Executive Education

EDHEC Sustainable Impact Challenge – ESG Education in Action

Action learning at its best: the Sustainable Impact Challenge 2024 offered MBAs the opportunity to apply first-term learnings to real-life sustainability projects.

Reading time :
21 Feb 2024
sustainable impact ESG winners 2024

The EDHEC Global MBA's Sustainable Impact Challenge is a cornerstone of ESG education, integrating real-world challenges and fostering a deeper understanding of sustainability in future leaders.

Over five months, MBA students collaborate with various companies, tackling real-life sustainability issues. This collaboration is a key component of EDHEC's ESG-focused MBA curriculum, emphasising the school's dedication to cultivating leaders able and willing to positively influence the world. The programme's excellence in sustainability and ESG education has been consistently acknowledged in recent Financial Times and other rankings.

Discover the MBA Programme


The Challenge: A Hands-On Approach to ESG Education

Throughout the project, students worked in teams on unique challenges, culminating in the development of CSR and sustainability recommendations for participating companies. This process involved extensive research and a deep understanding of each company's industry and offerings.

Key learning outcomes of the Sustainable Impact Challenge include:  

  • Gaining insights into diverse business strategies for sustainability.
  • Identifying critical social and environmental challenges and needs in the business world.
  • Enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving skills through teamwork, essential for creating sustainable solutions.

EDHEC’s aim is to make an impact and the global MBA is for sure designed to do just that.


The sustainability Challenge and the sustainable focus of the programme was actually one of the reasons that I chose EDHEC’s Global MBA.


The sustainable impact challenge is a programme that we created at the global MBA in order to really inject sustainability into our programme. It's a six-month program where students at the beginning of the Academic Year take on real projects with companies’ real challenges that actual local and European companies are facing, and the students will work on those throughout the core course portion of their programme from September to February. And then we have a pitch contest where each team pitches back to their company sponsors their solutions to the sustainable challenges that the companies gave them earlier on in the school year. 


We had a sustainable impact challenge debriefing today.


We had 16 companies present to us. It was such an interesting period listening to everyone telling us about their projects and what they do and how they're just trying to sustainably lead their businesses.


One company that stood out for me was “Earth plus” I've always been into nature, it's something that has driven me. They have this programme for soil degradation and CO2 emission, and I think that's a great initiative to save this planet take a step somewhere.


Sustainability is important for “IBM”, the expectation of this cooperation is really to get some insight in this year in the case of the challenge we have proposed it's to Benchmark the level of sustainability of some of our clients using generative artificial intelligence.


I believe that MBA students are the leaders of tomorrow so basically when you teach them how the environmental, the social and governance issues affect companies and how climate change affect the value of a company as well this will set the guidelines to create more responsible companies in the future.


We only have one place to live on, which is the earth. It is quite important for us as human beings to ensure that the Earth is a legal place for us.


The environment is changing so there's just a massive amount, especially here in Europe, of sustainability regulation and changes around the European green new deal that are impacting companies every day and right now and I hope that they graduate with a sense of responsibility towards the companies they will join once they graduate and help multiply this effect of not being afraid to take on sustainable challenges, within their own companies, within their own countries, and within their own societies after their studies.

A win-win-win cooperation

Companies participate in the challenge to get fresh insights and potential solutions to business challenges related to CSR, as well as meeting talent in action, beyond a CV or an interview, over an extended period of time.

Corporate partners in the 2024 edition of the Sustainable Impact Challenge included start-ups as well as Fortune 500 companies:


Partners Sustainability Impact Challenge

Pascale Xelot, Director Global Industry Solution Center at IBM, explained that “Sustainability is important for IBM and it's important for the MBA, so it's a good fit to do something together. The expectation of this cooperation this year is to get fresh insights and perspectives into the level of sustainability of some of our clients.”

Over the five months, participants had the opportunity to deep dive into their respective subjects and “it was great to witness how they matured over that period and built something really interesting” said Vincent Simard, Local EMS Lead at SAP Labs. “They did excellent research, and I was really impressed with the precision of their projections, locally and globally. They had to come up with solutions that didn’t exist before, so they had to be creative and go beyond what they already knew. We are really proud of them!” he added.

“It really is a win-win-win operation. For our students, the companies, and the planet. Helping businesses make the case for sustainability initiatives is one of the great challenges of our time. By putting ESG education at the heart of our MBA programme, we are equipping future business leaders with the skills and the courage to make strategic decisions for a more sustainable future.” said GMBA programme director Sandra Richez.

Beyond skills and knowledge, the MBAs also bring their passion and enthusiasm for the subjects to the table: “The sustainability challenge and the ESG focus of the programme were actually the main reasons why I chose EDHEC’s Global MBA.” said Zach Cho, Global MBA cohort 2024.

