Practicing What We Preach 

By Noémie Danthine

In today’s society sustainability is integral to everyday life and global efforts are key to ensure the protection of our planet for future generations. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed time to reflect, research and reinforce for everyone, strengthening the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an indispensable priority for every business, school and individual across the world. Education on sustainability is paramount to prepare and teach individuals to look after the planet, finding solutions for the challenges of today and the future in order to maintain our world for future generations. Renowned hospitality management school Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) incorporates this approach within their curriculum and business model, implementing new ways to function, especially within the hospitality industry through educating students on how to become more eco-conscious. Our new Sustainability Strategy, part of EHL Group’s 2025 Strategy, introduces initiatives – locally and internationally – to include four pillars of; education, people, communities, and environment, showing EHL’s commitment to teaching leaders of the future to become more conscious. 

Teach by example

Not all business schools include sustainability in their programs, but in today’s world, they all should. In that sense, there is as much a need for business schools to practice what they teach about sustainability, as to teach what they practice! Embedding environmental and social sustainability into business models has become imperative and to schools who haven’t yet made much progress on either side, I would recommend getting started by encouraging faculty, operations and sustainability teams to work together. On EHL’s Lausanne & Passugg campuses, we have integrated sustainability education within our practical teaching: for example, we started this month testing a device using an AI driven solution to reduce food waste, made by Kitro a start-up founded by two of our alumni. This is a concrete action and is used by our students during their practical cooking workshops. Also, it is covered by our sustainability lecturers during their classes on waste management. As EHL Campus (Singapore), EHL’s international campus, is welcoming its first students in mid-September, we have been able to integrate sustainability as part of the narrative from the beginning, allowing operations and faculty to work hand in hand. We have already taken sustainability into account when selecting materials and furnishings – for instance using carbon neutral floors – and when setting up processes for staff and students. We have a shuttle bus that will run from a nearby MRT station to the campus daily. We’ve also been working with local caterers to curate responsible menus and ensure recycling stations across campus. Within our communications to students, we have stressed that sustainability will be a part of their EHL journey. For instance, before the start of the semester, we held our Environmental Awareness Week last month to sensitise our staff members in Singapore on our efforts and prepare them for the arrival of the new cohort of students. 

Be transparent, measure and report on your progress

Many business schools have a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. What is most integral is that they get started and work hard to catch up, educating staff and students about the importance of sustainability in order to protect the planet. A big element of building trust with students is to be honest about where they stand, where they want to go and how they will get there. Students, especially in the hospitality field, will be quick to detect greenwashing, so it is key that schools be honest about their own shortcomings. At EHL, we started measuring our carbon footprint in 2019 for the Lausanne campus, and we aim to measure all our three campuses by 2022. We also strive to report on our objectives and progress through sustainability reports and commitments, allowing our students and partners to see how we are becoming more conscious. Each year we set more ambitious goals and provide increasingly detailed reporting.

Getting the students involved

At EHL we try to involve students in as many sustainability initiatives as possible. It is our students that organise our sustainability weeks and SDG related events, they have opportunities to work with the expert sustainability team on specific projects and are invited to speak or participate at sustainability workshops. We also have an online platform, Alaya, that enables them to give back to communities by finding volunteering activities. Finally, this year we asked their opinion about EHL’s progress in sustainability, through the Positive Impact Ranking (PIR), which is a student-led ranking of business schools.

About the author: Noémie Danthine is the Head of Sustainability at EHL Group in Singapore. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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