Twelve people in skis against background of mountains and blue sky

Montreux 2018

The roadmap to the realm of sustainability in business was laid out to ten selected undergraduates from LUMS through their participation in the new globally unique module “Management and Sustainability”. The students were given the opportunity to attend the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s annual Liaison Delegate Meeting “Lead. Transform. Succeed.” held in Montreux, Switzerland in April 2018, writes Maria Zani.

For the sixth time in a successful series, another group of LUMS students was afforded the chance to experience one of the prestigious World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) meetings. This time, the meeting was dedicated to Liaison Delegates, who constitute all executives and senior managers linking the member companies and the WBCSD, and was hosted at the Montreux Music & Convention Centre next to Lake Geneva, privileged with a spectacular view of the French Alps.

Approximately 480 executives and senior managers of companies from all sectors and world regions joined forces at Montreux from the 16th until the 19th of April, when the meeting was carried out, to innovate solutions for contemporary challenges facing business with the purpose of heading the world to a sustainable future. Delegates from companies like Dow Chemicals, Santander, Unilever, Apple, Monsanto, Canon, Eni, IKEA, Heineken, Michelin and PricewaterhouseCoopers were present at the event.

“This was a gateway to the real working world where sustainability and business combine to bring hope for the future climate”, said Sam Kimberley (BSc Accounting and Finance).

Yolina Stoyanova (BSc Marketing and Management) said: “I am honoured that I had the chance to see how vital this is”, acknowledging the beneficial role of global corporations as agents of positive change. “This has been a life-changing opportunity!”

The ten ambassadors of Lancaster University were the only undergraduate students in attendance. They helped the WBCSD events team by scanning the delegates either at the welcome desk or at the sessions. The students were also given permission to personally attend some of the exclusive professional sessions in the role of observers and note-takers.  

Additionally, spending most of the day at the conference, the student cohort was able to network with C-suite leaders from a wide range of multinational organizations. Millie Bland reflected on this: “Learning to network was a useful skill that will carry me through the rest of my career.” Apart from networking, the students appraised that they further developed their skills in communication, team-working, time-management and organization.

On the last day of the conference, the ten students were awarded certificates for their contribution and participation at the event as well as heard an empowering speech from Mark Weick, Director of Sustainability and Enterprise Risk Management at Dow Chemical Company.

Outside the meeting, the group was undergone a special sustainability-in-action activity with an excursion to the sub-alpine environment. They visited the Morzine-Avoriaz ski resort area where they were guided by Darren Axe (coordinator at Green Lancaster, International mountain leader and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society). While exploring the region on snowshoes, they learnt about how tourism, agriculture, geo-engineering, anthropogenic climate change and other human pressures negatively affect the Alpine landscape.

The field trip to Switzerland was part of the module: “OWT.232: Management and Sustainability – World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Student Bootcamp”. The ten students participating in the module were selected under an intense competition - unlike previous times, this year’s competition was open to 1200 LUMS students – by doing an online interview and submitting a CV.

The ten successful applicants were: Sharlene Gandhi, Yolina Stoyanova, Nam Le, Michael Kinder, Tara Murphy, Millie Bland, Dmytro Petryshche, Sam Kimberley, Maria Zani and Francis Barton.

Dr Alison Stowell, module convenor, said: "Globally, LUMS is the only faculty to offer a module that involves a field trip to a WBCSD event, which offers students the opportunity to network with representatives of some of the most prestigious companies in the world and hear from global leaders about the very real challenges facing business today.

This first-hand experience is a once in a lifetime thing, and I’m delighted that they were so enthused. Their passion for sustainability has grown as a result and I’ve no doubt it will have changed their perspective, both in terms of their personal lives and future careers."

Before heading to the WBCSD annual Liaison Delegate meeting, the students took part in a busy one-week bootcamp submerging into a wide variety of sustainability topics as well as being instructed by the LU Careers team through some employability workshops.

Nam Le (BSc Marketing and Management) commented: “This module is definitely the most unique experience in my four years at Lancaster. Sustainability issues are becoming ever more important to all aspects of business and academia, and I feel that the trip has been the most practical and relevant to my course.”

Maria Zani (BSc Accounting and Finance) characterized the whole experience interestingly challenging and expressed: “It made me catch the business world, and generally life, with a 'sustainable eye' ".

Thanks to Professor Rodney Irwin (Honorary Teaching Fellow at Pentland Centre and Managing Director of Redefining Value & Education at the WBCSD), Professor Gail Whiteman (Director of the Pentland Centre and Professor-in-Residence at the WBCSD), together with Dr Alison Stowell (Lecturer in the Department of Organization, Work and Technology and module convenor of OWT.232) the trip was made possible. Marta Ferri (PhD student in Organisation, Work and Technology), had undertaken the logistics of the trip and accompanied the group at Montreux.

The trip was funded by LU Global Experiences Team via Santander and LUMS.

You can read more about the student’s experiences via their blogs and see their video diary (created by Millie Bland) below.