The man who could not move, but moved many: Professor Stephen Hawking

On 14th March 2018, the world sadly lost not only a brilliant and respected scientist who courageously triumphed over his own debilitating handicap, but also a highly valued sustainability ambassador and guide amongst the general chaos of thought leadership today. In learning this morning of Stephen Hawking’s demise at the age of 76, I recalled a favorite quote that is often attributed to him (but not proven to be something that he actually ever said):

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Even if this great man never said this, it is a fine reflection of the underlying principle of his work and teachings. Nowadays, propagating an “illusion of knowledge” is a risk that all business schools need to take seriously. We live in an age when “fake news” is being purposely fed into information feedback loops, even by world leaders of democratic societies (I am purposely not mentioning any names!). We are witnessing an unprecedented era where truthful news outlets and honest agencies are easily undermined with accusations of fakery capable of sowing seeds of societal doubt around even scientifically proven facts. Indeed, fake news proliferates in today’s avalanche of information, creating an illusion of knowledge whereas in fact, we are sometimes being kept in ignorance. How can we see the wood for the trees? How do you fight against the “illusion of knowledge” enemy? We need to be ever more vigilant about developing skills in our BSL students that help them to critically assess content that uses new media forms, determine deeper meaning to events and language, properly “join the dots” and understand the world around them based on expert exploration and observation of facts, not fiction.

The vision and purpose of BSL is built around a pragmatic view that there are scientific and social realities – fact, not fiction – that the business world, and thus business people need to catapult to the top of their strategic priority list. Climate change mitigation and adaptation, for example, are amongst these critical realities. When the United States dropped out of the Paris climate agreement, Hawking was one of many credible voices to react, armed with the sheer weight of his own profound scientific knowledge. He wryly observed that Trump’s actions would certainly cause damage to our beautiful planet, and would ultimately bring humanity much closer to a tipping point where the Earth’s systems would break down, disabling humanity’s existence, and ultimately coming to resemble the inhospitable system of planet Venus. Remember that Hawking was a harbinger of doom, suggesting in 2016 that humanity would ultimately have no choice but to find an alternative planet to live on within the following 1000 years. He controversially modified this projection to 100 years just six months later, saying that escalating conflicts, development of militarized technology, weapons of mass destruction, threats from artificial intelligence and general geopolitics had massively increased the likelihood of collapse.

The objective of seeking another host planet for humanity is squarely on the agenda of one of the world’s most recognizable business figures today, Elon Musk, who also suspects that humanity may be doomed for the same reasons outlined by Hawking. His project to colonize Mars has the laudable aim of creating a safety net for humanity (preferably making money, and lots of it, at the same time….). However, the best hope for survival of humanity is still to act on the looming threat of climate change right here and now. For Hawking, we had already reached the eleventh hour, but it was still not too late. As he said in 2017: “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now. “

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant ambassador for the thousands of scientists in the world that have placed their knowledge about the reasons for, effects of and solutions to climate change at the disposal of the business community. He knew that the illusion of believing that climate change was not happening was a force to fight against. Despite his own physical immobility, he also knew he could mobilize people by using his credible and highly respected voice. He exercised that power responsibly and sensitively. We join with many in the academic community that mourn the loss of such a spokesperson in a world where true and authentic leadership is increasingly rare and questioned.


Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Active in thought leadership, consulting, applied research, teaching and supervising DBA candidates in sustainability & responsibility.

It’s International Women’s Day! And BSL has its finger on the pulse

Aileen Ionescu-Somers, André de la Fontaine and Jacques Billy

It is March 8 and it is also… International Women’s Day. And what a year it has been! With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements coming in quick succession to each other since International Women’s Day 2017, it seems that women’s rights and equality issues for women are riding a wave of global interest but also, hopefully, transformation and change.

Did you know that in the early 20th century, the trade union movement started marking this day, first using it in 1907 as a springboard to highlight the poor conditions of women workers in the clothing industry sweatshops of the time in the United States? In a case of “early globalization”, the day had been adopted far outside of the U.S by 1911. Today, March 8 day symbolizes the opportunity for women to share their equity struggles and celebrate breakthroughs on women’s rights worldwide. As we write, women’s marches are actively taking place across the globe, from Spain – where the mantra of the march is “If we stop, the world stops!” – to multiple other #PressforProgress March 8 initiatives – are an indication of an increasingly strong global push for gender parity.

