Under pressure from HEC’s “rebels”, the Grande Ecole de Commerce takes an ambitious ecological turn

After the call to branch from the engineers of Agro Paris Tech, the ‘rebels’ of HEC made remarkable interventions during the graduation ceremony. They invite students, companies and teachers to take their position in the face of the ecological crisis. Already involved in the revision of all courses for the start of the 2023 academic year, students remain at the forefront of transformations.

HEC students keep the pressure high. “Which gear do you want to be?” asked student Anne-Fleur Goll at the graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 9, forcing the meeting of students, companies and professors to take their side in professional life for the next 40 years. “Business as usual, imagining climate change as one of the topics”Those who are aware of the problem but who “continue to live their lives, with a vague sense of guilt” † Or “those who go to the end of this necessary transition”

These messages from several students are a reminder that the school is undergoing a major reform, with all courses being revised one by one for application at the beginning of the 2023 school year. “There is a alignment of the hierarchy. The two associate decans and the new director, Eloïc Peyrache, want to put sustainability at the heart of the school’s programmes,” enthusiastic Julie Thines, director of bachelor’s and master’s studies. She points to the strong influence of student association esp’R. “Invited to executive committees, they present topics such as the Positive Impact Rating, a new way of evaluating schools with impact on society. They force us to question ourselves,” continues the program director. “We need activists. It’s up to us to turn their boldness into action.”

View lessons in detail

But changing education is not so easy. Professors must thoroughly overhaul their teaching without sacrificing scientific rigor. “You have to familiarize yourself with the existing literature, observe international developments, talk about it with colleagues…”, nuances the study director. In order to encourage their support, HEC is counting on a gradual acculturation by integrating environmental topics into all courses, from the start of the 2023 academic year. The Director of Studies is also working on the creation of a seminar entirely dedicated to teachers. Currently, the new “Climate and Entrepreneurship” certificate, consisting of 5 intensive weeks about planetary boundaries and the revenue models of the circular economy, intended for students at the end of their studies, has been made accessible to voluntary teachers.

To go faster, HEC has created new compulsory modules and electives. At the beginning of the course, a new compulsory 18-hour course “Planetary Challenges” presents the models of decay, the ADEME scenarios on sobriety and the concept of the regenerative company. Future-oriented topics that aim to nurture students’ reflections during their studies. To become aware of the consequences of climate change, all students attend a seminar in Chamonix, followed by discussions with renowned scientists: Gilles Bœuf on biodiversity, François Gemenne on the impact of the climate on migration and Philippe Bihouix on resource scarcity and the limits of technologies. Finally, the elective courses on sustainability will go from 5 in 2020 to a minimum of 10 at the start of the 2023 school year, out of a hundred available.

“A real evolution”

“There has been a real evolution” notes Adam Melki, president of HEC Transition, the alumni association committed to fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity. Notably, he initiated an open letter, signed by nearly 2,000 students and alumni in 2021, asking for a new director committed to the transition. However, it is still waiting for the start of the 2023 school year to decide whether the transformations match the announced ambitions.

Fanny Breuneval

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