Introducing the INSEAD Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society to the world.
On 5 October, the first INSEAD Force for Good Conference brought together a diverse set of more than 620 business leaders and prominent academics to share their views, experiences and strategies on how business can prosper and produce positive outcomes for society.
The Force for Good Conference was the first conference at INSEAD convened by the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society. Discussions centred on a wide variety of topics from sustainability in business models to benefits of gender balance and responsible investment. These discussions all converged on one main theme – business as a force for good.
The Hoffman Institute aims to deliver new perspectives and innovative solutions to the most intractable global issues – transforming leaders and who then transform business and society. Transformative change at such a large scale is neither quick nor easy. So the Hoffmann Institute took the opportunity, with so many leading voices in one place, to actively listen and shape the direction of our own work.
The conference kicked off with a rousing keynote address by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which connected the future of business with globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Polman, who is a member of the Advisory Board for the Hoffmann Institute, highlighted that cultivating purpose-driven leaders and businesses can transform the world and achieve a sustainable future.
“Businesses represent approximately 60 percent of global GDP, 80 percent of financial flow and 90 percent of job creation. Business cannot be a bystander in a system that gives it life in the first place. We cannot find the solutions to these world challenges if we don't start to do things differently and see things differently,” he said.
Mr. Polman demonstrated how Unilever’s ambitious vision to fully decouple growth from its overall environmental footprint and to increase its positive social impact has created twice the market growth and 300 percent shareholder return to Unilever’s bottom line over a 10-year period.
The keynote address was well-received, with a standing ovation and thunderous applause as Paul Polman shared what he had learned from a decade leading a sustainability-focused company, saying, “The more you do that, the more you address these societal issues, the better you do, and the better the company grows.”
Dean of INSEAD Ilian Mihov followed the keynote address with a speech outlining his vision of business as a force for good. He spoke to INSEAD’s ambitious aspiration by saying, “Our goal is to change social norms, to change the way that we think about what it takes to do business. And we want to change mind sets.”
“In the process of decision making, we want automatically, instinctively to integrate the ideas of what we have as an impact on society,” he added.
Ensuing sessions focused on the practical path to accomplish this goal. These sessions included presentations, panel discussions and audience engagement on how businesses can deliver value to societies, exploring the new tools and innovative frameworks, strategies and business models that are changing the business and society relationship.
In robust conversations, academics and executives echoed the call for business to step up as a force for good and shared insights into how to accomplish that. Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International and Hoffmann Institute Advisory Board member, pointed out that “Nature is the ultimate underdog because it has no voice.” INSEAD Professor Subramanian Rangan suggested an outcome-focused approach that builds truth with the public, saying, “Let’s take risks, let’s minimise regret.”
Chairman of the Executive Board at Rabobank and Institute Advisory Board member, Wiebe Draijer MBA’91D, implored the group in his panel discussion to “Have the courage to do what is right while we still have time.”
At the conference conclusion, INSEAD officially inaugurated the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society. The inauguration moment was elegant, and featured a musical performance, remarks by Institute patron André Hoffmann and a call to action by Executive Director Katell Le Goulven.
Mr. Hoffmann took the opportunity to share a simple truth that, "It’s not how you spend the money that matters, it’s how you make it.” This truth summed up many of the discussions of the day, resonating with conference attendees and Institute leadership alike. Like many of the outcomes from the day’s discussions, it will guide Institute work moving forward.
One of the first stated goals of the Hoffmann Institute is to equip leaders to make decisions in ways that deliver positive outcomes for business, communities, people and our planet.
The first step towards accomplishing this goa isl a conversation on business and society across a spectrum of issues. The Force for Good Conference was an opportunity to hear many different perspectives from many voices. This is helping focus the work of the Institute.
Together, we can carry the conversation from The Force for Good Conference forward and contribute to global momentum towards a more inclusive and more sustainable model of growth and development. We invite everyone to join his conversation and engage with us.