Discover the initiatives that make this an outstanding year
Diversity has been central to the ethos of INSEAD since its foundation over 60 years ago. Established with the vision of offering an institution where Europeans could come together to share knowledge after the bloody conflict of World War II, the school has since gone on to develop into an institution with a truly global outlook. There are very few business schools which can count 40 different nationalities among their faculty, over 50 nationalities among its staff and boasts an alumni community living in 180 different countries.
Yet, despite INSEAD understanding the true value of diversity as a source of learning and enrichment, global events in the last few years have demonstrated that this belief is not universal and cannot be taken as a given. There is still work to be done and we must continue to play our part.
These efforts have been ongoing for a number of years, with the foundation of the Gender Initiative in 2017 as just one example of the concrete actions the school has taken, with a new Academic Director, Kaisa Snellman, appointed in 2022. In addition, this academic year saw a concerted push to address these issues more directly, accelerated by the hiring of Sharon Brooks as INSEAD’s first Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in January 2022.
Through these DEI initiatives and working with the different departments, the school has undergone a systematic review of our current practices and operations. Based on this process, we are now starting to consider how we can address any shortfalls in a number of ways, including knowledge creation and exchange, via partnerships with peer business schools and global institutions, and on a more practical level through the development of formal policies and guidelines in collaboration with other teams including Human Resources, Degree Programmes, and Executive Education.
The academic year also saw the publication of a Gender Equality Plan for INSEAD, which was approved by the Dean in March 2022 and is now available on the INSEAD DEI website. This was just one development implemented under EQUAL4EUROPE (E4E), a European Union Initiative, which INSEAD helped co-found back in January 2020. This project, co-sponsored by Professor Maria Guadalupe and Associate Professor Kaisa Snellman, sees us work with seven other European Business Schools and research organisations to develop and implement policies and practices to advance gender equality for business and management schools, as well as the social sciences throughout Europe.
June saw the creation of a Gender Equality and Diversity Officers Network in Europe, while the same month saw the Dean of Faculty Javier Gimeno, along with other senior faculty members and staff, attend the E4E consortium Workshop on Equality and Diversity Beyond Numbers: Structural, Organisational and Cultural Changes in Higher Academic Institutions, aimed at discussing solutions to gender inequality in business schools.
In another example of our willingness to partner with other institutions and organisations, INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov serves as a #HeforShe champion, as part of the UN Women’s HeForShe Alliance.
INSEAD was the first business school to join this global movement and made a number of public commitments to strive towards gender parity on our board, in our MBA and MIM programmes and through our faculty recruitment.
Such partnerships are important as they offer the opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices. This was the aim behind the Gender and the Future of Work forum, a collaboration between the Hoffmann Institute, INSEAD Gender Initiative, and the Cartier Women’s Initiative which took place at the 2022 ChangeNow Conference in Paris in May.
It wasn’t the only INSEAD programming that covered issues around gender equality and raised awareness among community members. Other notable events include the joint Africa Club, INSEAD Women in Business Club and OUTSEAD LGBTQ+ Allyship event in March, and the INSEAD Women in Business Conference – Beyond the Title, which was held in June.
Other more recent developments include the relaunch of the DEI pages on the INSEAD website. As well as giving more details of our current strategies, initiatives and partnerships it also now contains a library of rich media content, including videos and podcasts conducted with business leaders, DEI practitioners and notable INSEAD alumni.
INSEAD appreciates that there is still much more work to be done. While we welcome the gradual increase in female students in our MBA programme to an average of 37% in the MBA'22J and '22D cohorts, there’s still a way to go before we reach gender parity. In the same way, while it was incredibly positive that 50% of the nominees and three out of the four MBA’22J Teaching award winners were female professors, we must ensure that our hiring and training policies continue to allow us to move towards gender parity among our faculty.
The issues around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are clearly incredibly complex – as such, we can’t expect quick fixes and easy wins. Yet, we also cannot stop moving forward and constantly looking at better, fairer and more inclusive ways of working. That involves developing new policies, undertaking fresh research and identifying novel solutions to these issues. But most importantly, we need to ensure that we have a buy-in from our community, as well as an ongoing commitment from the leadership and other key stakeholders to work towards real and lasting change.
As a school, we must continue to build on our foundational values and we must double-down on our commitment to cultivate a community that pursues equity, exemplifies inclusion, and cherishes diversity in all its dimensions. By working together towards this goal, we can help ensure meaningful and lasting change for the better.
However, as The Business School for the World we must also put the bold leadership, innovative thinking and ethical decision-making that we teach our students into practice – we must also “Walk the Talk”.
Nowhere is our responsibility more keenly felt than in the context of the ongoing climate crisis. As our world grapples with the grim scenarios of global heating, radical action is required. Organisations and individuals must take quick and decisive steps to implement strategies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In 2021/2022, INSEAD committed to lead by example. Hence our pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our four locations by 67% (compared with 2019 levels) before 2035.
The four-step process leading up to the public pledge in February 2022 was rigorous, difficult and took nearly three years. We believe that it offers important lessons for others embarking on a similar journey.
First, we documented key activities at INSEAD and measured the emissions released by those activities. We engaged internal departments and specialist French consultancy, I Care, to help collect and analyse this data across our four sites in Fontainebleau, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and San Francisco.
