Student group attend 'insightful and empowering' WBCSD meeting in Switzerland

Students meeting WBCSD representatives

19 April 2016

A group of LUMS undergraduates have had the opportunity to attend a prestigious sustainability event in Montreux, Switzerland.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development's (WBCSD) annual Liaison Delegate meeting brings business leaders together to analyse, discuss and debate all aspects of sustainable development. Around 450 delegates, holding executive and senior management positions in companies such as Santander, Unilever, BT Siemens, Toyota, Boston Consulting Group, Ernest Young, British Telecom and KPMG, attended the event.

The eight students, drawn from a variety of courses, worked as session hosts and note-takers allowing them to hear first-hand the views of experts from industry, and witness ideas put into action. The lucky group were Lee Brennan (BSc Business Economics), Yury Dmitryuk (BSc Business Economics), Rachele Lanza (BA Marketing Management), Miriam Luft (European BBA Management Student), Thea Nygaard (BA Management and Organisation HRM), Dafni Papaioannou (European BBA Management Student), Isabella Trapani (European BBA Management Student) and Ferdinand Weiler (European BBA Management Student).

Returning from the event last Thursday, the students had the opportunity to reflect on the experience.

Miriam explained that working as a note taker allowed her to “observe how the WBCSD working groups presented projects and how to implement ideas into actions”.

Dafni said: “I was amazed by the amount of new knowledge and insights I gained, as some of the topics discussed in the conference were far from anything I usually hear on sustainability. Talks on sustainable lifestyles, food and energy really made me challenge what I thought to be true about the current situation of our planet and made me realize the opportunities.”

Rachele said: “As students and professionals in-the-making, I think this event gave us the chance to discover more about the people behind the corporations, providing us stimuli to reflect on the kind of role and contribution we want to make as future working people. At least for me, the meeting was extremely insightful and somehow empowering, as it highlighted the impact that individual agency and motivation can make, even in the largest of businesses, and the power it still can have to drive change.”

During the breaks, the students had the opportunity to meet some of the Liaison Delegates and Isabella said: “I did not appreciate just how many opportunities to combine business and sustainability there are and I feel inspired by this experience as it has definitely made my career goals clearer.”

The group also met the WBCSD CEO Mr Peter Bakker and shared their experiences and aspirations.

Thea was surprised “that everyone is human just as I am, and the fact businesses have stepped up their game, taking the lead, is something I find very admirable and motivating for my future career. To share this experience with other students and staff with a similar interest for sustainability has made it even better.”

The students witnessed “significant decisions being made, the kind of decisions that could affect the operations and policies of major international companies and, potentially, the economies of whole countries,” said Yury.

In order to be selected for the trip, LUMS undergraduates were invited to take part in a video competition that required them to research what the WBCSD is, how it came into being, whether business could be force for good and convince the assessment panel that they were the ideal candidate for the team. More than 400 students were invited to take part, and the winners were selected by the trip’s organisers - Dr Alison Stowell from OWT and by Jo Hobbs and Rory Daly from the Careers team.

The trip also came about thanks to Professor Gail Whiteman, the Director of the Pentland Centre and part-time professor in residence for the WBCSD; CEO Peter Bakker; Dr Rodney Irwin, WBCSD Managing Director for Redefining Value and Education; and many more members of the WBCSD. It was funded through the University partnership with Santander.