Given BSL’s aspirational vision and purpose, BSL is keeping a finger on the pulse on developments that relate to the role of women in the workplace. In late 2017, Professors Aileen Ionescu-Somers and André de la Fontaine started work on a teaching case study related to the challenges of ensuring equal salary for women in companies. Did you know, for example, that women earn up to 18% on average less than men in Switzerland? Sensing this was a “hot topic”, Aileen and André asked themselves the question: How hard can it be to apply a fair wage policy between men and women? Surely that is both good for the company, but also for the well-being of the men and women that work there? It turns out that it’s not so black and white and there are plenty of obstacles, amongst which are lack of transparency and accountability, as well as fixed mindsets and attitudes.

So Aileen and André decided to carry out research and interviews with a view to providing a highly interactive solution-oriented case learning experience for our BSL students. The case study is currently being finalized and will soon be available for use in our classrooms. We need our students to know about and understand the ways and means of overcoming obstacles to equity between men and women, and certainly in cases where both are doing the same job. And since, “knowing what you didn’t know” is a first step to changing mindsets and achieving change, we look forward to deepening our students’ understanding of this topic. Watch this space for more news about our exciting case study!

But the real elephant in the room is the invisible “glass ceiling” preventing access to senior decision-making management and Board posts. Women are just not breaking through fast enough. Changes to the statistics are incremental at best. Our BSL Finance Professor Jacques Billy is Treasurer on the Board of Novertur International SA. NI launched a site in 2016 that published an insightful report this week on gender inequality in Switzerland. The report, published with the support of PwC, highlights sobering statistics on the status of women in Swiss based companies. Less than 24% of corporate decision—making posts are held by women. Less than 17% of Board posts are held by women. How can women break through this glass ceiling? Now that’s a good question for our students to get their heads around! Judging from global developments in these last months, women seem determined to get answers and close the gaps.


Bachelor students successfully simulate Summit Conference

Conventional theories are presented and explored by our first-year students in the Bachelor of Business Administration macro-economics class. However, a substantial aspect of it considers alternative approaches to macro-economy.

The crowning of this wide-ranging approach took place during the last class of the semester, in which a global conference on sustainable development, along the lines of the United Nations Rio +20 conference, was simulated. Country representatives met in different task forces to demonstrate critical thinking and generate new ideas for solving the world’s economic challenges. Here is the inspiring outcome of their hard work.

The countries participating in the morning conference simulation were Switzerland, the Netherlands and the USA. The task forces on special topics, made up of country representatives, agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to reach the amount of 0.7% of GDP as proposed by the United Nations, achieved by raising the corporate income tax and re-allocating the public spending budget. Focus on food security in sub-Saharan Africa, including programs to educate farmers, because poor post-harvest handling and storage loss leads to a 10% loss of production.
  • Knowledge Transfer between MIT (USA), EPFL (CH) and Delft (NL), three science-based universities interested in innovative solutions to real-life problems. All knowledge shared will be protected by an agreement regarding Intellectual Property Rights, and the Erasmus program will be used as the framework for the exchange. In another program, knowledge could be shared on modern public transportation (from NL), space travel (from NASA in the USA) and nuclear research (from CERN in CH).
  • Climate Change to be firstly managed by increasing the use of renewable energy in the three countries mentioned above for transportation – Swiss Solar Impulse will work with Boeing (USA) and Fokker (NL) on solar-powered airplanes, and trains/buses will be promoted in the countries; secondly, by the introduction of Carbon Capture and Storage technology, developed in CH to collect CO2 emissions before they are released into the air and to re-use the stored CO2. In addition, society will be made climate-proof by being prepared for the harmful effects of climate change, e.g. flood protection.

