The Hoffmann Institute advances the SDGs again in Davos

Published by The Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society on 13 Apr 2020

On the 50th anniversary of the WEF, the school co-sponsored the SDG Tent in Davos for a second year

The year 2020 kicked off with some major events and initiatives for INSEAD. One main focus was joining the conversation at the World Economic Forum in Davos to help chart the course forward as the fourth industrial revolution unfolds. The INSEAD Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society partnered with InTent, an umbrella organisation led by Hoffmann Institute patron and INSEAD alumnus André Hoffmann, to bring panel discussions to the SDG Tent. Reflecting the WEF 2020 theme of “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”, INSEAD at Davos sessions discussed the powerful potential and blind spots of Artificial Intelligence and global inequality.

In addition to co-sponsoring the SDG Tent, the school and the Hoffmann Institute shared progress on integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into business education at other World Economic Forum events. Throughout the WEF week, the Hoffmann Institute leadership participated in panels, gave interviews and joined discussions on advancing the SDG agenda.

Different stakeholders enter the decade of action together

Davos brings together key players from different parts and domains of the world, where representatives of international organizations, governments, businesses and non-profits convene. This diverse community makes for fruitful conversation. To tap onto the community and the fruitful discussions, André Hoffmann, Vice Chairman of Roche and Chairman of the Hoffmann Institute, launched a series of video interviews alongside his company InTent, called InTentional Conversations, to raise awareness around the SDGs.


One related topic studied new leadership and business models, and the role stakeholders play in their transitions. Mr. Hoffmann was joined by Katell Le Goulven, Executive Director of the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, Maja Hoffmann, Founder and President of Luma Foundation, and Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, Senior Curator at Luma Arles. The latter opened the discussion by examining the role of creativity in organisations to manage transitions.

Maja Hoffmann voiced that, “To do business with a purpose means bringing everything under one roof, and working together to make it a win-win situation.” Continuing the sentiment, Le Goulven said, “Change happens not just from the top of the organisations, but also comes from people who are intrapreneurs within this organisation. They change the way things are done.”

André Hoffmann added, “It’s not true that creativity can only exist in the arts. In business we need to find a solution that will allow both prosperity and value creation.”

Aligning INSEAD with the UN SDG agenda

The Hoffmann Institute can promote the role of business and business education in the SDGs with authority because the school maintains a valuable partnership with the UN Global Compact Principles for Responsible Management Education, the UN programme promoting sustainability in business education.

In Davos, Le Goulven and Dean of INSEAD Ilian Mihov were invited to the UN SDG Media Zone to talk about the role of business schools in the decade of action. They were joined by the Dean of Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, Peter Tufano.

During the discussion, Mihov pointed out, “For us at INSEAD it is crucially important to engage future business leaders around SDG agenda, because if we at business schools don’t change the way people think about business and society, there is very little hope that the future will change. This is why we founded the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, which has a very ambitious goal – to change mindsets and management education.”

Le Goulven went on to share how the Institute functions. “We adopt an integrative approach and make sure to infiltrate the SDGs in everything the school does. For example, to incentivise research in as many departments as possible. We also want to make sure that SDGs are integrated in our curricula.” She went on to explain the importance of engaging the 60,000 strong alumni community in 174 countries and engagement with staff. “The main idea is that it shouldn’t come as an afterthought but it should be everybody’s business,” she said.

Highlighting the need for closer collaboration between business schools and all educational institutions, all speakers agreed on the importance to continue efforts and conversations.

Changing the success metrics of companies

While striving towards action is necessary, it is also vital to measure the impact and the result of organisations’ actions. This was one of the hot topics at Davos, and the focus of André Hoffmann and Le Goulven’s interview with CNN Switzerland.

The discussion began with Mr. Hoffmann highlighting sustainability as a dominant challenge of our time. “We’ve been running the world on the basis of short-term profit maximisation because business leaders have been taught that systematic increase of capital is the only way to make us all more prosperous,” he said. “That is simply not true. The cost of it is visible everywhere, inequalities are rising, the environment is more and more under threat, natural resources are overexploited. We need to find a new way of creating value. And the best way to do this is to develop a new breed of managers who will help us to navigate these difficult times.” Diving into how it can be done, he mentioned norms need to change and companies should be managed for societies and not only for money.

Speaking about measuring and quantifying the success of the company, Le Goulven stated that everything starts with the drive to want to bring change. “Our students at INSEAD have this drive, so our role is to give them the toolbox to manage their companies. The question of measurement is extremely important today, as we need to consider the human capital and the environmental capital together with a more classic definition of what constitutes a company. There are tools now that are being designed to measure impact but this is definitely not easy”.

Panel: the role of social intrapreneurship in business education with Yunus Social Business

Le Goulven was also invited to contribute to a discussion on Intrapreneurship on an all-female panel organised by Yunus Social Business. Prior to the panel, in a partnership with Porticus, Schwab Foundation, INSEAD and the Hoffmann Institute, Yunus published a report focusing on the successes and challenges of Social Intrapreneurs (SI). Thanks to the contribution of INSEAD PhD Student Anna Szerb, the report draws from more than 50 interviews with CEOs globally and provides concrete tools that SI can use to make their companies successful.

Joining Le Goulven on the panel was Shannon Thyme Klinger (Group General Counsel Novartis), Adaire Fox-Martin (Member of the Executive Board & Lead Global Customer Operation SAP) and Garance Wattez-Richard (Head AXA Emerging Customers), exemplifying the Hoffmann Institute as intrapreneurship process within INSEAD. The panel also showcased inspiring intrapreneurs in the INSEAD alumni community through the work of Garance Wattez-Richard, Head AXA Emerging Customers. In fact, INSEAD professors such as Jasjit Singh have already been bringing the concept of intrapreneurship to the classroom, which is evident in the Gib Bulloch and Accenture case study.

What is next?

Shortly after Davos concluded, the world realized another crisis – the global COVID-19 pandemic. With this year showed that the vast majority of stakeholders in Davos realise the urgency of change and importance of working together to meet the UN SDGs. Through cooperation and coordination among all actors, we can overcome current and future challenges and realize a healthier and safer world for all. INSEAD remains committed to support progress towards this vision.

Category:  Engagement

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