The future of education does not matter. The present does.

Yesterday I have attended yet another presentation about the future of education, and in the last 5 years I have attended probably just about twenty similar presentations, watched thirty or forty videos and read perhaps a hundred articles and blogs. Fascinating at the beginning, incredibly boring and upsetting today. While everybody seem to have something clever to say about the future of education, I hear so little or nothing about the present of education. Isn’t it easy to dream, imagine, envision and talk about the future of something? Easy and cool at the same time. “Wow, you are a visionary!”, “Yes, this is what everybody should do!”, “Finally, somebody who say it clear!” “Yes, Yes and Yes!”. These are the comments I hear or read for presentations on the topic of the future of education. And normally the contents that are strongly applauded are things like:

  • Technology is here to stay
  • Robots will take over many jobs
  • The 4th industrial revolution has started
  • Most jobs available in 5 years do not exist today
  • We need to make computing languages mainstream learning
  • We need mindfulness and empathy
  • Problem solving abilities will be very important
  • Collaboration will be central
  • Ethics are now more important than ever
  • Students must develop sensitivity to the problems of the world
  • Empathy must be encouraged
  • Reflection practices must be taught
  • In order to teach systemic thinking we need cross-curriculum topics
  • Students should learn in a flexible way and decide when, where, what and how to learn

I am sure there is more than that and apologies for forgetting one of those great applauses I should remember. Who does not like or agree with the above? Trust me, if you want to collect a good audience and a few applauses, just deliver your next talk around those topics and you will see plenty of heads nodding. Ok, so what is this article that I am writing about? I am writing to all courageous change agents in the education landscape. Stop thinking about the future, we got it. Here is the challenge for you, the present. What are the risks you are called to take if you want a better (for the world) education? Are you ready to disappoint some students? Their parents? Your Dean? Your Faculty? Do you believe in the future of education to the point that you will implement it today? How will you do it?

At Business School Lausanne in Switzerland, we are experiencing the lowest student intake in our recent history, congratulations to us! At the same time we are experiencing the most incredible and exciting transformation into the future of education, and we are doing it now! Am I worried about the student intake year? No, I am not. This place is full of courageous change agents who believe in what they are doing and are strongly pulled by a powerful purpose: educating business leaders for the good of the world. So, next year our student numbers will be good again, promised. I know you want to know more so here some scattered bullet points on what we are doing to change the present of education:

  • We have made it clear and loud what type of education we stand for. We want sustainable business and responsible leaders. If you are not interested, there are plenty of other business schools that are less interested in this.
  • We think hierarchical management belongs to the past and, approaching an incredibly powerful human age (beside the robots), will welcome new forms of organizations. We believe in self-organization principles and since 2015 we use a system called Holacracy to govern our business school. This is has generated a profound change in the way we act, make decisions, innovate and live our values. All on the positive side. Our students are learning alongside with us.
  • We have launched a new Millennial BBA where our students will take a full year outside the classroom and build a portfolio of experiences aimed at learning more about themselves and the world they live in. They also design their 3-years-experience picking up among a large number of elective courses.
  • We operate as a multi-stakeholder hub and run Collaboratories to generate business solutions for the wicked problems of the world.
  • We run every 3 months a Gap Frame Week where all our students from all our programs work together alongside the Professors to prototype businesses that tackle the 24 major issues of the world in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • We have coding courses for our BBA program but they are not just coding courses, we run them through a NGO who provide such courses to refugees in Switzerland and we invite our students to merge their classes to create a truly multicultural and empathetic learning experience. Technology, business and empathy all in one room!
  • We also have a Master Degree in International Business with different specializations and capstone projects including:
    • Data analysis where students take a nanodegree from Udacity.
    • Aim2Flourish capstone project where students learn from great business stories that are changing the world in a positive way.
  • We have a MBA program where students can chose whether to do a thorough Management Report or go through a challenging 10 weeks experience in South Africa enrolled in the Emzingo program
  • We have a DAS and a DBA programs that train the most impactful change agents of the present to transform businesses in forces for good.
  • We work with great heroes and heroines Professors who today facilitate learning and moved away from the traditional teaching model. We embrace a pedagogical model that involve students in learning by exploring the I, We and All of Us dimensions.
  • We are publicly engaged in shaping business education and inspiring others to help business become an irresistible force for good.
  • We are ditching traditional economics and embracing the great work done by Kate Raworth and the Doughnut Economics

There is much more but, how is that to get started with the present of education?

The good news are that Business School Lausanne is not at all alone in building a great new present of education. There is a great network of inspired business schools coordinated by the UN PRME initiative. There is another great network of Thought Leaders coordinated by the GRLI. And there are many courageous new initiatives such as www.rita.global and OPEN among many others.