The countries participating in the afternoon conference simulation were Chad, France and Canada. The task forces agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to achieve four objectives: firstly, Canada and France to channel more humanitarian aid to Chad to help feed and house the 300,000 refugees from Sudan, as well as to fight the outbreak of hepatitis E in the country. Secondly, ease visa requirements from Chad to France and Canada in order to improve work opportunities for Chadian workers – the three countries share the French language. Thirdly, France to build training bases for the Foreign Legion in Chad, which will create jobs and provide excellent training conditions for the Foreign Legion. Lastly, Chad to receive military support from France – a military school – and Canada – military equipment – in order to improve security in the region where there are numerous conflicts.
  • Knowledge Transfer to firstly raise the literacy rate in Chad from 40% today to 80% by 2030, with a program to recruit, prepare and retain teachers led by France and Canada; at the moment there are only 2 teachers per 1000 residents. Secondly, to extend the current exchange program for University of Chad students and French universities, running since 1971, to include Canadian universities. Thirdly, to install 100 MW of solar energy production by 2030 in addition to the 60 MW planned for 2020, because a good return on investment can be anticipated.
  • Climate Change agrees three objectives to deal with the serious desertification in the country and the drying up of Lake Chad, which some estimates claim has lost 95% of its water, all of which has raised tensions between the three countries making use of water from it. Firstly, to reverse the desertification, plant two million trees in addition to the 1.5 million planted by the UNHCR and use the French charity Friends of the Earth to clear away the silt in water channels. Secondly, use the Canadian charity Wateraid to improve access to clean drinking water and reduce waterborne diseases. Thirdly, to use the French charity Action Against Hunger to improve irrigation systems in the area.

The objectives and policies are marked by being linked to specific and concrete facts about the countries as well as to existing organizations and programs. Thus, the results of the simulation present an inspiring vision of what could be done for our collective future, while being practicable and realistic.


Benjamin Wall, Professor


My way into a Fortune 500 company

After finalizing a Bachelor in International Business and Management in 2016, my goal was to pursue a Master in Finance. But where? After extensive research, I chose Business School Lausanne, as this was one of the only establishments in Europe that offered a Master in International and Sustainable Finance. I was not very sure what Sustainable Finance meant, but after some digging I noticed a growing interest in it. This was the perfect opportunity to differentiate myself from regular Finance Masters. In addition, Switzerland has a very good reputation for education. The combination of these two factors led me to move to Switzerland.

The one-and-a-half-year program is divided into six periods. The first four periods are made up of courses in which I learned the specifics of International and Sustainable Finance. The best part of BSL are the professors: each of them is an expert in their respective area and they have a long history of practicing. Some professors even conduct their own business while teaching part-time at BSL. The expertise they offer in Econometrics, Statistics, Financial Markets, Corporate Finance, and more is incredible. In addition, as the curriculum matches a big part of the CFA exam, I used this knowledge to take the exam.

We had a lot of options about what to learn/develop during the last two periods. These options included: an applied business project, a case study, a master thesis, or a nanodegree for data analysis. I decided upon the nanodegree, thinking it would bring the biggest added value. Prior to the course, I did not have any programming experience, which made the program challenging at the beginning. However, the professor really took time to explain everything step-by-step in order for me to get the best out of the course. During this time, I learned essential programming languages like Python, R, and SQL and applied new programs such as Jupyter Notebook and Tableau.

How did this help me in landing a position in a Fortune 500 company? My new role requires the possession of a Master degree in finance and the understanding of programming. As previously described, my learnings at BSL resulted in a combination of business, finance, and programming knowledge – all very valuable in the current business world. Finance has become digital, but most programmers do not understand business and most business people do not understand programming. BSL gave me a chance to combine these elements, which eventually led me to find a job before my final exams. I can highly recommend students to enroll to the Data Analyst program at BSL as the world is becoming more digital and knowledge not only adds value to your CV, but to oneself too.


René Schoemaker, Master’s Student in International and Sustainable Finance

The Goal – Our climb up Kilimanjaro

To climb a mountain one does not simply start walking up its side. As with any other challenges in life, preparation is key. Mountains do not move, they do not give way nor offer a helping hand. For some, mountains have no interest other than the visual beauty they provide. For others however, mountains are a holy grail, a driving force that imbues these individuals with a sense of adventure. Mountains entice us to reach out of our comfort zones, they inspire us to escape the human world and embrace an entirely alien environment that is their abode. Disconnected from the human world we, as individuals, are able to root ourselves in our own consciousness and expand our understanding of personal actions and thoughts. Through this understanding we are able to connect to the world in a much more primal fashion.