The Final Presentation: Showcasing ESG Education in Action

On the final day, students presented their sustainability strategies and research findings in high-stakes, seven-minute pitches to peers, company representatives, and an expert jury composed of Prof. Philippe Véry, Professor of Strategy, Cécile Legrand, ESG Manager at EDHEC, Eléonore Gueit, Sustainable Engineering Advocate at Amadeus and Erika Nemeth, Sustainability Programme Leader at Schneider Electric. Several awards recognised the winning teams for Innovation, Research and Impact of their findings.

Audience engagement and remote participation of company representatives who couldn’t travel were facilitated by PiLab, EDHEC's hub for pedagogical innovation, using advanced visio-conferencing and voting technology to choose the audience award.

Today we celebrate the finals of the Sustainable Impact Challenge from the Global MBA at EDHEC.


We have 16 presentations of groups of students working with different companies from different industries, and also from different sizes, we have start-ups, we have large industries.


The social impact challenge is for us to get real world exposure and understand what the current companies are facing.


We get exposed to a diverse group of people like we were fortunate enough to interact with the top management at banks and understand how they function, what are the challenges they are facing and we were we could devise strategies for them. So it's really a lot of action learning, practical learning.


Each company comes with its own take on sustainability and the context of their industry and so sustainability could be from reducing carbon to observing fish in the ocean to actually gender equality diversity. So, all those topics around the 17 sustainable development goals defined by the United Nations.


SAP Labs, France, participated in this project with EDHEC so that we could bring the project that we have to build this renewable energy community and life. They really covered the contents that we presented to them. They really went precisely looking for information that were locally and also globally so that they could have the best view possible. So, we're really proud of them, we're proud of what they achieved and we're really proud that they can also help few different companies as well.


Something commits 2 years ago to lower its carbon footprint drastically -50% in intensity for products by 2030. So we need to explore all the solutions that could help us to minimise our carbon footprint even after 20-30. So we wanted to have some creativity work with the students. I enjoy a lot to work with them. They were really organised, they listened a lot, They have improved what they present us today during the six months and it was really interesting to have exchange with them.


What I learned about this project is actually first of all how to work with the team, because we are all from different backgrounds and we all have different ideas just to agree on one idea and try to work on the project out together. And second of all is, you know, trying to capture the main idea and trying to present it in 7 minutes, which is our golden time of course. And also what I love the most about this project is that we'd be able to work with real professionals where they take the problem very seriously.


I'm part of the jury. I am extremely impressed by the quality of what I've seen so far, of course, the presentation skills obviously, but also the nature of the work they did in such a limited period of time and how they managed to understand the specific challenge of the company that we're partnered with is really, really impressive.


It feels great to be a winner. It came as a surprise to our group, but we've worked really hard since the beginning of the programme. So it feels wonderful to be recognised for all that hard work and the research and awareness that we're bringing to the topic of women leadership and that the gender gap currently in France, but also on a global scale.


This is the only programme that I saw in the research that places so much emphasis on sustainability, and it gives a hands-on experience for us to experience what it is. And it's incredible; I think that we get to work with a real company for six months on something that is so dear to them. We were working with a bank, a big bank, actually one of the oldest banks in France, and we were working to integrate sustainability in their philosophy, in their business and to engage their shareholders and the employee community and to get them together to work towards a greener goal.

I'm going to take this experience with me for a very long time to come. This was one of the highlights of my MBA experience.

The Broader Context and Impact of the Sustainable Impact Challenge


The Global Sustainable Development Report (GDSR) 2019 highlights the urgent need for transformative actions at all societal levels for sustainability. The EDHEC Global MBA Sustainable Impact Challenge exemplifies the practical application of these principles, demonstrating that developing sustainable business practices is achievable but requires dedication and investment. This challenge not only enhances students' understanding of ESG issues but also prepares them to be change-makers in a world increasingly focused on sustainable practices. “EDHEC’s aim is to make an impact and the Global MBA is for sure designed to do just that.” concluded Zach, whose team won the innovation award for the inventive solutions proposed in their presentation.

Make an impact for a sustainable future!

Join our next cohort to get the leadership and ESG tools and knowledge you need to shape the future of business.


Download brochure


Other articles you may
be interested in

24.06.2024 - Executive Education
The Role of Action Learning in Executive Education
Esteemed professor and author of award-wining case studies, Karin Kollenz—…
19.06.2024 - Executive Education
Sustainable digital innovation: balancing progress and environmental awareness
A critical challenge for today’s global leaders has emerged as digital…
14.06.2024 - Executive Education
The Global MBA in Nice: A Thriving Hub for 21st Century Business
Choosing Nice for your MBA is a strategic decision that leverages the city's…