First-year students get involved in social and environmental impact activities right from the first day

This year, more than 1,400 new students from the Grande Ecole Program converged on the IÉSEG campuses in Lille and Paris-La Défense at the end of August for their back-to-school. They had the opportunity to discover their new school and meet the professors and administrative teams who will accompany throughout their studies.

While everything is organized to smoothly transition into the new academic year, this year, IÉSEG chose to innovate. True to its Vision: “empowering changemakers for a better society,” the School decided to immerse its new students in social and environmental impact activities right from their first days. The purpose of this immersion is to show them how they can concretely have a positive impact on the world around us, particularly through engagement (one of the School’s key values) within an association.

For this first edition, students assisted the Banque Alimentaire du Nord (a food bank in the North of France) and the Secours Populaire du Nord and Hauts-de-Seine, three associations for whom the back-to-school period is always very busy.

In Lille, several groups helped the volunteers of the Banque Alimentaire du Nord sort through what had been collected from large supermarkets in the Lille metropolitan area.

Others were welcomed by the Secours Populaire Français (a French charitable organization that focuses on combating poverty and providing assistance to those in need) at their location in Lomme, where the association offers second-hand items. Students thus participated in all stages of the logistics chain, from the donation reception platform to the sorting area and the sales space.

In Paris, students participated in a large collection of essential goods organized by the Secours Populaire Français des Hauts-de-Seine, in partnership with Auchan La Défense. On the three levels of the shopping mall, students manned stands with volunteers and approached customers at the entrance of the Auchan store to encourage them to contribute to the collection before collecting the donations as they left.

As for the environmental action, it was organized in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation Europe, (an environmental non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans), which launched the “Plastic Origins” project in 2021. This project aims to map plastic pollution in European rivers and provide useful data to combat this pollution. Indeed, 80% of plastic and microplastic pollution in the oceans comes from inland sources. Mapping plastic pollution in rivers is an effective way to act upstream and protect the oceans, from the source to the estuary.

Thanks to the “Plastic Origins” app, students scanned and collected all plastic waste found on the banks of the Deûle (near Lille) and the Seine (behind Nanterre) and contributed to enriching this European database to help protect the aquatic environment.

The result of these social and environmental impact actions is impressive. In total, IÉSEG students mapped and collected waste over more than 12 km along the Deûle (in Lille) and over more than 6 km of the Seine riverbanks in Nanterre. In La Défense, they collected waste over an area of 160 hectares (equivalent to 230 football fields). Finally, more than 3,500 products were collected from Auchan La Défense customers for the benefit of the Secours Populaire.

Involving our students in social, societal, and environmental impact actions from the very beginning is a concrete way to explain to them what it means, for us, to be a ‘changemaker.’ Taking action in the field, getting involved with local associations, is also an effective way to have an impact. Through these actions, we also wanted to show students that associative involvement is compatible with student life and even complementary.

Finally, we wanted to make them aware of the wealth of professions offered by the nonprofit sector and encourage them to consider them as potential employers. For example, Food Banks have significant needs in supply chain and logistics, their core business, and regularly recruit young graduates in these fields. The same goes for many associations, which are increasingly looking for experts in finance, communication, digital, etc.

By opening up their possibilities in terms of employability and recruitment, our students discover that they can project themselves differently into the professional world and that combining expertise and meaning at work is possible.

Sabah MBOUZID, Project Manager – Department of Social and Environmental Impact at IÉSEG

These social and environmental impact actions are an integral part of the welcome program put in place by IÉSEG for all first-year students of the Grande École Program and are consistent with all the actions implemented in terms of pedagogy and student experience. Thus, during their first weeks at the School, students also participate in “Diversity and Inclusion Workshops,” a “Climat Fresco,” and an online course (SPOC) entitled “Sexist and Sexual Violence: Understanding for Prevention,” specially created by IÉSEG to help students understand and prevent sexist and sexual violence.

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