In March 2017, nine LUMS students attended the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) annual Liaison Delegate meeting ‘Roadmaps for impact in today's reality’ in Montreux, Switzerland, writes Noé Cichy
The WBCSD is made up of over 200 member companies, around 67 Global Network Partners who are responsible for generating combined revenue in the region of 8.5 trillion US dollars. These enterprises collectively employ 19 million people worldwide. Yes, the WBCSD and their members may appear driven by economic growth but they are focused on achieving this within the constraints of the planetary boundaries. The WBCSD is a CEO-lead organization in which multiple leading companies work together to enable and catalyze the transition to a more sustainable world. They host biannual meetings: The Council Members and the Liaison Delegate meeting. While the strategic direction of the organization is discussed during the former, the latter is used to put words into action, to operationalize the decisions made during the first conference.
While the Council Member meeting is largely attended by the CEOs of the different member organisations, the Liaison Delegates (LDs) are the main target audience during the Liaison Delegate meeting. The LDs are the main point of contact between a member company and the WBCSD, and held executive and senior management positions. Represented at the conference were companies such as BASF, Unilever, BT Siemens, Toyota, Boston Consulting Group, Monsanto, British Telecom and KPMG.
The nine students, from a diversity of degrees, worked as session hosts during the Liaison Delegate meeting, enabling them to experience what it means to put sustainability into action and to obtain valuable insights into this wide realm from experts from the industry. The lucky ones were: Dan Jaeck (BBA International Business Management), Kristen Freile (BBA International Business Management), Edward Meadowcroft (BBA Management), Sammi Ruane (BBA Management), Bethan Thompson (BSc Business Studies), Pietro Piantanida (BBA International Business Management), Annika Klesen (BBA International Business Management), Stanley Li (BSc Management and Information Technology) and Noé Cichy (BBA International Business Management).
After the event Bethan Thompson affirmed that the conference had been a source of inspiration and knowledge, “this experience has encouraged me to invest my time into making a difference and champion change that some organisations and the planet so desperately need”.
Dan Jaeck said: “Attending the WBCSD gave me a completely new perspective about the role of sustainability in business. I'm excited to go into industry and advocate for sustainable business practices with the knowledge I have gained over this week.”
The LD Meeting in March 2017 breaks barely existed. One keyword was omnipresent during the moments when students did not attend any session: Networking! Kristen Freile emphasized this point by stating “we got to make valuable connections and learn some amazing things”. Indeed, the students had the chance to meet several of the LDs and WBCSD staff members. Pietro Piantanida is convinced that these encounters have changed his perspective and his future: “Attending the WBCSD LD Meeting in Montreux, other than being a lifetime opportunity to engage with thought leaders in the sustainability field, has exposed me to insights that, to my surprise, in such a short time have made me deeply reflect on how I will approach my career choices in the future. I am close to graduation in June, and I will look forward to taking reflecting on how I can leverage knowledge gained from my degree, my interest in technology and this experience to shape my future and hopefully have a positive impact on others.”
This phenomenon was a common one. Nearly all students who attended the event agreed with Sammi when she described the conference as an “eye-opener” to seeing the changes that needed to be made in the world. Each of the students has been deeply “inspired and empowered by this event”. Sammi added, “I particularly enjoyed the sessions on human rights and gender equality. I also found interesting the environmental issues companies are attempting to combat and this reignited my passion for being involved in making changes to create a positive future for us all”.
The students observed how companies are taking their responsibility seriously to ensure a sustainability transition, inevitably leading to some kind of self-reflection. Annika Kelsen’s, and Noé Cichy’s who respectively commented, “this has been a unique opportunity and as someone who is passionate about sustainability this event made me commit even more”. “It has been an intensive week during which I have been able to reflect on my own responsibility and possibilities to drive future leaders to consider the knowledge of sustainability and the complexities as an essential management skill”. Stanley Li went on to explain how the event fulfilled his wish “to experience policymaking at a high business level” deeply linked, anew, with a “drastic personal growth “.
“Opportunities like this are one of the reasons for studying at Lancaster is so great. We all took many valuable lessons from the conference and hope to make a positive change to the world going forwards”, said Ed Meadowcroft as he described the impressions he was left after returning from the conference.
455 LUMS undergraduates were invited to take part in a video competition that required them to research the WBCSD, a chosen sustainability and business-related topic and then convince, the assessment panel that they were ideal candidates for the team. Dr Alison Stowell, Jo Hobbs and Matthew Howard had the enjoyable challenge of assessing the entries and organising the trip.
The trip was funded through the University and thanks to the support of the LUMS Associate Dean for International - Dr David Simm.
Read more about the experiences of these students via their blogs.