Ready to join the present of education? You are welcome and let me know how you have started!

The future of education does not matter. The present does.

Note: this article has been published by Carlo Giardinetti on Medium

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the E/MBA programs Business 

BSL – Reaching 30 and celebrating a new way of doing business

This year, BSL is 30.  Thirty is a good age for reflection: not too old to dwell overly on the past, but yet with a lot of learning under its belt upon which to build the future.  Because after all, BSL is both a learning institution and a future-thinking organization. BSL’s Aileen Ionescu-Somers reflects on new ways of doing business and the requisite leadership qualities for the future.

So many organizations, even the best minds out there, find it very difficult to predict the future. History is rife with poor predictions. The most glaring case in recent memory, though (apart from certain presidential elections!), was evidenced by a declaration by the IMF in 2007, just before the 2008 financial collapse, when the IMF declared:  “Overall risk to the (world economic) outlook seems less threatening than six months ago.” Not only did the IMF get it wrong. Most of the world’s multitude of economists, financiers, leaders and governments also did.

In some ways, this is a direct result of globalization. With it, the world became more complex and change accelerated. All the indicators show that the future will be even more unpredictable and uncertain than before. Yet, business does not like uncertainty. Uncertainty is associated with fear, anxiety and pessimism. Uncertainty can be the bearer of bad news. Stock markets are allergic to uncertainty. Business executives in global multinationals work so hard on cancelling out uncertainties that a senior executive told me once that “innovation does not come from big companies”, and that new ideas and “out of the box” innovations are often dead in global corporations before they are born.

Uncertainty breeds risk averse corporate cultures and risk mitigating instincts amongst managers. And the consequence is that we forget about the opportunities out there. Despite the feeling that there is a lot of bad news around, there are great things happening in the world. It is not fake news that life expectancy is still increasing. It is not fake news that income continues to go up for most of the world’s increasing population, and that illiteracy and poverty levels continue to go down.

These positive developments are actually huge opportunities for unleashing future potential for technological opportunity and development. And indeed, nowadays, much innovation is driven by technology. How accessible technology has become for ordinary citizens in my lifetime! The pace is set to increase exponentially over the course of our BSL student’s lifetimes. The future offers huge opportunities, giving future generations an unprecedented ability to do everything in new ways.

However, the down side is that with growing inequality, increasing numbers of now angry and vocal people feel left out. Indeed, they are either choosing not to participate – or are not empowered to participate – in building a better and more inclusive society. Another downside is the growing fragility of the complexity we have created in the world. When what happens in one place very rapidly affects everything else, this is what we call systemic risk.

System risks can convert into real life situations and then the system can start to break down; this is what we call systemic shock. By now, we have all either observed or experienced systemic shock first hand. We see it in financial crises, health risks such as ebola/pandemics, and in the major challenges related to migration in today’s world. Today, systemic risks and shocks are set to become much more virulent because of the interweaving of societies and sub-systems, re-enforced by technologies and accelerated by “just-in-time” management systems that push resilience and responsibility to its limits. As a result, the new realities we are living with are collapsing biodiversity, climate change, more pandemics, more financial crises…and ever more destructive systemic shocks.

Therefore, we need a new awareness of how to deal with these new realities. We need to understand how we can mobilize ourselves differently and come together as a community to manage systemic risks. We need to lessen the negative impacts of systemic shock and capture business opportunity for the greater good of society and celebrate new ways of doing business. How do we weave this complex tapestry together? How do we think about complex systems in entirely new ways? That is not only the challenge of scholars, but it is the challenge of all individuals engaged in thinking about the future. Business leaders are no exception.

Since business leaders are pragmatic, they need both frameworks and tools to guide their thinking. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example, present business with a framework for understanding and mitigating future systemic risk.  Our BSL students are more than familiar with the SDGs, and what they represent. They are also familiar with the Gap Frame research, the conceptual basis for BSL’s thought leadership. The Gap-Frame is a normative framework that translates the SGDs into relevant issues and indicators for business. This BSL/University of St. Gallen research provides companies with a tool that helps translate the SDGs into workable steps to manage systemic risks around globalization more effectively and to achieve specific targets and objectives.

So the conceptual research at BSL closely relates to the SDGs, and I hope I have made the point that the SDGs relate to both systemic risk and shock mitigation. But they also relate to business opportunities. The SDGs are an underlying theme for the BSL Gap Frame Innovation Week (GFW) which we ran 4 times in the 2016/17 academic year.  Indeed, some of our students and even our faculty are far from their comfort zones during those weeks. During the GFWs, our students choose a problematic global issue linked to the SDGs and develop a start-up or innovation initiative to contribute to dealing with the problem. The GFW presents our students with a small concentrated “piece of the action” on leadership learning for the future.

