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Highlights from the Business & Society Summit

Hoffmann Institute

Highlights from the Business & Society Summit

Highlights from the Business & Society Summit

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, INSEAD’s Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society organized a Business and Society Summit on Saturday, 17 June 2023 at our Europe campus in Fontainebleau. Academic Director Mark Stabile and Executive Director Katell Le Goulven welcomed over 450 attendees for this major milestone event, including André Hoffmann (MBA’90D), Vice Chairman of Roche Holding AG and Chair of the Hoffmann Institute Advisory Board, and his wife Rosalie.

The Summit reviewed progress and explored trends around the further integration of social and environmental challenges into business education. Isabel Hoffmann (MBA‘23D candidate), Co-founder and Director of rePLANET started proceedings by introducing the keynote speaker Johan Rockström, Director of PIK – Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Rockström gave a keynote presentation on the science of planetary boundaries, explaining how several of our Earth’s system boundaries have already been transgressed. Rockström said, “Unless a timely transformation occurs, it is most likely that irreversible tipping points and widespread impacts on human well-being will be unavoidable”, before adding “avoiding that scenario is crucial if we want to secure a safe and just future for current and future generations.” On a proactive note, Rockström said “science-based targets can be adopted by cities, businesses and countries to address the systemic global crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, nutrient overloading, overuse of water, and air pollution.” In his closing remarks, Rockström asserted the inbuilt resistance of the planet to the impact of climate change, but pointed out that certain inter-linked tipping points in the earth’s machinery have been overlooked thus far, with potentially severe consequences.

Johan Rockström, Director of PIK – Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Following the keynote address, Aisha Hafiz Iliyasu MBA'23J introduced Dean Ilian Mihov who highlighted the need for rigorous and relevant research, “I want to get rid of fluff. I want to get rid of statements that are not based on science, to highlight the models that work, to point out the behaviors that need to be changed, and ultimately that have a real impact on business and society. This is why we created the Hoffmann Institute five years ago.” Dean Mihov then presented some of the main highlights from the Hoffmann Institute 5-year report.

Leading one of three break-out sessions was INSEAD Professor Jasjit Singh Professor of Strategy and the Paul Dubrule Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development, highlighting the key changes to the MBA curriculum and to INSEAD’s internal operations. Said Jasjit Singh, “Every core course will have a minimum exposure on sustainability in it.” In addition to Athira Rajiv (MBA’23J), Jasjit Singh was joined by Attila Cselotei (INSEAD COO), who presented the processes the school had used to measure, estimate and account for its GHG emissions as part of INSEAD’s pledge to reduce its operational carbon footprint.

Addressing the climate crisis breakout session

INSEAD Professor Steve Chick, the Novartis Chaired Professor of Healthcare Management and the Academic Director of the Healthcare Management Initiative (HMI) at INSEAD, delivered a breakout session on the evolution of HMI and in particular his focus on “improving access and quality of care in underserved populations”. He was joined by Ridhima Aggarwal, the Salmon and Rameau Director with the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre for the Study of Wealth Inequality and the HMI at INSEAD. While Ridhima Aggarwal was discussing a case called MiracleFeet, which looks to improve access to high-quality treatment of clubfoot in low-income African countries, attendees were given the opportunity to ‘visit’ a MiracleFeet clinic in Tanzania via the provided Virtual Reality headsets. The innovative and immersive opportunities provided by the use of VR technology in the classroom has given rise to INSEAD’s fruitful collaboration with a Tel Aviv-based technology group that has developed one of the world’s first immersive learning libraries for business schools.

Transforming Health Systems and a Virtual Reality Experience, breakout session

In the third breakout session, INSEAD Professor Claudia Zeisberger of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise offered attendees to explore a powerful yet simple concept, shared ownership. Joining her was Gabriele Questa (MBA’06), a Managing Director at KKR, a global investment firm. They discussed a case study on CHI Overhead Doors, whose workforce received a meaningful and life changing payout as shareholders. Having acquired the company in 2015, KKR sold it seven years later – recognizing an approximately 10x return for its investors. The sale delivered a payout to non-management employee owners of approximately $175,000, on average, with the most tenured employees earning substantially more. Claudia Zeisberger and Gabriele Questa showed how shared ownership can achieve impressive outcomes for all stakeholders.

Shared Ownership implemented by Private Equity, breakout session

Leading the panel on Sustainability Reporting was INSEAD Professor Peter Joos, Associate Professor of Accounting and Control and the Barons Janssen Endowed Professorship, who is also the co-chair of the Capital Markets Advisory Committee, an independent advisory group that provides advice to the International Accounting Standards Board. Peter was joined by four mission-driven practitioners: Pavan Sukhdev, Founder & CEO, GIST Impact; Richard Barker, member of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB); Constance d’Aspremont, Chief Business Development Officer of Greenomy; and Laurence Rivat, EFRAG Sustainability Reporting Board member. The panel discussion focused on how corporate reporting practices are evolving rapidly to capture not only traditional financial drivers of value creation in firms but also to reflect on the extent to which firms’ economic activities impact the environment and society in a sustainable way. Said Joos, “What we are trying to do is complement what we have in traditional financial statements”. Constance d’Aspremont gave her own in-house example for how companies can follow a step-by-step process to navigate the complex sustainability regulations and standards and support with the data collection, screening process and reporting.

Paul Polman offered his unfiltered views in response to questions from three INSEAD students on the podium including Olaedo Osoka (GEMBA’24J) and Yann Gourio (MBA’23J) and Aakrit Mittal (MiM23) via Zoom. Decrying short-term shareholders lobbying for returns, Polman spoke about the courageous CEOs who attract longer-term shareholders by “focusing capital on the long term.” In responding to a challenging question from Osoka on energy transition in Africa, Paul Polman said “sustainability is nothing else than putting the future of your children and their children ahead of your own personal greed. That’s what sustainability is.”

Panel: System change requires all stakeholders

Panel: The future of sustainability reporting

Andrew Jack, global education editor at the Financial Times, moderated a stimulating panel discussion about the role of stakeholders confronted with system change. Two panelists on the podium were André Hoffmann (MBA'90D) and Lite Nartey, Visiting Professor of Strategy at INSEAD. Joining the panel remotely was Ngaire Woods, the founding Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and member of the Hoffmann Institute Advisory Board. Focusing on administrations, Ngaire Woods said, “We need governments to mandate and enforce clear disclosure requirements so that companies and communities have assurance that others are also taking action.” For her part, Lite Nartey addressed the role of stakeholders, “If we want to do business as a force for good and we think about the relationship between business and society, stakeholders are not just the beneficiaries, they are actually the partners, they are collaborators, they are the ones with whom business must engage.” In his contribution to the panel discussion, André Hoffmann put it bluntly: “We are all in it together. It’s a joint effort. Sustainable inclusive prosperity is absolutely indispensable”.

Academic Director Mark Stabile and Executive Director Katell Le Goulven & INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov

Ilian Mihov closed the summit by reflecting on INSEAD’s mission of bringing together people from all over the world and educating them with the skills and frameworks to be a Force for Good. He thanked INSEAD faculty for their research on business and society topics, thanked INSEAD alumni for their generous support in providing the funding and expressed his happiness with what has been achieved during these first five years assuring the audience that sustainability is now deeply rooted in the school’s mission.

The Hoffmann Institute wishes to thank the more than 400 attendees for their presence and support at this summit as well as everyone who has engaged with the Institute during the course of these first five years. Read our five year report here.

Watch the Hoffmann Institute presentation video.

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