Young business executives becoming role models in driving more responsible leadership are discussed in this article
Recently, Sir David Attenborough was interviewed for his latest production, A Life on Our Planet, and he shared, “If there’s a fragment of hope left, we have a responsibility to act.”
In June 2020, a report was released by the UN Global Compact and Russell Reynolds entitled Leadership for the Decade of Action. 1 It studied the characteristics of sustainable business leaders. Interviewing 55 sustainability pioneers drawn from CEOs and board members, they concluded they could be categorised into three types: the born believers, the convinced, and the awoken. In my experience, an increasing number of executives are experiencing wake up calls with respect to the unsustainability of the linear—take, make, waste,—economy. As they become increasingly aware, they ask themselves “What can we do?”
I am inspired by the younger generation of leaders who are determined to act. Behind each person is a story of what drives them to make a difference.
Now studying for his EMBA, Amadeus Beaujolin shared what has influenced him to act to create a community to drive for a more sustainable world.
Said Beaujolin: “I grew up in a family of six with a physically handicapped brother who recently passed away. After a lifetime helping serve as his arms, legs, and voice, it felt as if part of my consciousness was gone. His existence changed my attitude toward the world around me; it inspired empathy and helped me to view the world from different perspectives. My time during the last 12 years in emerging Asian countries and my deep dives into their healthcare systems also altered my perceptions. I witnessed first-hand the consequences of unrestrained economic development on society and the environment. This experience also taught me about the positive social impact corporate organisations can have, and the true meaning of sustainability.”
Returning to Europe to enter the prestigious IMD EMBA program, Beaujolin’s wake-up call came during a class when he questioned whether the school could play a larger role in mitigating urgent systemic problems. He asked himself the questions, “Who can still pretend our way of life does not decimate ecosystems and exacerbate inequalities? Who can still go on with life as if it were “business as usual”?
Beaujolin’s desire to act led him to found the TOGETHER initiative in the belief that a good society should produce prosperity that is socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable and transparently governed. The members of TOGETHER, created for all alumni of the business school, feel the responsibility to act for a better society now. “It is our hope that IMD alumni will challenge what is and create what could be to unite and inspire professionals and institutions to spark innovation, promote responsible leadership, and put sustainability at the core of every business strategy,” he said.
Beaujolin continues to be inspired by his brother. “His name was Raphael. I live each day by his example of bravery and kindness, shining through despite his handicaps. He showed me that evolution toward a better world can only occur through collaboration.”
Someone he is collaborating with on TOGETHER is Laudie Jamous, an MBA student at IMD, president elect of the sustainability committee of the class of 2020. Born in Lebanon in 1989, she grew up in the aftermath of the civil war. Education was a priority for her parents and she remembers studying under candlelight as the electricity was often out. In 2006, as she was preparing to take a trip with her mother, she recalls bombs exploding at the nearby airport.
“Our windows were shattered and, for the first time in my life, I saw my father crawling to hide under our plastic dining table. That day was a defining one for me. I made the decision there and then that I wanted to travel and, through my education, help to rebuild my country,” Jamous shared.
With this purpose as her guiding star, she moved to Paris and pursued her studies in renewable energy and energy efficiency engineering because she felt this would enable her to contribute most to the future of Lebanon. Broadening her ambitions, she shared: “I hope that after my MBA I can help to enable free access of clean and renewable energy to developing countries and to make sure that no child will have to live under similar circumstances to those that I did when I was growing up.”
As business executives, we have enormous privilege compared to the vast majority of people in the world. The question we must ask ourselves is how can we use our privilege and our accompanying power to drive for the positive changes that our society and all species need to survive. The situation is urgent.
Facts prove, stories move. Ask yourself, “What did I do once I knew? What is my story?” Share it and reflect together on how you can contribute. And then commit to act, with others, now.
1 UN Global Compact and Russell Reynolds, Leadership For The Decade Of Action. Accessed via: https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1180347/Leadership_for_the_Decade_of_Action_2020.pdf
Affiliate Professor of Leadership & Organisational Change at IMD, and a former Olympic finalist, Susan is passionate about working with people to turn knowledge into behaviour.
She is co-author of three award-winning leadership books, Care to Dare, Choosing Change and the recently released Where the Wild Things Were, for people of all ages to raise awareness of biodiversity loss and the need to protect what we still can in our magical, more-than-human world.
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