Nespresso’s Sustainability Challenge: Education holds the key to building a sustainable future

Climate change, resource scarcity and labour are problems that are not going to be resolved in the short-term and there is a very real need to ensure both current and future business students understand the importance of sustainability for the future success of business. Nespresso's head of sustainability Jérôme Perez explains why...

It is no longer feasible for businesses to ignore the importance of sustainability. It has become integral to a company’s long-term growth, with the future success of any business heavily dependent on a sustainable economy.

Across all sectors, companies are becoming committed to finding innovative solutions to the challenges currently facing the world – there are countless examples of business organisations and academics coming together to tackle environmental and social issues.

Sustainability education is one area that Nespresso wants to take a step further. With a history of working with partners to develop sustainability solutions for its business, we recognises the importance of educating future business leaders about sustainability and the impact this can have to the long-term success of business.

Sustainability Challenge

This commitment has led to our company recently establishing the Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge. The global competition is targeted at MBA students and designed to provide real life, practical experience. The challenge, which is run in partnership with Latin American business school INCAE and the Intelligence Centre for Sustainable Markets (CIMS), attracted 70 business schools worldwide this year alone, demonstrating the enthusiasm from students for this type of learning.

During the challenge, the schools are given access to the intricacies of Nespresso’s own business model, including in-depth analysis of elements of the supply chain and processes, to allow them to develop applicable submissions. This is a high level of access to a company’s workings and reflects our commitment to delivering sustainable solutions in a meaningful way.

I believe it is important that companies and education institutions work together to ensure students are getting the right sustainability education. We must educate the leaders of tomorrow to ensure sustainability is embedded in the business community. We established the Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge to give us fresh insight and perspective on how future leaders approach sustainability, but to also give students experience of the sustainability challenges we face.

As a business, we are focused on ensuring we have a positive impact. However, we must also make sure that business leaders think with a sustainability mind-set.

Could this then be the key to creating a better understanding of sustainability? Could sustainable education be crucial in safeguarding our future?

The next generation

For a business to be truly sustainable, it is vital for future leaders to engage with these issues to ensure sustainability is at the heart of the way businesses think and perform. Educating future leaders will go a long way to help implement sustainable practice across business and as such, it is incredibly important business education programmes teach students both academic theories and practical applications for sustainability in business. 

We need to ensure the next generation of business leaders are equipped for the sustainability challenges they will face, and this can only be achieved by developing initiatives that bring business and education institutions together.

The business case for sustainability has never been stronger and there is no doubt that sustainability now impacts a company’s bottom line. Business education programmes must be designed to reflect this situation if we want to ensure sustainability is embedded in future business development.

Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge: 2014 results

On Friday, 13 June, students from the University of Michigan won this year’s MBA Challenge for their ‘1 for 1 campaign’ which included a series of creative ideas aiming at reducing and offsetting Nespresso’s carbon emissions.

Their strategy was devised around three main activities: –

1. Centralizing the wet milling process, reducing farms’ carbon emissions by 25% and increasing AAA coffee by 50%.

2. Planting indigenous trees at the coffee farms to provide more shade on 10% of the land.

3. A promise that for every Nespresso machine purchased, Nespresso will plant trees on one acre of farm land. 

The winning team said: “The past few months have been very busy and exciting and we have learned a lot from participating in this challenge. The opportunity to work around this real-life business case, tackling the glaring issue of greenhouse gases, and presenting for an expert panel of the world’s most renowned sustainability leaders from inside and outside Nespresso, has provided us with an invaluable experience. We can’t wait to put our strategy into practice.” 

The team will now travel to Costa Rica for a week to meet with coffee farmers and Nespresso partners on the ground to present their proposal for possible implementation.

Jérôme Perez is head of sustainability at Nestlé Nespresso.

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