We often focus in on the sustainability focused courses and initiatives that have been put in place for students studying at business schools. But what about the students? At a growing number of schools not only are the students themselves showing interest and championing projects but many are organising themselves into groups and committees with the aim of embedding sustainability into their own educational experience. I recently spoke with Juliette Lacroix and Maelle Lassus, students at TBS Business School in Toulouse, France, about how students there are driving sustainability on campus.
Why and how are students at Toulouse engaged in sustainability?
We have seen more and more students getting engaged over the past couple of years in France and all around the world. In Toulouse, ranked first for most student-oriented city in France, this is especially the case. In most schools in France there is a student association focused on sustainability development. In our school, the B3D (“Bureau Du Développement Durable”), the sustainable development student association, does a lot of actions to sensitize the students on campus. This includes, but is not limited to:
- “menu2foisbon”: a meal at the TBS’s cafeteria that increases awareness about food CO2 emissions,
- the “Semaine d’alternative aux pesticides” in partnership with ECOCERT: an event to educate school student about the topic of pesticides
- “ESPOIR”: a charity concert organized to raise funds for the Espoir association that helps women in difficult situation
- “les rendez-vous solidaires”: TBS students organize cultural activities for seniors and games activities with these same seniors in order to take people out of isolation and stimulate intergenerational links.
Students are also involved in a lot of projects with a long term impact such as sorting bins & green ashtrays. There is also a student responsible for CSR in each student association and all students are invited to attend TBS’s CSR committee.
What is ANEDD? How did it come about and what does it aim to do?
The ANEDD (“Assises Nationales Etudiantes du Développement Durable”) is a national event about sustainable development, which is organized by students and for students. This event happens every year and next year we will be celebrating the 15thedition! We have a whole range of events planned throughout the day. For example, last year we organized events on zero waste and sustainable finance with inspiring speakers. We handed out eco awards (for students, companies, associations and researchers) to promote innovative sustainability projects. There were stands and workshops around sustainability topics and we organized brainstorming sessions about topics such as zero waste, circular economy, social, agriculture and food. The goal of the day is to present to the students more sustainable alternatives to their traditional daily habits and give them the opportunity to meet, talk and become aware of what is at stake nowadays with regards to sustainability.
What have been some of the challenges in engaging students in sustainability topics?
On the campus, our main challenge is to make students aware of climate change and make them change their consumption habits. We believe that it is very important to educate tomorrow’s managers about these issues and challenges so that they will integrate this into both their personal and professional lives. In order to do this, we offer them more sustainable daily consumption alternatives. For example, we have a pop-up store with sustainable alternatives (reusable products such as flask, cups and dishes), baskets of local fruits and vegetables delivered every week, awareness about waste separation and a whole range of events.
What about successes?
Students are increasingly engaged and seek to implement positive impact actions on their own. They change both their habits on the campus and in their everyday life. One example is that more and more associations on campus are now using ecocups for their events. This is a big step for some associations such as the “BDE”, the association which organised the main party for TBS’s students, which usually uses over 4 000 disposable plastic cups per party!! In terms of a larger impact the ANEDD event brings together more than 100 French student groups focused on sustainability and resulted in the created of the REFEDD (French Students’ Sustainable Development Network)
The students have developed some fantastic partnerships around sustainability. How did this come about/what advice do they have for finding and developing these?
We have built strong relationships with plenty of organisations in Toulouse and all around France such as AlterEgo, Ecocert, Ethicable & Ecosia. Some of them want to come back every year! We have a range of partnerships with both small and big companies. This includes La Banque Postale, which aims to have 100% of its investments be socially responsible, and Ecosia, an alternative and eco-friendly search engine. A lot of our partners are school partners working on CSR topics. For example, ATR funds the school’s solidarity scholarship programme and promotes inclusion through the ANEDD.
The key to the success of the event is to involve partners in it. This is not just about money, this is about their engagement with the topic and how they are reinforcing the message of the ANEDD. Each partner is invited to be part of jury of competitions organized, organize a workshop about CSR topics in link with his organization. For example, Veolia organized a workshop about the water cycle, Ecocert about pesticides, La Banque Postale about responsible investments, ENEDIS about renewable energy and GRDF about methanization. For students, it’s a source of information and for the partners and students, it’s a place to share and possibly recruit new talent!
How do you measure impact of these project?
As part of the broader picture of sustainability at TBS, we measure the sustainability literacy of our students at the start and end of their program with the Sulitest. So the ANEDD is one of the projects that should positively contribute to their literacy on sustainability and CSR.
The ANEDD has a very positive impact on students and we get excellent feedback every year. We also measure the impact after the event with a survey: one for students, one for partners, one for external people and one for people involved in the event (for examples through workshops and presenters). Many consider the event as a real turning point in their life and as future managers. We also use these results to improve the event for next year.
Any advice to other schools looking to engage their students or for students at other schools looking to get more engaged?
We think that the best way to engage students is to make them become key actors of a project, so to ensure that they are actively involved (for example, in organizing the event). Every school needs to find the best way to engage their own students. Our biggest piece of advice is that staff must listen to its students and support / promote their projects.
For the ANEDD, we want to integrate the social dimension of sustainable development even more. We find that we often focus in on the environmental dimensions and, in a certain way, it is the environmental issues that cause the social issues. At TBS, there is a program about equality between women and men which is gaining momentum: the “EQUAL.ID”. So, we are looking to link this programme with the ANEDD. The next edition will be one and a half days instead of just one day and that extra time will be focused on the social aspect of sustainable development and in particular gender equity.