This connection shapes the lifestyle that you aspire to for the rest of your life. This lifestyle revolves around a simple, yet effective plan: one summit at a time. Each summit is a stepping stone to the next, a gateway that has opened in your awareness. Where does this all lead, you might ask? Well, of course there is the goal. The goal is up to you to define, but that goal will impel you higher and higher and higher until you reach places in yourself and the outside world that you never thought possible.

You see, a summit is much more than just the top of a mountain. It is the sum of all of the steps taken to reach that point. By steps, I do not mean one foot in front of the other, but the planning, training and mental preparation that has been invested to get you as far as you have come. This combination of factors brings much more than just the joy of reaching the mountain top. These factors, when combined properly, help you to understand more about your body and aspects of yourself: the ones you excel in, and the ones in which you fall short. Climbing a mountain is physically and mentally strenuous, and while both aspects are imperative to reach the goal, physical training will entirely alter your experience.

We physically trained by climbing every mountain we possibly could within our difficulty level in the months leading up to Kilimanjaro, and were able to notice a tangible difference. Each training made the climb easier and easier, each training informed us on the limits of our body, what we could push and what had to be aware of. This physical training compiled itself in mental exercise. By dedicating ourselves to the goal, in this case Kili, we pushed further and harder than we ever had, always expecting excellence from ourselves.

I would like to digress for a moment to mention a fact that is often ignored: climbing is a very expensive sport. Therefore, in order to excel in climbing one must either attain enough affluence to be financially secure without having to work or be sponsored by organisations. While entirely different methods, these two paths have the same starting point: a dedication to mountains and a drive for the ultimate goal. For some of us, the cost of the next climb may even be the benchmark of what our income should be!

To contemplate a goal, one must first complete the prerequisites: firstly, the ability to fund the trip adequately. There is no cheap way in the mountains, there’s the safe way or no way. Once funding is secured, one must be physically fit. This does not mean going to the gym once a week to lift weights with friends; this is about training for your goal by practicing what you will be doing over and over until it is second nature to your muscles. Assuming you are physically in shape, you must ensure you hold the appropriate knowledge for your climb. Successful mountaineers do not pick a mountain at random, they do their research and know their routes. They expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Being prepared means knowing exactly what you’re going to do and where you’re going to go. But most of all, being prepared means knowing what is safe and what isn’t. Safety is paramount, and the hardest part of climbing a mountain is knowing when to give up. You may find yourself with the end literally in sight, yet, because it is unsafe, will need to turn around and go back where you came from. It can be very hard and the disappointment is immense. Along with safety come limits and boundaries. Boundaries can be pushed in a positive manner to help personal growth; limits on the other hand must be respected. Pushing yourself past your limits takes you from a place of safe development to a place of extreme hazard. You must always respect your limits and listen to your body.

Training isn’t just an excuse to explore the mountains: every time you climb, it is a progressive step towards your end goal. This preparation allows you to visualize yourself completing this goal. The more preparation you have, the more you’re able to visualise, and the more likely you are to complete your goal. But even with all the visualisation in the world, climbing a mountain takes longer than a boxing match; there is no “ding ding” done. To achieve your goal, whether it is a mountain summit, a business venture or personal development, “vumilia” is required. Vumilia, patience, is the driving factor hiding in the shadows: the undeveloped muscle that must be worked every day.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with a quote by the late Roger Payne, a truly brilliant mountaineer and wonderful human being, who took both Arshia and myself up our first summit together. Right before we set out, he told us: “the right pace is the one where you feel you will never achieve your goal. Only at this pace will you not only reach the goal of today, but also the goal of tomorrow.”

Pole Pole Vumilia Sana
“Slowly, slowly, with patience…”


Arshia Soltan, BBA Student

Eric Illick, BBA Student


Alumni Mentoring Program – What is it all about?