And what are the key facets of leadership learning for the future? There can be no doubt that professional business acumen and expertise are as important as they ever were, if not more. But a sense of purpose directed by an ethical compass and a developed sense of both local and global responsible citizenship are also key prerequisites. The latter leads to levels of global knowledge and understanding that are also essential to, I would say, the very survival of organizations of the future.

We have recognized at BSL that much leadership learning today is reasonably strong on developing hard business acumen and expertise, but focuses too little on  multiple other essential albeit “softer” aspects of leadership learning. With this in mind, we can ask ourselves: What will be one of the most important traits of a future leader?  I would say, “curiosity”. The global business leader of today has to have a high level of global knowledge and understanding. Without curiosity, we will not have an effective or indeed knowledgeable leader. The SDGs, the BSL Gap Frame research and the BSL Gap Frame Week, provide current and future business leaders with routes or paths to satisfy curiosity, take action on what is learnt, direct ethical compasses, glean global knowledge and understanding from local and global committed citizenship and – actually – to prepare our students for their future.

For example, during our last BSL GFW on governance issues, our activities brought deeper knowledge and recognition to our students that the world’s governance systems are fossilized and cannot begin to cope with the changes that are currently happening and that will happen in the future. To celebrate new ways of doing business for the future, we simply have to develop new ways of managing the planet collaboratively, using collective wisdom. As I have pointed out at the beginning of each GFW, truly amazing things can happen when individuals come together to change their future.

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

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

Are you interested in having your community of learners fully engaged?

Three dimensional learning — I, WE and ALL OF US, pedagogy for Sustainability and Responsibility.

Are you interested in having your community of learners fully engaged? A good start could be to spell out the purpose of the education you want to be part of.

For us at Business School Lausanne (BSL) the purpose of education is to support and foster responsible leadership and sustainable business. Responsibility and sustainability are in no way similar to the typical functional business and management education areas such as finance, marketing, human resources, strategy, operations or others. In fact they add a layer of learning, even more than a layer, you can think of it as part of the DNA of the learning. How can you learn about business and management if you want responsibility and sustainability to be in the DNA of the learning you design?

I think most of us have experienced some great learning in our life. If such learning has stayed with you for long and has somehow helped your transformation, evolution, development, it may well have been what I call a three dimensional learning. The three dimensions I am talking about are the I, WE and ALL OF US. What does this mean?

It means that the transformational learning can only happen when we discover how what we are learning is connected to the three dimensions:

The I — How is this relevant to me? What are my own struggles with the topic? What is my emotional connection to it? Do I have personal experiences?

The WE — What are the main stakeholders related to the topic? What is their perspective? What do they know and how do they use their knowledge? Are there competing or collaborating views, or both? How do I work with them so that there is not them but only we?

The ALL OF US — What is the systemic use and impact of the topic? What scenarios does the topic create? How does it impact our world in some or all four dimensions — planet, society, economy and governance?

Learners that are taken through the three dimensions develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic from the systemic level (ALL OF US) down to the personal relevance (I), through the application in the relevant communities (WE).

Learning through the I dimension ensures that the learner explores and uncovers the areas of personal relevance of the topic. Here some suggestions for learning designers/facilitators who want to ensure a good dive into the I space:

  • Using blocks of 3 or more hours of learning experience ensure the right variety of activities can take place including reflective spaces.
  • Being a role model in the “I” space and finding the balance with neutral facilitating energy
  • Organizing regular self-awareness gathering for Faculty and Students (breakfasts, lunches, apero’, walks, etc.)
  • Circle sharing of personal check-in into the session/lecture/course with questions like:” What do I expect from this session?” (1 minute per person)
  • Trio-walks where 1 person in the middle has 5 minutes to share his/her personal reflections around the topic and 2 persons on the side are listening and providing 2 minutes feedback each (total 10 minutes)
  • Pair talks around deep questions where strangers get to know something very meaningful about the other (15 mins each). Each will then present the other in front of the audience (up to 90 minutes)
  • Speed dating with a few personal questions with 1 minute per exchange (30 mins)
  • Journaling activities to support acknowledgment of learning and walk-aways (ongoing)
  • Storytelling where a person stands in front of a semi-circle and share an insightful personal story around the topic (10 minutes per story + 10 minutes Q&A)
  • Group brainstorming using post-it to gather what each individual expect to learn and then cluster learning macro-areas
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Learning through the WE dimension ensures that the learner understand the complexity of the topic by exploring the different interest and perspective of the multiple stakeholders relevant to the topic. The learner also understand the optimal ways to interact in the community. Here some suggestions:

  • Role play where each group of three learners must impersonate the role of one different stakeholder. 1 hour is dedicated to researching key information to understand the crucial points of this stakeholder perspective. The facilitator uses the following hour to host and moderate a debate around key targeted questions among the stakeholders. Finally an additional hour is dedicated to reflection activities and harvesting the complexity of the topic. (3 hours)
  • World cafe with different tables for different stakeholder perspective and teams rotating to ensure maximum contribution and learning from the different perspectives
  • Running Collaboratory dialogues inviting different representatives from all the various stakeholders
  • Certainly this is the space where business is learnt from a customer perspective, service provider, product manufacturer and so on. Most of more “traditional” learning happens in this space
  • Business simulation, gamification, etc.
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Learning through the ALL OF US dimension ensures the learner can see the systemic dynamics that the topic triggers. Dimensions like planet, society, economy and governance are explored in their interconnections and relevance to the topic. Typical activities that a facilitator can run include:

  • Watching documentaries that beautifully show the complexity and interconnections of our world
  • Working with interactive scenario simulations
  • Connecting via Skype or other platforms with other learners from very different areas of the world where the topic is experienced in radically different ways and exchange experiences in forms of reciproc questions
  • Using Issue Centered Learning where the starting topic is always a major issue of the world that can be picked for instance on www.gapframe.org a very useful, tool we have developed at BSL. Learners are then invited to explore their personal connection with the issue. Business is then looked at as being part of the solution and/or part of the problem. Functions of business and management are then identified as instrumental to drive the shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. Business is then understood and appreciated for what it is, an incredible generator of solutions and — unfortunately too often, problems
  • MANY OTHERS!!!

Clearly all the above introduced dimensions and activities can be complemented with other forms of active and passive learning. Expert views and lectures can and should still happen but should be well integrated in the three dimensions and serve the broader purpose of each dimension. When designing learning spaces you can start thinking of different roles that should be present in the space. For instance:

  • The Expert. These can be faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, citizens, students that have a deep expertise relevant to the topic.
  • The Facilitator. These are skilled facilitators who can ensure learning continue to evolve from activity to activity in the best possible self-organized way. Facilitators refrain from interfering with opinions and expertise, it is not their role.
  • The Coach. Learning happens so differently within all of us and often encounters any sort of barriers on its way. Coaches can be peer learners that simply have earned some skills to support others in their individual learning journeys. Coaching is about asking the right questions in these cases and also offering a listening partner.
  • The Participant. You can think of this category as the one closer to the typical student. Yet, there is no way a participant would be engaged in passive learning. Learning is participative and contribution is expected. The great opportunity is that participant can switch to coach, to facilitator or to expert at any given opportune time.

Hey, how are you after reading this? Did it move something inside you? Do you also think it is time and it is possible to redesign modern learning spaces that can help us taking care of ourselves and our dear world? If you are curious to know more and join a vision for a new business and management education, go and visit www.50plus20.org.

Let me know what you think and I would love to engage in conversations around reinventing education together.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

Note: this article has been published by Carlo Giardinetti on Medium

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the E/MBA programs Business 

Responsible sourcing at Nestlé – BSL students learn first-hand about key elements of corporate sustainability

As all of us working in this field know, sustainability is highly complex, requiring an understanding of multiple disciplines, many of which rather technical. Additionally, there’s a big gap between theory and practice, especially when attempting to transform existing companies and systems that were not built with sustainability in mind.

In our case, after 5 classes of “Business Responsibility & Sustainability”, covering principles, natural and planetary boundaries, human dimensions, major programs like SDGs and MDGs, the role of businesses, stakeholder models and management, including role plays on how companies create conflict and how to resolve them – it was time to see how it all works in practice.

Early January, we were fortunate to be received by Dionys Forster (Sourcing specialist, department of corporate agriculture) and Diarmuid O’Connor (Global manager, agricultural raw materials) at the Nestlé HQ in Vevey.

Given the size and complexity of Nestlé (over 300k employees, 190 countries, thousand of brands and many more products), we had to focus, in the case of our visit on rural development and responsible sourcing of agricultural products, especially milk, cocoa, coffee. This of course means that many other topics with high sustainability relevance, such as processed food, added sugars, bottled water, palm oil, pesticides and many others, were not discussed during this visit.

