In an era where sustainability has become a global concern and a strategic imperative for businesses, ESCP Business School stands at the forefront of integrating these principles into its educational ethos. Known for its international perspective and commitment to innovation, ESCP has taken steps to ensure its MBA programme not only addresses sustainability but embeds it into the curriculum to cultivate future leaders prepared to face emerging challenges. Olivier Delbard, Sustainability professor on the Paris campus and  Coordinator of the school’s Sustainability Department, tells us more about ESCP’s unique approach.

A multi-dimensional approach to sustainable development

A key driver behind ESCP’s sustainability initiative is its dedicated Sustainability course, a mandatory core subject for all MBA students. The course has been a part of the curriculum for the past 6-7 years, illustrating the school’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. And it is far from being an isolated element in the programme, as it only reflects the broader intention of ESCP to instil an understanding of sustainable development as an indispensable part of business strategy and operational processes. 

About two years ago, the school enhanced its commitment by establishing a dedicated Sustainability Department, signifying the transdisciplinary nature of sustainability: The general vision of ESCP is that sustainable development deserves to be a strategic pillar of the school. In pursuit of this vision, a dedicated Sustainability Department was established, integrating seamlessly with the existing faculties such as marketing and supply chain. Alongside this, a devoted research department was created to further advance knowledge in sustainability, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of this field,” explains Olivier Delbard. “This strategy not only brings fresh perspectives to the institution but also fosters a transversal vision across different disciplines, enhancing the collective understanding of sustainability.”

Sustainability: a transdisciplinary vision

With the creation of the Sustainability and research departments, ESCP also recognised the need for fluid communication and collaboration between different faculties and departments. To address this, the concept of “connectors” was introduced within the school. “These connectors are colleagues from all disciplines who act as bridges between the Sustainability Department and other faculties, ensuring the effective exchange of knowledge and integration of sustainability principles across the school,” explains Olivier Delbard.

“Whether it is the financial aspect or the less evident IT industry challenges, the programme fosters a critical understanding of sustainability issues among the students.”

Prof. Olivier Delbard, Sustainability – ESCP Paris Campus

An important step in this initiative is the training of these connectors. An example of this is the three-day “Transition Campus,” an event dedicated to brainstorming ways to enhance the dissemination of sustainable development content and further equip colleagues with the knowledge and skills to address these pressing issues. This endeavour underlines the school’s commitment to a continuous evolution towards sustainability.

Theory and Practice as pillars of ESCP’s MBA in International Management

Moreover, the programme includes a unique feature called the “Company Consultancy Project,” enabling students to work on real-world sustainability projects every semester. To augment their theoretical knowledge, workshops on sustainable business models and various events provide the students with practical insights into the domain: “The Sustainability course’s unique approach lies in its focus on the transformation of traditional business models towards sustainability. The Company Consultancy Project forms an integral part of this learning journey. It provides students with an opportunity to work on real-life cases involving existing companies. Significant emphasis is placed on understanding the current state of these companies regarding sustainability and how they’re addressing relevant issues,” says Olivier Delbard. 

This experiential learning not only provides a broader perspective of the business landscape but also ties back to students’ personal experiences. “Students are encouraged to reflect on their values and consider their potential contributions towards sustainable practices,” adds Olivier Delbard. “The sensitivity and engagement displayed by the students towards these issues are noteworthy. For instance, some Indian students specifically prioritize the sustainable development criterion in their learning journey, reflecting a keen interest and active pursuit of knowledge in this area.” This combination of theory and practice, essential for understanding the complexity of sustainability challenges, exemplifies ESCP’s holistic approach to learning.

Preparing future leaders

While regulatory pressures from bodies like the EU are crucial drivers of sustainability, ESCP recognizes the pivotal role of businesses in addressing environmental and social challenges. “Companies, by their very nature, operate in an opportunistic manner. In the context of sustainability, this raises the question: how do companies navigate this increasingly important aspect of business? The answer lies in their ability to provide tangible solutions to sustainability challenges through their products and services,” explains Olivier Delbard. 

As Olivier Delbard acknowledges, the world’s socio-economic and environmental landscapes are intricate and multifaceted. Thus, the MBA programme prepares students to navigate these complexities and address sustainability issues through a systemic perspective. “Whether it is the financial aspect or the less evident IT industry challenges, the programme fosters a critical understanding of these issues among the students,” notes the Sustainability professor. By equipping its students with the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable development, ESCP prepares them to become the vanguards of sustainable business practices in their future endeavours. 

The commitment to sustainability goes beyond ESCP’s walls

This commitment is reflected in the school’s partnerships as well: “In Berlin, ESCP has forged a partnership with the United Nations, focusing on environmental issues and consumer lifestyles. Moreover, a chair in the circular economy, created in conjunction with Deloitte, and a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) showcase the school’s commitment to sustainability.”

ESCP’s sustainability commitments extend beyond its curriculum to the institution’s internal and external activities, with notable initiatives including faculty training on sustainability, partnerships with organizations such as the UN, an annual sustainable development conference in Berlin, and, finally, a prestigious award for the best thesis or master’s thesis in sustainable development in collaboration with EY. “Whether our students get to work for L’Oréal or for Paris’s townhall through the CCP, or get involved in one of the school’s projects related to sustainability, the essence of these partnerships is to strengthen ESCP’s connections with the local community and to expand the impact of sustainability initiatives in the regions where we have a presence,” concludes Olivier Delbard. 

If you would like to learn more about ESCP Business School’s commitment to a more sustainable future, feel free to read our Sustainability flyer.
Would you like to learn more about ESCP’s commitment to sustainability in its MBA in International Management programme? Then feel free to reach out to one of our team members or student ambassadors.

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