Bastiaan van der Linden

Interview: Bastiaan van der Linden, EDHEC Business School

May 10, 2022

With conversations around climate change and environmental protection gaining  traction amongst policy makers and businesses, educational institutions across the globe are offering a variety of courses to meet the growing demand for sustainability driven jobs. EDHEC Business School with campuses in Lille, Nice, Paris, London and Singapore was ranked amongst Europe’s Top 10 business schools 2021 by the Financial Times. EDHEC’s Associate Professor Bastiaan van der Linden, Director of the MSc in Global and Sustainable Business, speaks to EducationWorld’s Dipta Joshi about the scope of EDHEC’s two specialised sustainability courses and the need for global perspectives while studying environmental protection. 

Q) What are the sustainability related challenges for organisations today?

A) It depends on the company and the industrial sector it operates in, but most organisations are grappling with the social and environmental impacts of their activities and how to change their production processes to reduce these impacts.

This is tricky because these social and environmental impacts are interdependent and you can’t reduce environmental impacts without affecting social impacts. For example, if you run a business in the agricultural sector and want to change your farming practices to reduce fertilisers, you must also think about the farmers you work with. How will changes in your corporate strategy change their lives? Will their revenue suffer?

People in countries with significant poverty must work to survive. Taking away their jobs without a replacement could lead to dire consequences. So, companies must address sustainability issues together, not separately, or they could do more harm than good.

Q) Are we doing enough in terms of the efforts being undertaken by industry to be net-zero and green?

A) We are not doing enough and we are all to blame for this failure: citizens, businesses, and governments. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has helped to clarify what our goals for sustainability should be. Reaching those goals will necessitate finding new ways to help nations work together.

We also need to agree on what methods to take to reach net-zero carbon emissions. For example, is spending a few dollars to plant trees the right way to combat the enormous carbon emissions involved with air travel? We can replace polluting kitchen stoves in Africa with cleaner ones but is that going to save our planet?

So, we can continue to take relatively small actions such as these, or we can work together to develop bigger and better plans of action. This will probably require more government regulations, but given the dire predictions made by scientists, quite a few businesses are moving ahead with their own policies and even asking government officials for more rules to guide future industrial and economic growth. This shows that people are waking up and realising the danger.

I also  believe that businesses still need to implement sustainable practices more globally as part of their operations. There must be climate-related strategies in marketing, human resources, supply chain management, etc. This is what I teach my students at EDHEC – to see the bigger picture of sustainability and not just sustainability related to production and manufacturing.

 Q) How and why is it important for educational institutions to teach sustainability and cover other related green issues?

A) Every business school is an actor in our global economy, and we must play our role in combating climate change. One of the ways we do this is through our students and the knowledge and experience we pass on to them. By helping them understand sustainability and why it’s essential, we can help them become more conscientious and effective business managers, which will positively affect the planet. If we give them the tools and the right mindset to combat climate change, they will be successful.

There is a lot of talk among educators about how schools can change teaching methods to better prepare students for the future. Teaching can’t just be about knowledge. Our students must also be competent and committed to working on sustainability solutions in their careers and private lives. This is the only way we can move society forward.

Q) What kind of courses does EDHEC offer in this field?

A) We have many courses that deal specifically with sustainability, but this topic comes up in almost every programme because it has been integrated into our school’s mission. Our goal is to make an impact, and our students also want to make an impact by working for a better tomorrow.

We also offer specialised sustainability programs. The MSc in Global & Sustainable Business gives students the tools they will need to manage sustainability in the corporate structure, from production to HR, to quality control. Some students become sustainability officers in the companies where they work. EDHEC’s MSc in Climate Change and Sustainable Finance prepares students to be at the forefront of green finance and investments.

Q) What kind of response has EDHEC witnessed from the student community in India in terms of sustainability courses and degrees?

A) We have a lot of Indian students who are interested in sustainability and sustainability-related fields. India has a strong history of businesses that give back to the community, so it isn’t surprising that so many Indian students see the value of social and environmental programmes.

I recently spoke with a group of Indian students in EDHEC’s Global MBA programme. They want to create a start-up to help Indian businesses to better align their investments in corporate social responsibility projects with their strategy and the expectations of their customers. Another Indian student I know is looking for ways to make his family’s trucking business more sustainable.

Q) Within the sustainability spectrum, which themes, according to you, will grab attention over the next decade?

A) I believe that biodiversity issues will become more critical in the coming years, as well as water use and management. The use of fertilizers and the impact of nitrogen on our environment is also a hot topic. We will also see carbon capturing and storage businesses start to boom. We will probably see more innovations in terms of transportation, such as smarter car-sharing models. The list goes on…

Posted in Campus, News
Current Issue
EducationWorld November 2023
ParentsWorld November 2023

School for me
WordPress Lightbox Plugin