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Impact Career Fair: Where Business Meets Purpose

How do we do business in a world in constant evolution and an exploding population? This is how Jeremy Ghez, Scientific Director of the MSc in Sustainability and Social Innovation (SASI), introduced the second annual Impact Career Fair on February 13 at HEC Paris.  He underlined the emergence of a new industry where companies focus more on social and environmental issues while generating profit.

Impact Career Fair - HEC Paris - 13 Feb. 2020

This event provided students from all HEC programs with the opportunity to learn about careers that can impact society. Companies who are actively trying to make a difference had the chance to share the latest trends in their sectors, and share insights on how businesses play an essential role in solving some of the world’s biggest social and ecological challenges. Each of them has a role to play in this transition, be they major banking companies, non-governmental organizations, or young start-ups. 

Impact Investing

“I do not doubt that anyone in this room will ever have difficulties finding a job. The real difficulty you might have is finding a purpose, making an impact in what you do,” noted Jeremy Ghez in his opening remarks. The invited panelists were asked to define what “impact” meant to them because in the world of investments, “impact investing is the equivalent of social entrepreneurship”, referring to investments that seek both social and financial goals.

“Sustainability is not only about saving the planet. It goes beyond that, because the planet will be fine; those who will not be fine are the people on that planet. We just need to pursue business differently, and this is an attempt to change the system and move towards the energy transition”, said Ella Etienne-Denoy, CEO of Green Soluce, an innovative consulting firm dedicated to enabling the rise of more sustainable, smarter and user-centric real estate and cities.

What Etienne-Denoy strives for in her work is the idea of creating real benefit for her clients with a lasting positive impact in the real estate and urban ecosystem. This she does by helping them define, implement and communicate on high-impact, multi-stakeholder sustainable initiatives, and projects. “I am a true facilitator and accelerator in sustainability, CSR and innovation applied to the real estate and urban field.” Etienne-Denoy recommended a book written by Jeremy Rifkin entitled “The Green New Deal: why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth.” In this book, the author delivers the political narrative and economic plan for the Green New Deal that we need at this critical moment in history. Backed by 25 years of experience implementing Green New Deal-style transitions for both the European Union and China, Rifkin offers a unique vision on how to transform the global economy and presents the most comprehensive and compelling narrative to transition the U.S. energy, telecommunications, and transportation sectors into a smart Third Industrial Revolution.

Impact Career Fair - HEC Paris - 13 Feb. 2020

Sustainable Global Food Supply

“Having an impact means being forward-thinking,” noted Barbara Calvi, Vice President, Sustainable Finance, and EMEA Firm Management & CGM at Morgan Stanley. “Sustainable Investing is a new ambition, companies’ carbon-intensive sectors have to engage in sustainable investing. It is leading to a complete shift in our business strategy; we are moving towards a new investment standard. We, therefore, need to think about new solutions. When considering a career in impact investing, it is important to think about where you can make the greatest impact, think about what interests you - whether it is a specific environmental or social issue in a country, region, or community in need. There are multiple ways to contribute to the sustainability of investment management roles; all different functions that go along the same objective”.

There is no area of human activity more essential to society than a sustainable agricultural, food, and natural resources system. An existing agricultural production system, providing an abundant, affordable, and safe food supply and many industrial, and consumer products, faces the daunting challenge of meeting the needs of a world population set to rise to approximately 9 –10 billion people in 2050. According to the latest UN projections, world population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050 - a third more mouths to feed than there are today.

This challenge was debated by the second panel, and participants David Martin (Vice President and Government Relations at Ecolab), Emmanuelle Bérenger (Director at Deloitte Sustainability) and Nicolas Hamelin (Senior Analyst at InnovaFeed) discussed the role of different actors in transforming the global food infrastructure to feed the world’s increasing population in a fairer and more sustainable way. They noted the importance of developing local and resource-efficient solutions given the increasing complexity of the food systems. They noted a strong emergence of impact investing this past decade, and shared their concerns over the subjectivity of impact measurement.

Despite these problems, Ludovic Salen, Chief Retail Officer at United Nations World Food Program, highlighted the momentum of impact investing and the transformation of the financial industry, stressing the importance for young recruits to be aware of its changing needs. “We focus first on the sustainability of the global food supply chain. We need to find new ingredients, to figure out how to feed the entire population.”  Salen then urged the students to develop skills that will allow them to be connectors between different players in the sector.

Impact Career Fair was co-organized by HEC’s Corporate Partnerships & Careers team and featured 14 organizations: A2 Consulting, Admiral, Bouygues, CEB (the Social Development Bank), Clinton (Health Access Initiative), Crédit Agricole, Deloitte, European Investment Bank, Ecola, Kea & Partners, Green Soluce, Oddo BHF, The Good Lobby, Konexio, Morgan Stanley, P&G, Innova Feed, Société Générale, Uber, WTP, Greentech Capital Advisors, and Laerdal.