What we saw and discussed was highly sophisticated, well designed and effectively implemented. Here are a few highlights:

  • Planetary boundaries and Terrestrial biodiversity were used to introduce the subject, similarly to how we started our own class two months ago.
  • Nestlé, with 1.7% world market share, is the biggest player in a highly distributed market, top 20 companies collectively accounting for only 9%. This means, to make a big difference, working with competitors is required.
  • Social media analysis reveals that people are concerned about food quality, climate change, packaging, animal welfare.
  • To make sourcing more responsible, Nestlé implemented Farmer Connect, directly sourcing from 760’000 farmers, ensuring almost total product traceability, offering training (400’000 farmers trained) and limiting price volatility (a major benefit for farmers, allowing them to better plan ahead).
  • A broad sustainable agriculture initiative (SAIN) aims to reduce waste and pollution, better use water, reduce greenhouse gases through technology dissemination, financial support for farmers, buying clubs, price stability, education, training, and advocacy.
  • RISE (Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation) is a questionnaire-based tool developed at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, rapidly identifying problem areas, allowing to better focus improvement efforts.
  • “Dairy for you” is an education program offering differentiated training for workers, specialists, managers, and graduates, by setting up a local institute or working with a local university.
  • At Nestlé Nutrition, baby food requires much lower limits of pesticide, lead, cadmium, mercury etc. residues – Nestlé applies the same (strictest) standards around the world, even in countries where not legally required.
  • In Ghana, to reach the majority of farmers who don’t read or write, a local theater play with characters representing good farmer / bad farmer is used to develop local community knowledge – and at the same time improve raw material quality and safety
  • A key issue in agriculture is succession – worldwide, the average farmer age is 60, in the US 65, in Japan 77; and specifically making farming attractive for the young generation. Nestlé has been working with many farmers for 2 or 3 generations, but the issue remains.

This reminds me of an excellent article published in the NYTimes “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers”, showing how the design of our food system, among many other issues, also makes farming unattractive for young generations.

Therefore we thank again Dionys Forster and Diarmuid O’Connor, not only for receiving us so well, but for doing so much to make sourcing more responsible.

Author: Sascha Nick, Associate Professor at BSL

Competencies that count: Where are Responsible Leadership and Sustainability proficiency listed in the job descriptions?

Recently, and through different announcements, a number of large global corporations have made public their intention to remove University Degree requirements from (some of) their job descriptions and requirements. They argue that the correlation between holding a degree and being good for certain jobs is weak and too many good candidates are discarded because of this wrong filter. They plan to use new and innovative online tests that will do a better filter job according to them.

I look at this with interest as I have never been convinced that current degrees, and business degrees in particular, are representative of the important skills our future leaders need (and by leaders I mean leader in whatever position they hold, not only senior management). Among the many important skills future and current leaders need are responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency. Or not?

dr-katrin-muff-at-recol_fixed

My feeling is that if you ask the question directly to a hiring manager, they will certainly answer yes. At the same time, have you ever seen these two competencies in any job description? I am trying hard but, unless I come across some very specific job related to sustainability, I have seen no trace of the demand for these two important competencies. I am embarrassed by this. At Business School Lausanne, we have made a clear commitment to facilitate learning around sustainability and responsible leadership all across our program and courses. We design innovative pedagogy around these crucial competencies as we believe that there is no way the world will progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals unless new practices are embedded within any single next decision that business people are required to make. What is the next ingredient you will source for your product? Will you ship it by train, track, plane, boat? Will you ask for a local production? How much money will you allocate budget for personal development of your team? Will you invest in a social venture? Will you close an eye on your current polluting factory? Will you ask for innovation toward sustainable practices? Will you engage with all relevant stakeholder when making impactful decisions? And the list can go on and on forever. Almost every single decision business people are asked to make, presents a choice to go for more or less responsible and sustainable solution. Do you want your employees to be conscious of that option? Do you want them to be fluent with the consequences wrong decisions can lead to (and clearly not only financial)? This is a call for every job seeker to add where they stand with their responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency on their CV. This is a call for all hiring manager to make sure they make it clear they demand such competencies.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the BBA, Masters and E/MBA programs Business 

“Don’t Learn to Do, But Learn in Doing”

I was recently asked to speak at the Impact Hub Zurich’s event on the future of education: trends and opportunities. I am no educationalist but I am educator, so I decided to speak on what I was comfortable with, my own experience in teaching that I have worked out through trial and error over the last 10 years. I cut my teeth teaching in Singapore to Executive Masters students who would come in the evening for 3 hours of lecturing after a full day at work. They were understandably tired and so I peppered my lectures with as many case study examples as I could in order to demonstrate the real-life applications of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, especially in a place and time when CSR and SD were still very much theoretical ideas and not a day to day reality.

And so to my current class of Masters students at BSL, I continue to try and make my lectures as relevant to real life as I can, knowing that business students need all the practical tools they can to be competitive when they head into the workplace.

