The old and former students of the great French schools are revolting against the system. After the powerful speeches of eight AgroParisTech graduates last May, it is the turn of a handful of alumni from HEC, one of the most prestigious business schools in France, to speak out for the ecological transition.
During the graduation ceremony for the 2020 and 2021 PhDs on 9 June, a former HEC student, Anne-Fleur Goll, delivered an original, engaged and powerful message about the economic world’s responsibility for biodiversity and climate change. All this for an audience of (former) students, their parents and teachers. “HEC opens many doors for us. It is now our responsibility to use these open doors to change the rules“said the current climate adviser at Deloitte, in an ovation and a widely shared speech, commented and praised since the broadcast on the YouTube channel of HEC transition, “an association that supports the HEC community, alumni, students and professors towards a sustainable and fair world”†
Talk to those in power
If this speech follows that of the young graduates of AgroParisTech, it is no coincidence. “He toured a lot in our circles”, Anne-Fleur Goll admits to POSITIVR. After two years of pandemic, the business school class of 2020 was also preparing to graduate when “the call to desert” of these young agricultural engineers made it to the media. Anne-Fleur Goll then proposed to the HEC Transition association, of which she is a member, to prepare “Something”†
“With five or six comrades, we started to construct a speech together”explains the consultant before specifying that he has previously informed the administration of this project.“The school was very accommodating and encouraging”, says Anne-Fleur Goll. Management’s only requirement? Let the speech be “embodied” and not collectively. Old and former students accept the agreement and work on the message they want to convey. Their goal: “Talking to our classmates who are already in office because they are people who have power, have a carbon footprint and have a responsibility”but also “end the generation gap in ecological transition”, explains Anne-Fleur Goll. Because in the audience are also teachers and parents of former students present. “These people are more likely to be in a position of power and to drive ecological transition initiatives internally. Although I want to emphasize that everyone can participate in their company.”
If the message of the speech extends far beyond their network, it doesn’t “just a bonus”, adds Adam Melki. Also a 2020 class alumnus of HEC, he is co-chair of the HEC Transition Association, climate and biodiversity strategy advisor at Quantis, and participated in writing his classmate’s speech.
Past Lovescomments on social networks or congratulations by email, the duo is excited about the echo obtained from some and some classmates: “I was inundated with positive feedback, much more than I expected”says Anne-Fleur Goll. “The most surprising thing to me is that so many people found themselves in the message† Some people came to me asking what they could do to change things in their company!”
Transforming HEC from within
The enthusiasm surrounding this event also gives a boost to the mission that the two alumni have given themselves through the HEC Transition association: to restructure the training courses of the business school. Because as Anne-Fleur Goll explains in her speech:
“After a few months of carefree campus life at HEC, I felt a deep sense of unease when I realized that the professions my studies led to were the main cause of this ecological collapse. (…) I learned marketing as well as the impact of overconsumption and greenwashing, I saw the same companies at the Careers Fair (event where recruiters and candidates meet, editor’s note.) and in the rankings of the biggest polluters. †
Anne-Fleur Goll, in her speech at the HEC graduation ceremony (June 9, 2022)
Several actions have already been taken to change the practices within the prestigious school, including the drafting of a White Paper on Biodiversity. “Contrary to what one might think, we have the full support of the President and General Manager of HEC Alumni (network of 68,000 graduates of HEC Paris training, nldr.) who want their mandate to move in this direction.”assures Adam Melki, for whom collaboration with the administration is essential to change things from within:
“Our attitude as young people is to ask, to demand, that we preserve our future. Now, if we have a school that supports us and needs people to rely on to launch projects, we’re there.”
Adam Melki, Co-Chairman of HEC Transition
Safeguarding the ecological transition
The engagement of the two alumni does not stop at the gates of their former school: “We are busy with our personal lives and we are making progress little by little”explains Anne-Fleur Goll. “Our job as a consultant enables us to really support companies in their transition process, but also to guarantee and check whether they are acting correctly”† A view shared by Adam Melki: “I work in one of the most stimulating professional environments, even if I’m not always sure of the direction the government or the companies I’m advising are going… But I see signs of hope: if we commit the resources, we will desirable escape doors, not just restrictive measures.”
Pending political decisions to match the ambitions of these young graduates as climate experts, Anne-Fleur Goll and Adam Melki remain on track, the latter explains: “In general, like many young people of our generation, we are quite eco-concerned. But we are fortunate to have access to these spheres of influence that have the power to weigh on the French and even European economic elites. We are part of a hyper-stimulating change, we have the ability to act for ourselves and for others, which is why we are also motivated to use HEC as a lever for transformation.”
Young people who participate have a bright future ahead of them. May the companies recruiting these profiles be sensitive to their expertise and claims.