Seven INSEAD MBA students look back at their involvement in impact assessment over the summer.
During the summer break, seven INSEAD MBA students took part in an internship programme with Global Initiative for Sustainable Tomorrow (GIST) Advisory, in partnership with INSEAD’s Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society (HGIBS). Founded in 2011 by Pavan Sukhdev, who is also a member of the HGIBS Advisory Board, GIST specialises in sustainability analysis & metrics design.
The organisation has developed a unique approach in measuring impact, centred on the concept of Integrated Profit & Losses. It places an economic valuation on the impact companies have on the environment and society. By quantifying the externalities in an economic manner, the data is made more tangible and useful in an organisation’s decision-making process. GIST’s four-capital approach – aligned with globally accepted standards – defines a sustainable measure of a company’s performance by accounting for its externalities.
Impact assessment is critical for the consistent and robust development of businesses, and the economic growth model that is sustainable for the environment, society and people. Yet, many impact assessment methodologies offer inconsistent guidance on how to best take sustainable economic decisions. The internship program covered different aspects of GIST’s activities, and gave the students a complementary overview on the topic of impact assessment and externalities measurement.
Mansi was responsible for delivering a business model to obtain assurance on the results produced by I360X, a platform developed by GIST for impact valuation of multinational corporations.
Sonia worked to develop a product to help companies measure and manage their contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project looked at customer behaviour, the competitive landscape, reporting and future regulatory frameworks, GIST’s own strengths, and a deep dive into existing and potential future product features in the market. It synthesised this information to suggest a new product concept, market plan, and business model.
Amit was responsible for examining the effects of small, medium and large enterprises on human capital, from a systems-thinking perspective.
Avaneesh, Ayesha, Joseph, and Vincent worked on the development of new methodologies dedicated to the measurement of impacts of growth-stage start-ups. They conducted sector-specific research, developed an analytical framework, and defined an impact valuation methodology to measure social value generated by sustainable solutions, provided by the start-ups.
Joseph has since extended his internship to remain a part of the GIST Advisory’s team until the end of the year. During that time, he has been invited to contribute to the creation of a novel valuation methodology for the cost of global Biodiversity Loss, as well as to review the ongoing debate around the value that traditional Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) metrics offered to impact investors.
The internship gave them the unique opportunity to dive into different dimensions of impact assessment, and better understand the challenges in measuring business externalities. There is a growing appetite for creating impact by companies, investors, individuals. Yet, the measurement of impact remains a murky area, with many inconsistencies.
Overall, the structure of the virtual internship was well-designed considering the physical locations of the interns and the staff. The internship involved regular collaboration with external subject experts and internal product staff helped the MBA students to conceive and conceptualise a practical solution.
“During the project, the degree of autonomy and accountability accorded by the top management really allowed me to stretch my imagination and think out of the box,” said Mansi.
“I grew up in a single-parent home, with women (my mother, grandmother and aunt) as my primary role models. I also grew up in a terribly patriarchal society. At GIST I had the freedom to work specifically on gender equality within Human Capital spend under the mentorship of Mr. Pavan Sukhdev, and, and I'm grateful for this,” says Amit.
“Regular discussions with the product team and Mr. Pavan Sukhdev, the founder of GIST Advisory, really helped us maintain the pace and kept us engaged throughout the project,” concurs Mansi.
“The work GIST Advisory is doing is at the forefront of the push towards main-streaming stake-holder capitalism. By measuring the external impacts that companies are having across all four capital categories (Natural, Social, Human, and Financial), GIST is providing investors and company executives with the information they need, to ensure the overall impact of a company is positive and sustainable. It has been an amazing opportunity to contribute to that mission alongside GIST’s impressive full-time staff.” explains Joseph
Mansi Aggarwal (MBA’21J), Amit Mansukhani (MBA’21D), Ayesha Ahmed (MBA’20J), Sonia Hensley (MBA’19D), Joseph Sarvary (MBA’21D) Avaneesh Thautam (MBA’20D), Vincent Tordo (MBA'20D)