This term I decided to use the theme of food and agriculture to discuss as many facets as possible of sustainability and business responsibility, and there is no shortage of material in this sector – from farming practices, (labour, pesticide use, GMOs, animal welfare), to processing (use of palm oil, high fructose corn syrup), transport (carbon footprint), marketing (obesity, fast food, veganism), to food distribution and scarcity.

To learn by doing, I asked my students to interview someone who had something, anything to do with the food sector and get their take on sustainability issues. It could be a restaurateur, it could be their uncle who likes cooking, a farmer, a winemaker, an eminent professor or their mate who likes eating…I look forwards to sharing some of these interviews with you which they have written up in blog form (of course, as the blog is another practical tool the students must master).

And how best for students to learn than to meet people who are “doing”, who can speak with confidence about their career paths and what it’s like to be at the coalface of an organisation. So we were privileged to have some time with Mr Diarmuid O’Connor (Global Agrimaterials Sourcing Manager at Nestlé Nutrition) who captivated us because he didn’t give us the blarney but told us what he did and why, and how sustainability made business sense and that he’d been working for over 20 years to support farmers in producing high quality materials for Nestlé.

I’m looking forwards to some more straight-talking guest speakers coming into the classroom over the coming weeks including Mme Isabelle Chevalley, conseillère nationale in the Swiss parliament who will speak to us about GMOs in Switzerland and Mr Sebastien Kulling who is working on a start-up in the food sector.

Prof. Marina CurranAuthor: Marina Martin Curran PhD,
Professor at BSL

How to negotiate for Ethics in a Crisis: The Greenpeace-Nestlé case

In March 2010 food-giant Nestlé had to learn the hard way, how to (not) react to a hostile NGO attack: Greenpeace had released a video that made the link between palm oil used in Nestlé’s Billion-Dollar-Brand KitKat and the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia that kills Orangutans.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/kitkat/

The video was shocking and went viral in no time. Nestlé’s first reaction was to prohibit Greenpeace to show the video on the internet. A bad move in the world of social media, because this even multiplied the interest in the video. This was probably even wanted by Greenpeace because consequently the campaign gained an unbelievable momentum: Internet users kept sharing the video and as a sign of solidarity even used the logo of the Greenpeace campaign (the KitKat brand logo modified into Killer) as their Facebook profile picture.

Of course, Nestlé did not actively kill orangutans, like the video suggested. The problem was created deep down in their supply chain. Palm oil is cultivated in South-East Asia and it is an ingredient of about 50% of all products that we buy on a daily basis: Shampoo, cookies, lipstick, ice-cream. It is virtually everywhere. It is cheap, it grows fast, it does not have a strong taste, it keeps chocolate solid at room temperature. One hectare of palm oil will give you six tons of oil. In comparison: one hectare of soy only generates a yield of one ton of oil. No wonder the world’s hunger for palm oil is ever increasing. Consequently, cultivators of palm oil actually do cut down rain forests in order to set up huge mono-cultural palm oil plantations, thereby destroying the habitat of orangutans. However, they also lift people out of poverty and build schools and hospitals. Palm oil and deforestation is a classical « wicked problem », i.e. it is complex, controversial, value driven, concerns many stakeholders and spans many domains (economic, social, political, legal, ethical). This is why such problems are very hard to solve.

In my class « Business Ethics and Negotiation » I confront my students with this case and then they need to figure out in a group work what had gone wrong in this case and develop a strategy for what Nestlé should do next. I ask them to imagine that they are the top-notch Ethics and CSR consultant and that they need to convince the Nestlé board.

This spring we had the great pleasure and privilege to actually receive the debriefing for the group work form the real-life world class CSR consultant who had helped Nestlé to cope with the KitKat crisis: Scott Poynton from The Forest Trust, a non-profit organization, that helps companies to improve their supply chains.

Guest-speaker Scott Poynton

Guest-speaker Scott Poynton

Scott is a hybrid between an activist and a consultant: He had realized that fighting deforestation and other sustainability disasters was more effective with companies than against them. Consequently, he became a “critical friend” to corporations in environmental trouble. Scott has helped some of the world’s leading companies to transform their supply chains for the better.

That made him the perfect mediator for Nestlé: He understood the problems multinationals have in keeping their supply chains out of trouble and he also is a trusted person at Greenpeace.

Scott shared with us that companies when being attacked by an NGO like Greenpeace often have trouble understanding the issues. This certainly was the case when Nestlé was attacked. The Nestlé top-management tried to explain to the Greenpeace spokesperson of the campaign on the phone that the company was doing a lot for the environment. Greenpeace campaigners know this kind of reaction and they usually react by saying: « They do not get it. They need more pain. » And they did get more pain, when Greenpeace campaigners dropped from the ceiling and unfolded banners during the Annual General Meeting.