Within the context of employability, I often hear people talking about their mentors and how such figures brought more clarity into their lives, on top of leading them to positive and sustainable decisions for their careers. But… what is it that a mentor really does? Does s/he coach? Does s/he train? Why is this role so important and how can we measure the impact a mentor has on a graduating student? I have been asking myself these (and more) questions while setting up the first Alumni Mentoring Program for Business School Lausanne. The answers? I will leave that up to the participants of the program who will be giving us their feedback once the hours of interactions will be completed.

At this point, you may ask yourself how the mentoring actually works.

Simply, fifteen students in their last stage of studies (across BBAs, Masters and MBAs) have been assigned ten hours of mentoring time – virtually and when possible, face to face – with fifteen experienced Alumni. Connections were established considering different elements: years of experience, industry, programs, general fit. In terms of the actual content of their interactions, mentors and mentees will be discussing career plans, professional development and hopefully other employability-related topics, over a period of three to five months. The agenda will be open and students will be able to add points they wish to discuss on the fly.

The aim of this initiative is to help students transitioning to the next phase of their lives, providing them with a safe space where to learn how to interact and network with seasoned professionals, and make the most of their one-to-one conversations.

Nevertheless, students will not be the only ones benefitting from this initiative: mentoring gives clarity also to those who mentor, in this specific case our Alumni. As per their own unanimous admission, their objectives are to learn and take their personal development to a higher level, while giving back to BSL in a constructive way, and to learn more about the employees of the future.

I asked all 30 BSL Community participants to enjoy their time together and to make it as constructive as possible for all parties. The idea is to touch base at the end of the program to collect success stories and learnings, in order to continuously improve the program in an organic and sustainable way. Stay tuned, I will be back with feedback in a few months!

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.


Philip Morris International & Sustainable Change

Sustainability is a highly complex concept that, at times, might be hard to integrate in a business environment. However, even companies that were not built with a sustainable focus in mind can turn the leaf and make a real change. A great example illustrating sustainable change is Philip Morris International, which BSL’s Master in International Business students visited on 16th January 2018.

The morning started with warm greetings from Huub Savelkouls, Vice President of Social and Economic Affairs. After a short coffee break, Mr. Savelkouls took us through what the future might hold for PMI’s stakeholders in our first presentation: “Transformation and Sustainability within Philip Morris International”. An interesting fact he mentioned was that, while the world population is growing, the number of smokers remains constant. This represents a great opportunity for Philip Morris to reevaluate their strategic focus. Mr. Savelkouls also tackled common misconceptions, suggesting that contrary to what people think, the tobacco industry can have an important role in solving the smoking problem. This is one of the main points within PMI’ sustainability strategy – convincing people to switch to less harmful products, such as the newly released IQOS device.

The release of this “reduced risk product” allowed Philip Morris International to publish their first ever Sustainability Report in 2016. One of the striking figures in the report is the fact PMI now allocates approx. 70% of their R&D spending on the development of smoke-free products, even though this segment currently only represents 12% of their net revenues. Their overall emphasis on the development of technology-driven, smoke-free products is a great example of sustainability being at the core of a major company’s strategic pivot.

Numbers aside, most students that attended the visit at the Philip Morris International Headquarters in Lausanne were pleasantly surprised by the overall work environment and culture. The free of charge gym, with provided gym attires, and motorsport-themed “Paddock” smoking area were the two favorite workplace perks among the BSL Master students.

To conclude, we would like to thank the people that made this visit possible and PMI for sharing with us their long-term vision on sustainability – hoping it will allow them to leave their competition in a cloud of smoke.


Ana Maria Login – MIB Master in International Business, Spring 2017 Intake

Looking for more meaning and impact in your life and career? Here’s how to start…

Recently a professional was feeling very frustrated by the fact that they were good at starting new projects but was frustrated because they inevitably ran out of steam before finishing them. This realization was causing self confidence doubt.

Another individual was very unsure about how to transition into a new career and was stagnating, unable to make a decision about their future.

Another young executive had recently realized that the shiny corporate job with all its “advantages” did not correspond to their values and was searching for ways to bring more meaning into his endeavours.

Today many young and seasoned professionals are asking tough questions and looking for answers that will allow them to expand their potential. Very often when people get caught up in their lengthy daily fast paced routines they lose sight of what they started out wanting to achieve. It’s difficult to listen, let alone hear what our heart is longing for when the mind is keeping us too busy.

