A group of 10 LUMS students attended the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s annual Liaison delegate meeting in Montreux last week.
This meeting brings together business leaders from all sectors and world regions to share important insights into innovative ways of tackling today’s complex challenges related to sustainability in business. About 480 delegates, holding c-suite executive positions and senior management roles in companies such as Dow Chemicals, Santander, Unilever, Apple, Monsanto, Canon, Eni, IKEA, Heineken, and Michelin attended.
The students played an integral role at this meeting and had the opportunity to work as session hosts, note takers and to hear from industry leaders. They engaged well with this dynamic environment, making the most of the experience.
“You get the opportunity to sit in on sustainability debates and listen to real world solutions to 21st Century problems,” said Millie Bland (BSc Business Studies). “Learning to network was a useful skill that will carry me through the rest of my career.” Fellow student Michael Kinder (BSc Marketing and Design) shared the same views.
Sharlene Gandhi (BSc Marketing Management) stressed her enthusiasm about having participated in the session on food reform for sustainability and health. “Food is such an integral part of our lives and in western societies, we take variety in supermarkets for granted,” she said. “Food here was considered in a holistic way, and its impacts assessed further up the supply chain. This has really sparked my interest in how to change diets in both developed and developing economies so that we can better share our finite world resources.”
On the last day of meeting, the students received certificates of participation for having attended the event. In this occasion, Mark Weick, Director of Sustainability and Enterprise Risk Management at Dow Chemical Company, gave them an uplifting and empowering speech about the importance of younger generations being informed and educated towards sustainability while engaging with real world businesses who are facing these challenges now.
“I am honoured that I had the chance to see how vital this is,” said Yolina Stoyanova (BSc Marketing and Management), referring to the critical role that global corporations have as agents of positive change. “This has been a life-changing opportunity!”
Sam Kimberley (BSc Accounting and Finance) said: “This was a gateway to the real working world where sustainability and business combine to bring hope for the future climate.”
On Friday, the group went to The Plateau de Loex, a special EU area of conservation protected as a 'Site Natura 2000’, in France. Here, they met with Darren Axe from the Darren Axe IML FRGS, who led the group through the Sustainability in Action Day. While snowshoe walking in front of the Mont Blanc massif, Darren discussed the challenges facing the Alpine landscape, as it is subject to a diverse range of human pressures ranging from agriculture to tourism and geo-engineering. Sustainable development, and social and environmental changes were the core themes of this activity, stressing how sustainability is concerning different and interconnected areas, from natural landscapes to business organisations and people’s daily life habits.
Overall, the students said that they perceived the module as a significant experience. Nam Le (BSc Marketing and Management) said: “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) found the whole experience interestingly challenging. “It made me catch the business world, and generally life, with a 'sustainable eye'," she said.
Tara Murphy (BSc Marketing and Design) and Dmytro Petryshche (BSc Accounting and Management) talked about the experience as an important life lesson that they feel honoured to have learnt.
Francis Barton (BSc Accounting and Finance), summed this up by saying that “We're not in the era of change, we're in the change of an era”.
The trip was made possible thanks to Professor Rodney Irwin, the WBCSD Managing Director for Redefining Value and Education, together with Professor Gail Whiteman, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business and Dr Alison Stowell, Lecturer in the Department of Organisation, Work and Technology.
The WBCSD is a global, CEO-led organisation of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. Both WBCSD and Lancaster University are committed to educating current and future leaders, to equip them with the knowledge required to create a new ‘business as usual’ approach. With this in mind, LUMS has designed the “Management and Sustainability - World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Student Bootcamp” module, run by Dr Alison Stowell who recently received the Dean's award for Business Engagement.
Globally, LUMS is the only faculty to offer a module that involves a field trip to a WBCSD event, giving the opportunity to students to interact with representatives of some of the most prestigious companies in the world and to personally attend exclusive professional events.
Read the students’ blogs where they share interesting background information about themselves, their time in Montreux and their insights from the conference.
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