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Sharing experiences: embarking upon and developing a sustainable approach

Partage d’expérience & conseils : initier et faire grandir une démarche sustainability
Publié le
14 Juin 2021

Jaclyn Rosebrook-CollignonAs Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) asserts its commitment to becoming a société à mission, Jaclyn Rosebrook-Collignon, Head of Sustainability and Global Responsibility at GEM, talks about the tools (and difficulties!) for creating a sustainable, community dynamic in response to societal and environmental issues.


GEM est lauréat des Trophées des Campus Responsables dans la catégorie Implication étudiante pour son modèle de Student Sustainability Empowerment Model qui repose sur l'écoute, la co-construction, la responsabilité et l'initiative. Key point: we need to describe the role of students in the environmental, societal and economic transition! The approach will be meaningful and sustainable by creating a real sense of commitment and involvement for the students in projects given by their institution. Integrating students into the heart of the transformation also means allowing them to adopt an active, constructive and responsible role by developing their skills with and for their school. Don't lose sight of the fact that the level of involvement and the continuance of student commitment remain a constant challenge to ensure the long-term viability of the projects initiated, and the transfer of skills/knowledge to a group of individuals with a naturally high turnover

GEM was winner of the French version of the Green Gown Awards (Trophées des Campus Responsables) for the Student Engagement category, for their model: Student Sustainability Empowerment Model which is based on listening, teamwork, responsibility and taking initiatives. In concrete terms, this means:

  • Co-managing the Sustainability Committee with active student participation in Work Groups
  • A real collaboration with student associations, formalized by agreements,
  • A space for coming together and supporting initiatives,
  • And especially a sense of team work to create, learn, and trust each other across all levels.

DIVERSIFYING actions: YES, but through a systemic approach

Working on teaching, research, campus management and partner relations, etc. Fighting against inequality, climate change, destruction of biodiversity, and more. Mixing and increasing the number of topics and ways to act does not necessarily hinder efficiency, but rather, it allows everyone to find their place and purpose for their actions, according to their awareness and abilities.
Diversifying our actions and knowing how to seize "bubbles of opportunity" by taking a step back, provided that we are organized, and come together in achieving a common goal.

The projects and actions of GEM's Sustainability Committee are structured into six working groups: Governance-Strategy-Commitment, Sustainable Mobility, Responsible Purchasing and Consumption, Education-Research, Diversity and Inclusion, and Territorial Anchoring.
The groups' fields of action are diverse but focused on the same mission, the same role, and geared towards the same priorities.

Internal AND external SHARING

Internally, the challenge is to know how to surround oneself with driving forces to structure a group of stakeholders to be able to take action.
External networks are key for resourcing, motivating, inspiring, and sharing experiences. Here, the value of the community and group initiatives take precedence over individualism. Removing a competitive spirit, developing a friendly and collaborative environment, and not being afraid to share failures as well as successes, are all essential for getting involved in these groups where transparency is key.
Internally, individual initiatives have been combined since 2009 within the Sustainability Committee, and permanent human resources have been allocated to support the approach with a Department of Sustainability, currently made up of two employees. 

At the same time, from the outset, we have worked alongside other institutions through our involvement in networks such as the CGE-CPU's DD/RS commission (1), CIRSES (2), Campus Responsables (3), PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) and, more recently, in our areas through new initiatives such as Agir Ensemble and Comité 21.

LIVING WITH inconsistencies, contradictions…and frustrations

Yes, you can talk about CSR even if you come back from a plane trip. Yes, you can play a part in sustainable development even if you sometimes have a craving for steak and French fries. Yes, you can participate in your institution's environmental transition projects even if you haven't read the library's entire section on climate change.
4 ways to ensure a truly open environment and avoid restricting the movement to a small circle of people:

  • Admit your own 'hypocritical' behavior and that of others without judging or feeling guilty: this avoids restricting the movement to a small circle of people and enables a real dynamic.
  • Own your imperfections whilst maintaining the integrity of a set vision by using a critical mindset in order to achieve an overall goal.
  • To achieve profound change, you will need to learn to deal with slowness despite the urgency of the situation.
  • Learn to be humble and accept that your individual impact is limited given the immense scale and size of tasks: it is impossible for one person to know or do everything.

At GEM, we do not impose restrictive conditions onto volunteers who wish to get involved and positively encourage change in behavior. We seek to provide opportunities to learn, train, and share good practice, notably through events and our internal networks, or through original learning experiences such as COSE ACTION which combines positive psychology and the environment.

PUTTING commitments at the heart of the strategy

Perhaps it is not as simple as this, but it is essential to have goals and the means to achieve them. The commitment to govern, which is precious and sometimes difficult to obtain, as well as the interdisciplinary involvement of the institution, are the most important means to turn intentions into actions and actually progress in a common direction. Ideally, they go hand in hand with the tools for advocacy, both in an internal and external setting.

Fueled by more than 15 years of commitment, both in an internal and external setting, the "For Society" position adopted by GEM as of 2015, and the communication of our Zero Waste goal in 2017, have paved the way for a true transformation. The environmental and societal commitments laid out in our Manifesto for a Sustainable Future guide our projects and actions as they are at the heart of our 2020-2025 strategy.

Just like everywhere else, at GEM, there is still a long way to go…

Today, we are going even further by being the first grande école to adopt the société à mission status.

  • TO TRAIN ALL students and ALL employees
  • TO RETHINK internationalization
  • TO RECOGNIZE and VALUE the work, skills and contributions of EVERYONE  

(1) The Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility commissions for the French Conference of Grandes Écoles and the French Conference of University Presidents
(2) A French association for the Integration of Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development in Higher Education
(3) A network of universities and colleges focusing on sustainable development

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