Ecological Transition of HEC Paris: Interview with François Collin, Director for Climate and Environmental Sustainability
François Collin, Director of Climate and Environment Strategy at HEC Paris, testifies to the growing awareness of the ecological urgency, climate and biodiversity. He reacts to the call of the students of the movement 'Pour un Réveil Ecologique' and confirms his commitment and that of HEC Paris. "Thanks to a collective effort, HEC has embarked on a true transformation project ... by putting meaning and sustainable development at the very heart of its strategy."
Could you tell us about the HEC Paris ecological transition project? What are the main challenges for the School?
Today, the answer is obvious: climate and environmental issues will completely redefine the world, how companies do business and how the financial sector and entrepreneurs must envision their role. These issues will have an immense impact on the business world. Economic activity is a major source of energy consumption. It is part of the problem but also part of the solution. Companies have a huge role to play in developing and implementing initiatives for a more sustainable world.
For our school, it is an important issue because we are involved in two essential activities. Firstly, a research activity, which generates new representations of the world. Secondly, a teaching activity, which charges us with the responsibility of preparing new generations of entrepreneurs and leaders for this paradigm shift. In 2018, students mobilized in great numbers to create the Manifesto for an Ecological Awakening. And it is within this context that we must set an example. Therefore, the HEC campus has adopted sustainable development plan. We are strongly committed to developing our four pillars: research, education, the campus and social impact initiatives.
This commitment enables us to build on the strengths and appeal of a great institution that trains its students for leadership. This is an historic moment for the School and for the decision-makers of tomorrow.
What is the implication of the HEC research?
Our strategy is based on a structured research project driven by a team of professors who are strongly committed to the subject. Research chairs are being prepared. It is absolutely necessary to invent new ways of creating economic wealth, to build ESG reporting, to adopt business models that will drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and our negative impact on biodiversity. Research is supported by our multidisciplinary international alliances. With the TUM University (Technical University of Munich), HEC Paris has a privileged partner to combine management and engineering expertise on climate and environmental issues, through HEC-TUM-CARE: Climate Alliance for Research and Education. The project is aimed at creating concrete solutions for issues relating to ecological transition, the environment, climate change and energy.
What about education?
Major societal issues must obviously be at the heart of education. HEC's sustainable pedagogical project is also a team initiative that includes all of our departments. It has the longstanding support of the Society & Organizations Institute under the impetus of Rodolphe Durand, founder and academic director of the S&O Institute, his executive director Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot and the Institute's incredible team.
We are currently working on several innovative pedagogical initiatives for the Climate & Earth Center, which I hope to present to you soon in HEC Inside. However, it is important to note that we already have many programs that integrate environmental issues:
- The Purpose and Sustainability track of the Grande Ecole,(200 hours mandatory
- The Master's in Sustainability and Social Innovation
- The Société Générale Chair, and the Energy and Finance Certificate
- The “Business and Climate Change” Summer School;
- The Bouygues “Smart City and The Common Good” Chair
- The new Circular Academy Academy
- The new MBA Specialization "Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation"
- As part of the MBA program, the Creative Destruction Lab develops tech startup projects targeted towards climate change challenges;
- The EMBA Specialization : "The Future of Energy"
- The Executive Certificate: "Sustainable Transition Management"
We are currently focusing on reinforcing the integration of climate and environmental awareness into all the programs offered by the Grande Ecole. We will soon be able to present all the innovations.
Can you talk about the initiatives for society?
Our ambition is to ensure that HEC Paris has a strong voice at major international forums. We will be participating with U7+, an alliance of around forty world universities, in a dialogue with the G7 to address the challenges of ecological transition. HEC is also one of eight leading European business schools taking part in COP26 (Glasgow Climate Change Conference, which will be held in November 2021) joining forces with companies and civil society to address climate issues.
What are the transformation plans for the HEC campus?
For the campus, the timing is perfect, since we will be able to fit into the site's renovation schedule by integrating the components of the sustainable project. In addition, a Sustainable Campus Committee, made up of staff and student representatives, has the mission of proposing concrete solutions. A collective dynamic has been developed through conviction, passion and determination to make HEC an exemplary and sustainable place to live.
Numerous initiatives have been launched:
For the campus, the timing is perfect because we can be included in the site renovation schedule by integrating the components of the sustainable project. Many initiatives have been launched:
- Policy to reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions;
- Implementation of the "Shortest Path" waste treatment system on campus, and an upcoming methanation site;
- Sustainable procurement policy, particularly for HEC promotional items;
- Sustainable procurement and supply of food;
- Creation of a pedagogical vegetable garden, an organic farm project that will be able to supply food to the restaurant;
- Creation of “Green Campus” days to raise the awareness of all stakeholders on the protection of the fauna and flora of our park;
- Earth Week, developed in collaboration with the ESP'R student association and consisting of a series of conferences, participatory workshops, student project contests, DIY and Repair workshops, etc.;
- Launch of the Sustainability Fund encouraging staff and students to propose sustainable development initiatives.
The world of tomorrow is being built today, thanks to our enthusiasm and collective energy. Our strategy on climate change and the environment has the potential to become a driving force for the entire school and our community.