The good news is, you can. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

#1 Feel Your Feelings…

Get angry or frustrated or confused or scared or excited…. It’s natural and healthy. No need for the stiff upper lip. Accept and love every emotion to create space. Respect your feelings, and then move forward. They provide insights around what you are resisting or longing for.

#2 The Value of Values

Discovering what we value can be elusive especially under the influences of the “shoulds” from society and loved ones. It can help to ask yourself, what is most important to me? Security? Creativity? Freedom? Independence? Money?

#3 Say “Yes” to Everything

Saying “yes” to all opportunities is a powerful expression of self-confidence. It attracts more (and better) opportunities and choices—you can always change your mind. Don’t wait for the “perfect” opportunity to appear, moving forward creates momentum and attracts other new opportunities. The things you say yes to should feel good, and even better, a little scary and exciting. This is a great sign that you are stretching your comfort zone and growing towards your full potential.

#4 The Secret to Reinvention

Don’t know what to “change into?” That’s okay. The only way to find out is to experiment. Volunteer, job shadow, temp or take part-time work in a field you’ve always been curious about as a career. The best place to start is to follow whatever you’re drawn to—trust your instincts.

#5 The “Crafting Life and career for more purpose and impact” Program

For over a decade we’ve been helping people tap back into their true North. We have now created a 2-day course to allow you to step back in a safe environment and have the conversations that you may not dared to have until now. Conversations that may be circling inside your head but you’ve not been listening hard enough to.

A unique experiential learning journey created for you combining assessment tools, reflection, peer to peer collaboration and discovery is planned.

Give yourself this time, to discover where you truly want to have impact and craft the life and career you believe will enable you to fully express your potential. Let yourself be surprised and come away feeling inspired and excited about creating your future.

Take a look at the program taking place on 26 March and give us a shout if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. If you are curious to find out more and would like to meet the lead professors, follow our Facebook Live broadcast on 19 February at 12h30 CET. Can’t make it live? Visit our Facebook page to view the recording at your leisure.


Natalie Wilkins, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor


Merry Xmas and Happy New Year: Next steps and sustainable consumer behavior insights

This article is a first contribution of a trans-disciplinary applied research work in sustainable consumer behavior.

Did you enjoy the holidays? Were they as deeply satisfying as you hoped for? 

Holiday celebrations are over, another 2’366’000 Christmas trees have been sold in Austria alone, most of them are waiting to be recycled after a few short days of being admired. At the same time, most of these 2’366’000 buyers like to go for a walk in the forest – trees are essential for this natural experience!

At a superficial level, most people are aware of the big environmental issues, this awareness being perhaps limited to climate change, biodiversity loss (especially elephants, rhinos, pandas, polar bears, whales, bees, over-fishing), air pollution, deforestation, and plastic in the oceans. At the same superficial level, people care about major social issues, such as poverty, hunger, inequality, discrimination, violence, stress, insecurity. Furthermore, when asked, most people in most countries express “concern” for these issues.

MAK Wien, January 2018

So, let’s follow up with our consumer behavior experience: during the same holiday period, how does our tradition to offer presents square with our concern for the environment or other humans? Once it comes to deciding what present to offer a family member or close friend, consumers are willing to compromise, or even completely ignore the impact of their purchases. They end up with yet another half-toxic plastic toy for their child, a blouse made (by someone else’s child labor) in India, or the latest Nintendo gadget destined to soon become e-waste… isn’t this strange, as many expressed concern about the specific problem they are making worse by their own actions. Do we care at all? An excellent article about Xmas shopping, “The Gift of Death”, by George Monbiot, was published in the Guardian in 2012 – if anything, it’s even more relevant in 2018.

Beyond Christmas, in spite of all knowledge and expressed “concern”, most people behave in a massively self-destructive way most of the time, directly and personally contributing to the problem. Let’s look at this self-destructive, yet perfectly “normal” daily behavior: eating processed food based on industrial agriculture, traveling a lot, organizing one’s life around a car, following fashion in clothes or electronics, and simply participating in the consumer society all damage the environment (for example climate, biodiversity loss, deforestation, air-water-soil pollution), undermine healthy society (promoting discrimination, inequality, “lifestyle” diseases, poisoning from toxic waste, fueling conflicts and wars, displacing populations), and also destroy personal well-being (unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, short-term focus, lack of meaningful social connections, stress and uncertainty).

