About two weeks ago I had the chance to be invited to the INSEAD ESSENTIALS conference organized by the INSEAD alumni France.
The conference was about business and society and intended to invite attendees to join in the conversation of the Insead’s new ambition to make “business a force for good”. Since I am a Sustainability entrepreneur, this conference seemed a good fit. And it was!
High-caliber speakers from different corporations – Microsoft, KPMG, Michelin, BCG, Amazon, Axa, among others – joined the conversation and gave testimonials during various roundtables about topics related to business as a force for good, taking risk and bold action and business ethics versus compliance. And the Insead alumni association shared how they are empowering refugees in France with their “Hidden Talent Project”.
And what impressed me most was the keynote speech by Insead’s Dean, Ilian Mihov. He made a fact-based and at the same time very emotional case for the necessity for business to take a stand and be a force for good.
He also claimed that society needs a “new social contract with a specific goal: To create alignment between the raison d’être for business and the interest of people and the planet”.
He even quoted the 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
A case for employee engagement
During the roundtables it also became clear that engaging a very specific stakeholder group – employees – can make a real difference when it comes to embracing sustainability and “business for good” effectively.
Carlo Purassanta, President of Microsoft France, shared the many initiatives “for good” the company has in place with the help of employees, including the collaboration they initiated with the French education ministry to help modernize education. According to Purassanta “staff that is engaged in societal projects beyond their job, are more motivated and will have a higher impact also in their job”.
In the discussion about ethics and compliance, Jean-Michel Guillon, Group Senior Executive VP at Michelin insisted that it’s important to “make people feel accountable for their actions” to take responsibility as a business.
My key takeaways
- One of the top business schools in the world is starting to walk the talk about business as a force for good, so clearly it’s time business leaders start to embrace Sustainability. Because as Greta Thunberg said in her speech to world leaders at the COP24 “change is coming, whether you like it or not”.
- Social impact initiatives won’t take off if they are not linked to the global business strategy. This is something I discuss with potential clients, too: it’s key that Sustainability is part of your core business strategy if you want it to succeed.
- “Business for good happens only if it’s good for business”. This phrase had a great echo among speakers and the audience during the conference. And while personally I see this as a short-sighted perspective, I understand this point of view is needed to start the conversation and walk the talk within businesses.
I will leave you with these words from Ilian Mihov:
“If not us, then who? If not now, when?”
So my question to you: If not you, who will stand up for good in your business? If not now, when?
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