Sixteen people standing in front of a colourful WBCSD banner

Montreux 2019

The Road to Montreux

In April 2019, ten students from Lancaster University embarked on the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the prestigious World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) conference in Montreux, Switzerland.  Written by Natasha Mistry & Ewa Kolasinska

This conference was attended by “almost 200 forward-thinking global companies committed to advance the sustainability agenda. Sustainable business lies at the heart of sustainable development”. In exchange for working as session hosts and note takers, we were honoured to be given the opportunity to join over 400 executives and sustainability professionals from around the globe and hear first-hand from dignitaries, industry experts and therefore, witness ideas put into action.

Part of the OWT.232 Management & Sustainability: World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Bootcamp (competition was open to 1200 students from across the Management School and the Leverhulme Centre for Material Social Futures Research), the following 10 students were selected: Unzila Ali (BSc Business Studies), Damian Borowiec (PhD student MSF), Christina Bremer (PhD student MSF), Lisa Denderuk (BSc Management and IT), Kalina Georgieva (BSc Marketing Management), Lottie Gregory (BSc Marketing and Economics), Ewa Kolasinska (BSc Business Studies), Natasha Mistry (BSc Business Management), Fidan Mutallibova (BSc Business Analytics) and Ben Wallace (BSc Marketing).

Leading up to the Switzerland fieldtrip, the students attended workshops every day. For the majority of us, this was the first time we had met one another, as we all came from a diverse set of degrees and year groups. The dynamic in the group was amazing; everybody worked synonymously with each other and we all got on very well! Hence, the name “Dream Team” was born.

The first day was action packed filled with an introduction to the module, with a few ice-breakers and during the afternoon, we met Darren Axe, International Mountain Leader and Green Lancaster Coordinator. We planted trees in Forrest Hills and learnt some remarkable facts about the geographical area. All the students thoroughly enjoyed this and felt very motivated to learn more about sustainability and the planet. Dr Alison Stowell remarked that “this module is unique to Lancaster and been designed to exposure students to new ideas, experiences, develop soft and professional skills, challenge assumptions and at the same time fuel their curiosity. We are very privileged that the WBCSD have has open their doors to our students to gain, what the students describe, as a life changing moment”.

During the week-long course we studied: contemporary environmental problems, corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability. We were also given guidance on professional etiquette to prepare us for the conference. Furthermore, Matthew Howard and Sophie Wu from the Lancaster University Management School Careers Team, highlighted the links between the skills learnt through the module as well as how it could positively contribute to our employability, and future endeavours.

“Sustainability means more than just saving the environment and remembering your reusable cup every day. It’s a movement about spreading the word of shifting to a more sustainable future, may it be with your friends, family or your company. This responsibility does not solely rely on governmental action, but the action of business, societies and every individual on the planet. Everyone needs to start changing their lifestyles for the sustainable future ahead of us.” - Lottie Gregory, 3rd Year Marketing Student, Montreux 2019.

Montreux 2019
Accompanied by Dr Alison Stowell and Joe Bourne the trip itself was a long, exhausting but oh-so-rewarding experience. Throughout the week we worked as a team to help assist in the operations of the event while being able to attend the meeting to help develop our knowledge about our planet current problems within sustainability and ways in which companies are working together to overcome such issues.

While the first day of the trip was an early start to the day, the day consisted of an introduction to the WBCSD events team and the tasks to be undertaken during the event. This day was also a great opportunity for us to make use of the great weather and location we were in by taking a lot of pictures! Later that day, we also had a lecture with Alison regarding ecological modernization and how the trip so far could be linked to the topic. The day ended with a lovely dinner and a trip back to our hostel accompanied by the sunset.

The following days activities included having breakfast, helping at the event, having dinner, discussing how what we learned about in the event linked to that evening lecture and working on our blogs. While this continued for 4 days, each day was filled with memorable moments and conversations that everyone experienced as well as specific activities for that day such as a cocktail party, staff dinner, plenary session and much more!

OWT 232 WBCSD Bootcamp students at excursion to Morzine - montreux 2019

On the last day of the trip, we also got the opportunity to go on a snowshoeing hike in the French Alps lead by Darren Axe. This, once again, was a perfect picture filled day, which was also a great opportunity for us to learn more about nature and take in the views that were surrounding us. Before driving to the airport, we were also given a chance to have a wander around the town we collected the snowshoes from and buy some last minute gifts.

Going to Montreux was a memorable experience for all of us and it might take us hours to tell all the amazing moments that occurred to us. We all chose to take on the commitments that came with the trip and while everyone, in the end, was exhausted and might have needed a few more extra hours of sleep, once returning everyone feels that it was worth it in the end. We have all felt that we have grown and developed in some way after coming back and now feel more concerned about the topics we learned around through the module.

“The field of sustainability is one that has interested me for a while; an act, no matter how big or small, can have a profound impact on Earth. There is an important link between what we do on Earth and its effects on nature. I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to attend the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)’s annual Liaison Delegate Meeting in Montreux, Switzerland! It was very exciting to visit the country where the WBCSD was formed and learn more about the culture; admiring Switzerland’s beautiful landscapes whilst developing my understanding of sustainability and its impacts.” - Natasha Mistry, 2nd Year Business Management (Industry) Student, Montreux 2019.

The opportunity is one which you help influence, how much you get out of it is also up to you.

“The field-trip was really an eye-opening experience for me. I learned a lot about sustainability and discovered that there are great opportunities for students in business who are willing to work toward sustainability goals as sustainable businesses are the future! P.S. For the ones interested in the module, get ready for having fun through a lot of hard work and for many personal challenges such as time management!” - Kalina Georgieva, 2nd Year Marketing Student, Montreux 2019.

Students have written many blogs inspired by what they have learnt during the module.