This is why Scott’s first lesson for companies under NGO attack is to really understand what the issue is and what your responsibility is.

The Forest Trust helped Nestlé produce and implement « Responsible Sourcing Guidelines » with the objective to avoid sourcing palm oil that was linked to deforestation.

It turned out that many of my students’ good suggestions for change were too long-term to really help Nestlé out of the acute crises they faced: Reforestation, finding a substitute for palm oil are all good ideas, but they take too much time. Nestlé needed to get its valuable brand KitKat out of the negative headlines quickly and reach an agreement with Greenpeace that they would give them a break in the campaign.

In order to do this Scott’s second lesson is: Find common ground. This is easier said than done. The worlds and mind-sets of NGos and companies are often quite contrary. A company fighting to save the profits of very successful brands like KitKat notoriously have trouble seeing the ethical issue hidden somewhere in the product’s supply chain. At the same time, for NGO activists it is very hard to understand how you could not see it. This creates tensions. Then just throw in some pride and ego and the fact that in a corporation nobody wants to be blamed for these kinds of messes and you have an explosive mixture for a first negotiation meeting.

This is why, for Scott, one of the most important things (yes, this is lesson Nr. 3) in negotiating in heated situations is to start with the values of the persons involved. If you want to mediate between conflicting parties, you always need to genuinely believe that your negotiating partner is a reasonable, rational, and decent person. If you enter a sensitive negotiation already convinced that your counterpart is mean and evil, they will sense this instantly and the necessary basis of trust cannot even be started to be built.

Scott’s stories show very nicely that if you want to negotiate for issues around ethics and sustainability, you cannot use the standard “I win – you lose” approach to negotiation. In this approach, we only divide the cake and try to get the biggest piece of it. This does not work, when you are dealing with “wicked problems”. In these cases, concentrating on positions only leads to impasse, misunderstandings, blaming, and zero-sum games that nobody can win.

If you want to successfully negotiate conflicts around wicked problems, you need to concentrate on interests and try to create a larger cake for all parties involved. Nestlé was not interested in deforesting Indonesia and killing orangutans. They are interested in having a well functioning supply chain for good quality palm oil. In order to find out the interests of the other party, you have to stay open and not judge the other side. You have to ask the right questions to understand them, listen carefully and then you can find common ground.

Thank you, Scott, for bringing to life what my students have learned in theory and negotiation role plays in class in a way that they will remember every time they will eat a KitKat.

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoDr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

What do Sustainability, Inclusion and Organisational Transformation have to do with Leadership?

Hint:

BSL professors have taken a long hard look at leadership and sustainability and have a strong vision of what is needed to make transformative organizational change a real buzz and not just a string of jargon. We know it won’t be easy, it involves mindset, culture and habits. We know that even when all these important elements are taken into consideration the hurdle of willingness and the resilience to push through the discomfort of uncertainty in order to sustain the change, remains.

There are courageous leaders working throughout industry to make this happen and BSL is looking to bring a selection of these people together to dialogue, share insights and learn how we each are contributing to make this happen. May 10th 2016, we’ve invited 30 companies to bring their know-how to the table. BSL brings its own secret sauces; our grass roots expertise, millennials’ insights and a fervent desire to convene a conversation that honors those who are willing to create change.

If you are running a team, a department or company and would like to receive information on the outcomes or reserve a place at the table on a second courageous leadership conversations in June contact: Mary.Mayenfisch@bsl-lausanne.ch.

Author: Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning

“The black hand” of Chevron in Ecuador

Usually petroleum companies can be really harmful for the environment and sometimes can damage the landscape of the whole region where they work, causing future problems on the inhabitants of those regions and to their way of living. This is what happened in Ecuador with the former company TEXACO when they damaged the whole landscape of the zone of Lago Agrio in the province of Sucumbios, north-west of Ecuador. Today TEXACO belongs to the company CHEVRON, who is known as one of the least ethical companies globally, because they have been accused of tax evasion as well a number of environmental infractions in several countries around the world (Kiser).

How did all this happen?

In 1967 there was a discovery of petroleum under the soil of the Ecuadorian jungle. The government opened a bidding process for the extraction of the oil. One of the companies that got one of those contracts was Texaco. They were operating in Ecuador for around 28 years until 1992. That year Texaco stopped their activities in Ecuador and just left the country.

When they left the country, they also left behind them around 1000 open toxic waste pits with all the toxic wastes caused by their extraction activities. These pools full of harmful chemicals and from the extraction per se produced around eighteen billion gallons of toxic and highly saline “formation waters“. These toxicities began to flow into the rivers near the extraction site. This would not be that serious if these communities had potable water or a good system of water provision, but the contaminated water is the water that they consume and irrigate their crops with.

