With the “Sustainability of Business in Society” Chair IÉSEG supports the transition of companies towards more sustainable trajectories and models
Launched in 2022, the “Sustainability of Business in Society” Chair is the result of a partnership, created in 2019, between IÉSEG and the Foundation of the Catholic University of Lille (which is financing this project), to contribute to the reorientation of business models towards more sustainable and responsible trajectories that should ensure their long-term survival. Built around 4 main areas of work, the Chair aims to establish partnerships with companies and organizations at the local, regional, national and international levels in order to develop knowledge and tools to support companies and organizations in creating sustainable value and in implementing more responsible organizational processes and business models. B Lab France and Colombus Consulting are the first organizations to join the Chair as partners.
Developing the organizational capacities of sustainable and responsible companies
The “Sustainability of Business in Society” Chair is therefore characterized by a strong desire to cooperate closely with leading companies and organizations to work on three major dimensions: research, teaching and operational implementation in companies.
Research, first: the objective is to produce new conceptual models, new ways of thinking, to question and challenge current ways of thinking and doing, and to disseminate these research results and this new knowledge in the best international journals. To date, 5 professors* from IÉSEG are involved in the research work, and two doctoral students will soon join the Chair.
Secondly, the academic and pedagogical dimension: based on the results of research and innovative initiatives, the Chair aims to generate and inspire innovative teaching content that is in line with the reality of contemporary entrepreneurial and organizational challenges, in order to provide the best possible training for those involved in change and give them all the keys they need to know how to transform their future organizations and generate a positive impact on society, while taking into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions and consequences of their decisions.
Finally, operational implementation in companies: the Chair aims to develop practical management tools that can be directly used by companies to promote the creation of sustainable value and their societal impact.
In this respect, the “Sustainability of Business in Society” Chair fits perfectly with IÉSEG’s mission, which is to create knowledge that will enable the emergence of innovative leaders (research axis); to train inspiring, multicultural and ethical change managers (teaching axis); and finally to promote innovative solutions for and with responsible organizations (operational implementation axis).
4 areas of work to meet these challenges
The Chair has structured its work and activities around 4 main areas.
1°/ Sustainability and internal change agents
These are the best practices to be developed by individuals and teams involved in sustainable value creation initiatives. Indeed, in order to meet the new expectations of society and the social and environmental challenges we face, managers are becoming aware that they must rely on new strategies – and therefore new strategists.
Managers, teams and Sustainable Development (SD)/Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments must therefore move from a role of compliance guarantor to a role of support in the evolution of the strategy and business model of their organization. They must be able to convince management and become a full-fledged decision-making center for the company. It is on this dimension that Laure LELASSEUX, a post-doctoral researcher attached to the Chair, has been working since the launch of the project. The results of her research, anchored in practice, on the theme of the construction of the expertise of SD/CSR managers and their influence tactics should be published soon.
2°/ Skills, know-how and learning at different levels of the organization
This second area of work aims to ensure that the strategic dimension of sustainable value creation and its organizational and operational implications, as well as the transformation of businesses and business models, are understood and taken into account. Indeed, companies often lack the knowledge and skills necessary to develop policies and initiatives that must reconcile complex and sometimes contradictory economic, social and environmental logics. To succeed in this paradigm shift and integrate sustainability considerations into their strategy and organization, they must engage in constructive and structured learning processes over time, and evolve their knowledge and skill base. The Chair aims to help bring these processes to light.
The work of the Chair directly supports the development of new programs, courses and learning activities at IÉSEG, such as the launch of the Master in Management for Sustainability, the “People – Planet – Profit” project for all students in the Bachelor cycle of the Grande École program, and the construction of mandatory courses such as “Sustainability and Business” or “Change Management for Sustainability Strategies”. It should be noted that IÉSEG currently offers 19 mandatory ECTS credits on ethics and sustainable development and 47 electives addressing social and environmental issues in its Grande Ecole Program. Among these, the course “B-Leader: Towards Sustainable Transformation” is taught in association with B-Lab France, partner of the Chair.
3°/ Organizational structures and designs for inclusive governance
Innovative mechanisms for improving engagement with all stakeholders are little considered, poorly known and therefore often underused. However, it is essential to go beyond simple stakeholder advisory panels or ad hoc consultation processes to develop true inclusive governance. In this context, the third area of work of the Chair concerns practices and tools designed to integrate the company’s internal and external stakeholders into its decision-making processes in order to promote the creation of sustainable and shared value.
How can the objectives of sustainable value creation and the associated organizational changes be implemented internally? How to mobilize a team around these ambitions? How to integrate the stakeholders of an organization in a structured and relevant way to feed strategic decision-making and sustainable value creation? What organizational structures and tools should be put in place, in collaboration with the organization’s internal and external stakeholders? These are the theoretical and practical questions that the Chair aims to work on with its partners.
4°/ Processes and mechanisms for assessing and measuring sustainable and shared value
Finally, managing global, and therefore sustainable performance requires adequate and multidimensional tools for measuring value creation. It is essential to go beyond traditional mechanisms in order to provide relevant assistance to the company’s strategic decision-making and its evolution. Some companies are innovating in this area, but the conceptualization and implementation of such tools remains a major undertaking, and the Chair is positioning itself in both the research and operational implementation dimensions.
IÉSEG has gradually established itself as a key player in the field of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, in France and in Europe, with committed teams and leading international researchers. The development of the Chair’s work aims to support IÉSEG’s efforts and accelerate reflection on key contemporary issues of importance to managers and their organizations. Structured around clear axes, aiming at a positive and sustainable impact through the provision of conceptual and practical answers to central questions related to the implementation of policies and models of sustainable and shared value creation by committed companies, the Chair is open to companies and organizations interested in these questions to join this project, alongside existing partners such as B Lab France and Colombus Consulting.
In order to work together to develop knowledge, know-how and tools that promote the emergence of organizational capacities and solutions that support the commitment of companies to sustainable and responsible trajectories and models – which are more necessary than ever in order to respond to societal challenges and to (re)give meaning to the activities and ambitions of the 21st century company – the Sustainability of Business in Society Chair invites new partners to join it.
For more information, please contact François MAON (firstname.lastname@example.org), Professor of Strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility, and Head of the Management and Society Department at IÉSEG
* The 5 professors are : Lies BOUTEN (Professor of Accounting), Maria CASTILLO (Professor of Corporate Sustainability and Director of Social and Environmental Impact at IÉSEG), Myriam DEGRAVE (Professor of Corporate Sustainability), Frank DE BAKKER (Professor of Business and Society and Director of ICOR – IÉSEG Center for Organizational Responsibility) and François MAON (Professor of Strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility and Head of the ‘Management and Society’ Department)