Geneva School of Economics & Management (GSEM) and B Lab Switzerland: A partnership for Sustainability and Responsible Business Education
For two years in a row now, Professor Judith Schrempf-Stirling and the non-profit organization B Lab Switzerland have been collaborating in the Professor’s Master level course “Responsible Management”. Professor Schrempf-Stirling, her course assistant Rebecca Elliott, and B Lab Switzerland connect student groups with six companies that face real sustainability challenges in their business operations. The students' task is to provide the company with recommendations on how to improve their social and environmental performance while taking into account the financial considerations of the company. On the last day of the semester, students present their recommendations to the companies.
By placing the students in a real situation, the project helps them to develop tools to solve business sustainability challenges, to engage in critical thinking, and to expand their professional behavior and skills.
From a broader standpoint, GSEM’s partnership with B Lab Switzerland represents a triple victory by connecting the academic and business worlds: 1) students benefit from a unique and concrete managerial experience; 2) companies benefit from an outside perspective; and 3) the overall community strengthens and improves its environmental and social impact.
This triple victory becomes evident through what the involved stakeholders have to say about the initiative:
Judith Schrempf-Stirling, Professor:
“Every year, we see the hesitation in the eyes of the students when we introduce the project, but it all transforms into excitement when they present their recommendations to the companies. This is truly rewarding, and it embodies what the teaching experience should be about: preparing our students for professional life.”
Jonathan Normand, Executive Director, B Lab Switzerland: “We’re gratified by the enthusiastic response of the students to the B Academy class. Our primary goal is to provide them with the ability to understand the unmatched challenges that companies are facing in the business world. Sustainability is no longer a side hustle for companies: it has become an integral part of their business models. Embracing the holistic reality of the 21st century and transforming challenges into opportunities is what awaits the leaders of tomorrow. We truly believe that students attending this class position themselves in the best way to seize these opportunities with new skill sets.”
Rebecca Elliott, Professor’s Assistant: “It’s an honor to be a part of the successful GSEM – B Lab Switzerland partnership. The B Academy Consultancy Project benefits diverse stakeholders, and is particularly effective in equipping students with the tools, awareness and confidence to collaboratively tackle complex sustainability business challenges.”
Florence Schneider, Sustainability Manager, ecoRobotix: "The collaboration with the students in this project was very interesting for us. Their questions, cleverly framed, helped us to think differently about our practices, even before receiving the final Report. We appreciated having a fresh, outside perspective on ecoRobotix's practices. We’re looking forward to continuing our journey towards sustainability by incorporating their valuable suggestions.”
Kevin McGeeney, CEO, SCB:
“Responsible business practice is embedded in the curriculum at GSEM, as it should be. The students provided us with many innovative suggestions which we will implement throughout our global structure. Participating in the program was a great chance for SCB to get an external view of our sustainability efforts, and our mission of promoting a low carbon future.”
Celine Calais, Director of Operations and Procurement, CleanGreens Solutions: “CleanGreens Solutions loved taking part in this program! We were amazed at how quickly the students identified uncovered topics and converted them into opportunities, action plans and a long-term strategy. The time investment from the company was very little and we definitely got a lot more in return from the students. Some suggestions immediately made it to our 2021 to-do list!”
Students: “It was a premiere to work side-by-side with a real company. This made our research more productive and fueled motivation within our group. Since the beginning, we acknowledged that our project would have an actual impact on the company’s strategy. So, being sustainability consultants for the first time has been a true challenge for us and it has pushed us one step further towards excellence. Internally, it was also exciting to collaborate with students from different master programs (3 in our case). It has made us more open-minded and tolerant to receive diverse opinions on the elaboration of the project.”.
Building on the positive outcomes of this initiative, we aspire to keep nurturing these synergies and mutual learnings between different societal actors. We couldn’t be more excited to be launching the third edition of the project in Fall 2021!
Sébastien Chahidi, B Academy Programs Manager at B Lab Switzerland
firstname.lastname@example.org // +41 22 510 26 80
Jonathan Normand, Executive Director B Lab Switzerland & Academic Fellow at UNIGE’s GSEM
email@example.com // +41 22 510 26 80
About B Lab Switzerland
B Lab Switzerland is the Swiss branch of the global non-profit B Lab. B Lab is transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.
A leader in economic systems change, our global network creates standards, policies, and tools for business, and we certify companies - known as B Corps - who are leading the way. To date, our community includes nearly 4,000 B Corps in over 70 countries and 150 industries, over 8,000 benefit corporations, and 100,000 companies managing their impact with the B Impact Assessment and the SDG Action Manager.
About Geneva School of Economics & Management
The Geneva School of Economics and Management is the business school of the University of Geneva. GSEM’s mission is to educate responsible leaders for a diverse and changing society, create and disseminate evidence-based knowledge that makes a difference in the way organizations are sustainably led, and collaborate with the private and public sectors through research and executive teaching. GSEM aspires to be a research and education leader in analytics, governance, and sustainability.