Three Takeaways from the Responsible Business trek in Geneva

To increase the awareness toward global issues among our MBA students, IESE’s Responsible Business Club (RBC) initiated the first business trek to visit SDGs players in Geneva earlier this month. We had a packed schedule, visiting organizations like UNHCR, UNICEF, WEF, IFRC, GAVI, The Global Fund, DNDi, WHO, WBCSD, DuPont Sustainable Solutions, Bamboo Capital Partners, and AKDN.

SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.

We are facing several global challenges including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. Climate change ranks amongst the greatest global problems of the 21st century. IRFC shared “Although climate change is a global issue with impact all over the world, those people with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and therefore are the most vulnerable.” Christina from UNHCR commented that communities displaced by climate change triggers other issues such as hunger and poverty so these challenges are very interdependent.

Thus, there is a wider movement of people who are seeking the innovative solutions and sustainable business from both impact and finance perspectives. Bamboo Capital Partners is optimistic that “Generation change, reflecting the problems caused by current capitalism, is the main drive to responsible capitalism.

An engaging discussion with Bamboo Capital Partners

RBC’s goal is to help everyone understand that there are opportunities for doing good while doing well in EVERY industry. From the business perspective, below are three takeaways from the trek.

  1. Change mentality to trigger innovative solutions: 

Transition to sustainability from the core business is not a waste of money but creates opportunities for business. It’s all about the “Mindset”. Our perception to evaluate the profitability, during the decision making process, should no longer only be short term focused. It should include social and environmental impact, which are considered as long-term profitabilities. Besides, valuing based on long-term profitability benefits companies by improving the management of their risks and reputations. The Director of SDGs from WBCSD believes that “achieving the SDGs could unlock $12 trillion a year in business value.”

  1. Strengthen the relationship of three Cs – Communication, Coordination and Collaboration: 

More communication helps different stakeholders understand each other’s perspectives and positions. Engaging different stakeholders along the value chain enables us to tackle the vast global challenges.  “Increasing migration will encourage future generations to embrace and understand the differences among people and cultures,” we learnt from AKDN. The willingness to strengthen the relationship of communication, coordination and collaboration will be key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, DNDi has initiated many different open innovation projects, such as Open Synthesis Network, to facilitate the collaboration with private sectors to solve neglected diseases. DuPont engages in the production process of its clients so as to keep improving its end products toward sustainability solutions, such as AHEAD™.

  1. Create a new systematic model and measurement, then scale up

The role of sustainability in business has evolved from a philanthropic role to strategy shaping, and now towards governance. Therefore we need to reframe the traditional system and approach of running a business. “Building partnership models which are long lasting, scalable and transformative, and which create shared value will be key”, WEF stated. We see this in how the Global Fund partners with private sectors to build a resilient and sustainable system for health by effectively mobilising their shared resources. GAVI has also created a shared-value model partnership and new way of funding along the value chain from innovation to operation to modernise immunisation systems in developing countries.

This new evaluation approach is required to value both the financial aspects and the impact to the environment and society, in order to monitor the overall outcome. For example, AKDN only works on long-term programs, which are at least ten years, to be able to measure its impact from its “Quality of Life” approach. Bamboo Capital Partners has created an impact management process throughout the investment lifecycle to make sure the missions and visions of the organizations are well implemented.

Learning about how DuPont partners with their clients to create improved products that are more sustainable

In conclusion, this trek enabled our MBA students to understand the whole picture of why and how private sector and public sector are working together on global issues and the challenges in the partnerships they are facing. It was a very eye-opening and fruitful experience.

Next, to spread the learnings from the trek, such as what global challenges we’re facing, why we as future leaders from business should care and how to tackle these challenges, RBC is ready to bring you another inspiring event on 2-3 March 2020: The 17th Doing Good Doing Well Conference. It is the largest student-led annual conference on sustainability in Europe. You will have the unique chance to hear directly from professionals about the challenges and opportunities they experience on a day-to-day basis, and how their jobs and organizations are interconnected with society. For more information, please visit:

Hope to see you there!

Your RBC Team,

Shu-Han (Heidi) Tsan, Mitchell Samson, Patricia Nunez (MBA Class of 2020)

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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