One year after its merger, which brought BEM and Euromed Management together to form KEDGE Business School, the new group ranks amongst the top 30 European business schools. Their latest Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report, is their first integrated sustainability report as a merged business school, and explores the linkages between the organisation’s strategy, governance and financial performance, and the social, environmental and economic context within which it operates. Their report received a Recognition for Excellence in Reporting at the PRME Global Forum in June in New York City.
I spoke with Jean-Christophe Carteron, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, and Chloé Pigeon, Marketing & Communication Director at KEDGE, about their report and advice for others working on their SIPs.
Introduce your report, and the approach you took to putting it together.
C. Pigeon: Since signing the Global Compact in 2005, we started to produce COP reports (Communication on Progress, the equivalent of a SIP for PRME). By the time we engaged in PRME in 2008, we decided to start publishing our SIP as a sustainable development (SD) report. Fortunately, a consulting company (UTOPIE in Paris) offered to help us. Three years later, our Dean asked the CSR Department to expand our work and move towards an integrated report (SD report + activity report). The third edition of this report that just came out was put together by our two departments.
Is there a part of your report or the process that you are particularly proud of?
JC Carteron: To be frank, I love the indicators chapter at the end of the report—not because it shows that we are perfect, but because it shows that we are not! In the world of business schools, we too often boast about being perfect and we usually deny recognition of the success of our peers. In a previous edition of our report, I convinced my dean to incorporate in our SIP a double page on “our greatest mistakes” and another on the “best practices of our competitors.” Thanks to that initiative, which I hope to see again in our next version, we have gained credibility and today no one would venture to “traffic figures” to erase bad results. And I hope this will last…
How are you thinking and reporting about indicators and metrics?
JC: A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be part of the team from the two national associations of higher education in France (CGE for engineering schools and business schools and CPU for public universities), who built the first assessment tool for Higher Education Institutions. The “Green Plan” as it is called, measures a large number of criteria covering research, pedagogy, environmental management of the campus, social and territorial anchoring and governance. It was natural and easy to link the principles of PRME and the Green Plan criteria since they have worked very well for us.
As the Green Plan is de facto linked to the French context, we can recommend to have a look on the platform for sustainability in Higher Education. It brings together organisations which have created sustainability assessment tools designed to support universities and colleges around the world.
What have been some of your successes and challenges in relation to indicators?
CP: The first challenge is finding data. Before starting our report, there was a lot of data that we weren’t collecting regularly, or at all. It took us three years to have more reliable indicators. At this point our school merged (to create KEDGE BS) and after more than a year as a merged business school we are still lacking some of the data we need! The amazing thing though is that looking for this data forces us to work with all the different departments, to ask questions, and to start moving together in the same direction. In a sense, producing the SIP has helped facilitate our merger.
What advice do you have for other schools interested in an integrated report? Could any school do this?
JC: Here are some comments and suggestions based on what we’ve found useful:
1. Do not do a SIP (as integrated report or as a simpler version) simply because PRME requires it. Do it to help advance your own work.
2. The report provides a snapshot of all your actions. Reporting will help you to bring these different initiatives together, as they can often appear highly fragmented. This will highlight the successes of your teams and also allow you to see gaps and weaknesses that need to be worked on.
3. The more you produce the same kind of report as companies, the more you increase your credibility to build partnerships with companies.
4. Given the changes in accreditation criteria, such reports makes it easier during peer review by having required you to collect the info from year to year.
What plans do you have for your next report?
CP: We are hoping to create a report that brings together the PRME Principles, the French Green Plan, Global Reporting criteria (the standard used by many companies) as well as accreditation standards for EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA. We are also planning on doing a new series of stakeholder consultations in order to update to their expectations in terms of reporting. We currently, because of costs, only publish the report in English, which is an issue for French local government or small SMEs who do not master English. We are considering an online bilingual version. Finally we would like to involve students more. The largest student association on campus is focused on sustainability (Unis-Terre), so finding more projects that involve them or even co-writing the report with them would be a great improvement.
What are three initiatives that you are particularly proud of that you are working on at KEDGE that are mentioned in the report?
JC: Of course, the Sustainability Literacy Test we launched a little bit more than one and half year ago. Supported by the UN, this multiple choice questionnaire aims at testing knowledge on Sustainable Development Issues, and can be tailored to different regions. It has been taken by almost 30,000 students from 340 universities. This year will celebrate our tenth session of Model UN. Each year we have more than 300 students that participate. Last year our team came back with the Best Delegation award at the National Model UN event in New York. We are also very proud of our research in the area of CSR. We have a range of strong research collaborations with national businesses. More information can be found in our SIP.