Thus, it is a matter of fact that human behavior has to be seen as something complex that cannot be split into parts to be analyzed separately (Kollmuss and Agyeman, 2010). No internal and external factors justify a deconstructive individual behavior. As of today, researchers from different fields like psychology, sociology and environmental sciences have not yet found answers to this gap between being conscious about the need to change in regard to sustainability, and the willingness of change in regard to consumer realities.

Reasonably assuming that most people in most countries cannot be completely crazy, we must also assume there are other, even more powerful, forces at work. This will be the initial focus of our research.

Of course, a significant and growing minority is indeed starting to change, in areas as varied as nutrition (vegans, vegetarians, locavores and many other flavors), consumerism and shopping, zero waste, transportation and many more.

What are your resolutions for 2018? After one week, do you still expect to achieve them?

New Year Resolutions are a tempting way of “turning the leaf”, repeatedly and unsuccessfully practiced by a sizable majority. Much research in psychology explains why, and offers suggestions on how to improve the success rate, here is a good example published just last week. But, as it happens, 55% of health-related resolutions and many of the remaining ones are examples of willpower trying to fight the system of normal daily behavior described above, the “normative expectation”, a shared belief about how to behave. Of course, the “system” usually wins. Making sustainability the default, the new normative expectation is clearly our challenge.

MAK Wien, January 2018

The authors were inspired by an applied art exhibition “Aesthetics of change”, in the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna, Austria, a presentation of a trans-disciplinary work, coming from universities around the world, with insights in regard to sustainability. Beside a “future room” showing how consumers can access knowledge by simply pronouncing keywords, or standing in front of a camera showing an art photo of themselves, or observing a robot perfectly drawing a Mars landscape (who is surprised by this anymore?), we see this gap between visitors understanding future solutions and their daily consumer behavior. But there is one single message: any member of any social-technical group can become a change agent in regard to sustainability.

This brings us to our applied research question: Why do people continue destroying their own environment instead of changing their way of consuming?

We hope you’ll follow us on this exciting journey, and wish you a great, sustainable 2018 !


Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Alexandra Broillet, BSL Professor


An ungoogleable experience

Walking from Zurich Central station to the Google offices I was wondering what was ahead of us. What I had in mind was a mix of flash-forwards, involving PlayStation corners, employees riding bicycles across offices and me sliding down to the canteen. I was curious and intrigued and so were the students: why was Google the best large-company workplace in Switzerland for three years in a row? The reasons started to materialize during the first few presentations.

BSL Students Visit Google Offices in Zurich, Switzerland on November 29, 2017

Four senior Googlers gave us a warm welcome and, through their stories, a real insight of what it takes to work at Google, as well as some clarity about the company culture. Also, we had the chance to learn how Google recruits and encourages employees to draw their own career paths within the organization. As their presentations and answers to our (many) questions were so interesting, I had to jot a few things down while listening. But let me go through the three key facts that, in my opinion, are particularly relevant to understand how the company operates.

At Google you need to be able to learn, as much as to re-learn. At the fast pace the company is cruising, employees need to constantly challenge themselves and embrace change pro-actively and fully. One of the speakers, long tenure with the company, spoke about his experience of getting in the company with minor responsibilities. Eight months after he was starting an exciting career, leading for several years projects in Tokyo and London – to mention just a couple – and keeping on challenging himself embracing change and exploring several areas of the business.

Google re-hires good employees. They let free their employees if they feel they want to take another path however if and where possible, they are welcome to re-join the company without going through an official interview process.

Google encourages you to make mistakes and work on personal projects. To employees, the company provides some physical spaces to develop special projects and own ideas to be developed outside their own competences, however within their working hours. There is also a small auditorium where employees present their ideas while other googlers listen to them, comfortably sitting on some vintage armchairs.

After the visit, I realized that Google is not only massage rooms, ping-pong tables, chill out areas and incredible services to employees. It is much more than that, and our experience was so enriching that is so hard to describe. What can I say, you need to see the place, you cannot just Google it.

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.