to share with the HEC community (including donors, corporate partners, alumni, students and staff), the accomplishments and strategic projects of the Impact tomorrow campaign and share with them the school’s new strategy on Purpose and Sustainability. On September 29, this latest event also included a clear call by the French delegate Minister for Ecological Transition, Emmanuelle Wargon (H.92), for further action to sensitize the students to the challenges of the 21st century. “These future leaders must think up new business models which have a long-term vision, distribute wealth and are both sustainable and responsible. HEC’s role is to make sure future business leaders are aware that companies have a responsibility and must engage more broadly in the world’s environmental and societal challenges.”
Rodolphe Durand, founder and Academic Director of the S&O Institute highlighted: "Over the past 12 years, the S&O Institute has developed more and more content that we offer to our students and participants, around three topics: climate change, inclusive economy, and building meaningful organizations. Thanks to many donors, corporate and individual philanthropy, we've achieved a lot. But the challenges loom large and beyond these topics, as a leading business school, we need to demonstrate that we're part of the solutions. To reach these objectives, we need you even more, to attract the best international professors, to implement the most original pedagogies, and help students and participants not only to learn about climate risks, new business models, and purposeful leadership, but more concretely to experience and act on those topics. And these challenges involve all of us, educators, business people, investors, and non-profit actors, like public agencies and governments".
The themes of purpose and sustainability were omnipresent during the 90-minute event. The school’s top management underlined their commitment to placing these at the heart of every degree, certificate, course and research project. “We are facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Jacques Olivier, Dean of Faculty and Research. “In this context, our mission is to build a ‘thought leadership’ to guide our students for the world of tomorrow.” Added Eloïc Peyrache, Dean of Programs: “Our students are changing. Many emphasize the sense of life and call for different business models. How can we incorporate these changes? Well, by changing our curricula. We are stepping back and seeing how we can leverage technology to feed into pedagogical innovation, which is at the very heart of HEC Paris.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the testimony of Adam Melki, a final year student at the Grande Ecole involved in the Ecological Awakening collective which has swept through France’s leading faculties. “Students declare that they want to change an economic system in which they don’t believe anymore,” said the Senior who is also graduating from Sciences Po. “As privileged students who can choose where we will work, we declare that we don't want to work for companies that don't pursue an exhaustive ecological transformation. But for companies that do pursue such transformation, we are willing to collaborate vigorously. We hope to keep working hand-in-hand with HEC faculty members in the near future in order to change the education system and incorporate biodiversity and climate issues in all of the courses, including mainstream courses such as strategy and finance.”
Sustainibility and Purpose
Melki’s comments were followed on stage by François Collin, the newly-appointed Director for Climate and Environmental Sustainability: “The students are very determined… and they’re right! We share their determination. My mandate is around the issue climate change and the need to design new courses and support research initiatives on business models respecting the urgency of the environmental issues.” After enumerating the programs the school has so far undertaken in this field, Collin announced exploration phases for the launching of a new Certificate of Business and Climate, open to Grande Ecole and MBA students. He also described a budding partnership with Oxford University, which aims to bring the voice of civil society and business to COP 26, scheduled for Glasgow in November 2021.
On the business front, there were notable contributions from some of HEC’s most illustrious graduates, including Emmanuel Faber (H.86), Hubert Joly (H.81) and Jean-Paul Agon (H.78). The three business leaders applauded the school’s efforts to integrate the questions of diversity, environment and society in their teaching. “These concepts are more complicated to integrate in the business world here than in Bangladesh,” said Faber, who has collaborated for years with Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus on the Dacca-based social business venture Grameen-Danone. Agon, meanwhile, insisted on the importance of diversity at HEC and the L’Oréal company he runs: “L’Oréal involves around 150 nations. This diversity nourishes our creativity and innovation. We share this commitment to diversity with HEC, it’s one of the most essential notions of the 21st century.”
Call to Join the Foundation Movements
Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly insisted the Milton Friedman business ideology is over: “Companies are human organizations pursuing more than capital because they must contribute to human good.” Joly called on business leaders to join the new movement by contributing to HEC-led research on purposeful leadership: “Progress over the past three years has been extraordinary. But this is a time to accelerate. I’m pleased to be engaged in HEC’s programs devoted to research and teaching purposeful leadership. Join us! This is an opportunity to have an impact and develop the leadership skills of thousands of leaders.”
Such clarion calls are reflected in the ongoing success of the Foundation’s Impact tomorrow campaign. Its president, Olivier Sevillia (MBA.90), unveiled the latest figures showing its stated objective of €200 million by 2024 is well on its way to being achieved. “We’ve had over €90 million pledges so far. A remarkable figure in the circumstances.” Such contributions have allowed the school to offer almost 500 grants to students in classes préparatoires, for example. “But we need to double down in our efforts,” added Sevillia. “We need to make sure excellence prevails in all circumstances. So please come join our Donor's Circle!”*