In line with best practice, our activities were organised into three areas, or scopes, of carbonisation:
Throughout this step, we were reminded of the importance of relying on data – rather than intuition or perception. For instance, it would be easy to assume that our largest campus in Fontainebleau generates more emissions than other locations. In fact, Fontainebleau accounts for only 30% of emissions, while Singapore accounts for 60%. This is due to differences in climate (higher temperatures require more air conditioning) and energy options (most energy in Southeast Asia is gas-based).
When developing our climate pledge, we didn’t just apply rigour to our climate science. We also took a rigorous approach to our stakeholder engagement and business decision-making. That meant convening faculty, staff and experts from within and outside INSEAD to form two committees: a Steering Committee and a Faculty Advisory Committee. Our goal was to avoid internal or external pressures that might inadvertently lead to undesirable outcomes.
Once we understood where our carbon emissions were coming from, we started exploring which levers we could pull to reduce them. We brainstormed internally, as well as approaching several engineering companies and consultancies to get a comprehensive list of options. We then analysed the feasibility and potential benefit of those options, ranging from automation systems to solar installations and more.
For instance, while evaluating the feasibility of covering the entire Europe Campus in solar panels, we found that it would only generate about 10% of our total energy needs. We also wanted to avoid contributing to the future wave of “solar trash” when we dispose the solar panels at the end of their 15 to 20-year life cycle.
However, we determined that solar energy is an important option for the Singapore campus, which has less access to clean energy. As a result, we signed a three-year contract with FloEnergy, which operates a solar energy farm in Malaysia, to deliver 100% zerocarbon energy to the Singapore campus. At the time of signing the contract, the cost of solar energy was about 15% higher than carbon-based energy. However, by November 2022, it was only half the price. The impact of unexpected geopolitical events, while positive in this case, demonstrates the challenges of making accurate forecasts.
The transition to lower-carbon operations will have a tangible impact on GHG emissions but requires a number of behavioural changes. For example, optimising the scheduling of lectures can reduce the number of rooms used per day and lower energy needs for cooling.
After identifying the most feasible solutions, we determined how much it would cost to implement them to arrive at the most impactful and economically viable levers.
To that end, we worked with economists at INSEAD to assess the costs and benefits of our options. This revealed that, on the Europe Campus, investing in geothermal energy is a no-brainer. Spread over 15 years, drilling geothermal wells should have a negative cost and the largest potential for emissions reduction.
This option is especially viable because we found an existing study about the location of geothermal wells in Fontainebleau. We are now running tests to determine where we can locate the volume of water flow needed to run most of our heating and cooling in Fontainebleau using geothermal energy.
In the crucial final step, we shared and discussed our findings with a broader group of faculty and staff members. We explored the school’s future carbon reduction strategy, impact of potential solutions on our business model, implications for our brand and reputation and other issues such as the economic impact.
In the end, we presented two plans for consideration. Option one was based on compliance with France’s statutory requirements, new energy regulations in Abu Dhabi and expected legislation in Singapore.
It necessitated a reduction of our energy consumption in France by 40% by 2030. Option two was to exceed that baseline and align more closely with our commitment to be a “Force for Good”. For this, we need additional capital outlays to tap on geothermal energy, which would reduce our GHG emissions by 67% – and potentially up to 82% – on each of our campuses by 2035.
Option two received unanimous support from the various stakeholders and was approved by the Dean and the Board of INSEAD. Achieving this alignment and buy-in from different stakeholders across INSEAD was crucial to our process and we would like to thank everyone involved.
While option two addresses emissions resulting from our assets and the energy we purchase (scope 1 and scope 2), it does not impact emissions from our operations (scope 3), which account for the majority of INSEAD’s total emissions.
INSEAD is now following the same process outlined for scope 1 and 2 emissions to tackle scope 3 emissions, using a scientific approach that engages all INSEAD stakeholders. Our experience from scope 1 and 2 taught us the importance of every constituent at INSEAD agreeing to the course of action, as it will have implications on what we do, who we are and why we exist.
We know, for instance, that if we decide to restrict air travel, we must consider what that means for our core mission of bringing people and cultures together. If we decide to move our courses online, we must consider whether that detracts from our value proposition or dilutes the learning experience. In short, INSEAD needs to address the broader GHG emissions trade-offs within the reality of being a global business school.
INSEAD is not alone in facing these kinds of dilemmas. Every organisation must consider trade-offs when balancing its own needs with those of society and those of the environment. We hope that the process we went through can provide other organisations and leaders with a framework to address this pressing challenge. For a start, a rigorous analytical approach and broad stakeholder engagement are crucial to reaching a good solution.
Thanks must go to all those involved in this project, particularly those who served on the Steering Committee (2020-2022) and the Faculty Advisory Committee (2021-2022) which helped to oversee this process:
Andrew Shipilov, Professor of Strategy
Atalay Atasu, Professor of Technology and Operations Management
Attila Cselotei, Chief Operating Officer
Helen King, Design Lead
James Middleditch, Director of Operations and Campus Services
Kate Owens, Director of Financial Planning and Analysis
Katell Le Goulven, Executive Director of the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society