The polluted water caused diseases on the skin, the stomach, cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, dead livestock, sick fish, and the near-extinction of several tribes from the villagers of those small communities. Some of them got organized and suited the company TEXACO for all the damages that they had caused to the environment and to the people from that part of Ecuador. Since 1993, a group of Ecuadoreans had been pursuing an apparently fruitless legal struggle to hold Texaco responsible for environmental destruction in the region (Benali).

But what happened during the Lawsuit?

We arrived at the year 2001 and the big company TEXACO was acquired by the even bigger company CHEVRON. Everybody knows that when you acquire a company you also acquire the responsibilities and problems that the acquired company could have, for instance, a lawsuit against this company due to environmental damages in a country in South-America.

An Ecuadorian tribunal from the city of Lago Agrio decided in justice to put a fine of 9.5 billion dollars to Chevron for all the damages previously described. CHEVRON dismissed this decision saying that everything was already solved and that they have nothing to do with this issue, even saying that all was already remediated by TEXACO before.

“Chevron’s insistence that Texaco undertook and completed a “remediation” in Ecuador is a clear acknowledgement that Texaco is responsible for causing significant environmental damage. That said, the scientific evidence in the trial has made it increasingly clear that Texaco’s self-described “remediation” was nothing more than a choreographed fraud designed to evade any level of accountability for the company’s reckless use of sub-standard operational practices in the planet’s most delicate ecosystem” (AMAZONWATCH).

To avoid this lawsuit the company alleged that Ecuador was involved in a case of bribery due. They spied on the judges in Ecuador who were in charge of this case.

“Chevron invested tens of millions of dollars in its legal defense as well as counterattacks against the plaintiffs and Ecuadorean officials. It has long argued that a 1998 agreement Texaco signed with Ecuador after a $40 million cleanup absolves it of any liability in the case. The plaintiffs say the cleanup was a sham and didn’t exempt third-party claims” (CBS News).

The current government is running a Campaign called “La mano Sucia de Chevron” (The dirty hand of Chevron) to show the world how they had destroyed the Ecuadorian environment.

For more information you can always watch these videos:

The True Story of Chevron’s Ecuador Disaster

Chevron: The Real Human Story in Ecuador

Author: Mauricio Chavez, Master in International Business, 2015
Business School Lausanne

Fashion Revolutionaries: Vivienne Westwood

I wanted to find out more about the infamous fashion revolutionary Vivienne Westwood, I was able to interview Félicie Pythoud, an intern designer at Vivienne Westwood. Félicie explains that she mainly modifies and copies pattern.

Concerning her thoughts about the current situation of the fashion system and if she experiences the negative impact of the system inside the company, she comments[1]:

“I think today more and more people are aware about how terrible the situation is but not that many are really trying to change something.”

She says that, as a young designer, you have to be “sustainability-oriented” to be trendy, but the main actors are not ready to look at this reality. Unfortunately, as soon as money comes into play, the rest loses its importance. Some people are also afraid, because going against the system could be dangerous for their image and their career. She thinks that it is a lost battle in a way. Westwood makes a point of being an eco-friendly company.

To the question how Vivienne Westwood treats the production process and supply chains, she answers:

“What I can say is that most of the Westwood products are made in Italy and in England. But certain details where specific manufacturing processes are required are produced abroad.”

When asked about what they are doing to improve the fashion system, and what is their main focus:

“the most important is the sustainability.” Most of the materials used in the office and production are recycled or reused. The VW packages are recycled. Furthermore, she points out that at the beginning of the Westwood, the pattern-cutters found easy patterns to place on the fabric in order to save material. That is the reason why one of the most famous Westwood piece is the “square t-shirt” simply made up of two fabric squares! “

When asked if Félicie feels empowered by the company to drive change in the fashion system, she replies:

“No, but I think Westwood has important influence on the fashion world but acts as if it wasn’t aware of it. Vivienne herself is very politically engaged, however it is more about climate change and protecting animals than changes in the fashion system.”

These changes are complex and require collaborative solutions to transform old ways of doing business. Even Vivienne Westwood who claims to be sustainable, seems not to be really committed to sustainability in the fashion system and its supply chain. The Guardian newspaper: “a more sustainable supply chain is needed, but will only emerge when the breakdown in trust between suppliers and buyers is resolved”.

Author: Ayrton Peron de Castro, Master in International and Sustainable Finance, class of 2015-16

[1] These are Felicie’s opinions and do not reflect those of the company she works for.