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Sustainability Strategy Project

  • Teacher(s):   C.Fischer   S.Aeschlimann  
  • Course given in: English
  • ECTS Credits: 6 credits
  • Schedule: Spring Semester 2020-2021, 4.0h. course (weekly average)
  •  sessions
  • site web du cours course website
  • Related programmes:
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    Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en management, Orientation Behaviour, Economics and Evolution

    Master of Science (MSc) in Management, Orientation Marketing
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After this course, students will be able to:

  1. 1- Define the key pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environment) and give concrete examples of their implications for individuals and businesses alike.

  1. 2- Explain the risks associated with the (still) dominant economical models and corporate governance; and point out some ways to address them through revised, purpose driven, business practices to deliver positive impact to the society.

  1. 3- Use the provided tools and frameworks to assess a company business model from a sustainability perspective.

  1. 4- Compare several useful methodologies to measure and track the sustainability of an organization’s activities with a focus on the B Lab created "B Impact Assessment" tool.

  1. 5- Apply the BIA methodology (Assess, Compare, Improve) through a practical consulting assignment with a real client.

  1. 6- Design a CSR strategy for a client that includes on the one hand a short assessment of the industry sector, the company’s business model and the consequences on its stakeholders; and on the other hand a set of specific recommendations paving the way to increase the (positive) impact that the organization can have.



"Capitalism. Time for a reset." This was the front page of the Financial Times on September 18th, 2019. In huge bold black on yellow fonts. What did the editor mean?

The liberal capitalist model has delivered peace, prosperity and technological progress for the past 50 years, dramatically reducing poverty and raising living standards throughout the world. But, in the decade since the global financial crisis, the model has come under strain, particularly the focus on maximizing profits and shareholder value."

"These principles of good business are necessary but not sufficient. The long-term health of free enterprise capitalism will depend on delivering profit with purpose. Companies will come to understand that this combination serves their self-interest as well as their customers and employees.”

What is the course about?

This course is exactly about this. Understanding the drastic changes in the environment in which businesses are now operating, the obsolescence of the “old economic models” and identify a blueprint for change. The best way to learn about it is to actually do it. Therefore, after a few classes meant to equip students with the required theoretical background, the course will shape into a consulting assignment with a real client willing to challenge its own business practices, assess them and hear from the students about ways they could improve them.

The course addresses the three pillars of sustainability in a colorful and dynamic manner, using the most recent research and data while analyzing some of the social movements and global initiatives that have emerged and blossomed over the last decade.

Students will have a clear view on the UN 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and some frameworks designed to help corporations around the world to review, assess and shape their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategy in a more meaningful manner.

Then, in groups of 5 to 6, they will get out and lead by themselves a full consulting engagement for a real client including client management, needs analysis, CSR strategy diagnosis, problem solving and recommendation drafting hand in hand with their client to maximize the impact of their work.

Course structure

The course consists of 3 parts:

  1. Part I – “The Foundation” (5 sessions). Four lively and interactive sessions full of content discovery and experience sharing followed by a kick-off meeting with the companies. The initial phase is meant to provide the students with the key concepts of sustainability, strategy and consulting with a clear focus on some assessment tools such as B Lab’s BIA (Business Impact Assessment).

  1. Part II – Diagnosis and Problem solving (4 sessions). Work will take place at the client’s premises. After a first encounter with the client (and in presence of one of the course instructors), students will run their engagement at their own pace. Their goal will be to analyze the existing CSR strategy of the company (or lack thereof) and prepare their diagnosis (based on one of the assessment tools) and sketch their initial analysis for the mid-term presentation (final session of Part II).

  1. Part III – Recommendations and implementation roadmap (5 sessions). During this final phase, students will pursue and develop their analysis, draw conclusions, and discuss their recommendations with the client. The core of their recommendation will be presented to the client (and their instructors) during a final presentation (final session of Part III) before delivering two final written reports: one for the client (ca. 15 pages) and one to the instructors (ca. 35 pages).

Note: After Part I, sessions are organized by groups. They are more like “coaching time” with the instructors and are meant to discuss progress, issues and provide some guidance when needed.

Some concepts covered in the course

  • Planet - Global warming, Resource depletion, Ecosystem degradation

  • People – Inclusion, Resilience

  • Profit - Circular economy, Zero waste production, Carbon neutrality


The subject of sustainability is a broad one. That's what makes it exciting. It encompasses environmental, demographic, economic, political and technological concepts. But some of the reports provide a good basis for understanding the advisory mandate that students will be working on.

Here is a non-exhaustive list:


Students attending this course shall have a solid knowledge of (corporate) strategy.

This course is only open to students in the SOL orientation (part of the 4 compulsory elective courses in the SOL orientation) and the " Marketing and BEE " orientations.

For pedagogical reasons, the course is limited to 30 participants.


Final considerations (for students and participating companies)


This is a demanding course. It is designed for students who are very motivated to expand their knowledge and skills in corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. We are looking for people who want to make a difference, young women and men who are ready to go the extra mile and challenge their certainties and views of the world. If you are ready to live up to this challenge, we promise an extraordinary learning journey that will bring you so much more than 6 credits...

Therefore, the course is limited to 30 participants. Students will be selected upon a short one A4 pager describing their motivation by answering 3 questions:

  1. Why did you select this course?

  2. What is, in your eyes, THE most important challenge currently facing companies in your home country?

  3. Why should we pick you?

Application deadline: Friday 5 February 2021

Submission must be sent to:

For the students selected, any drop out will have to be notified to by the 3rd of March (11:59 pm) at the latest.


What commitment is required from your company?

Some management time. One spoke person shall attend the kick-off meeting (early March) to introduce your company to the students. Then, throughout the project duration, a contact person shall serve as a single point of contact to gather students’ needs and help them schedule their work (mainly interviews) with your management team.

Ideally students shall meet 2-3 times with your company representatives during the project, firstly to define the scope and your objectives with the assignment, secondly to provide information so they can fill in the B Corp Impact Assessment for your company that will serve as a basis for the initial diagnosis (March to June). Finally, you shall attend a couple of meetings (or video conferences) for the interim report presentation (May) and the final presentation; read and grade their final report (June). But mostly, students will work independently, and their requests should not be overwhelming for your management team.

Are project results confidential?

Yes. Students and instructors from HEC Lausanne and participating companies will sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) whereby students agree not to disclose any sensitive information outside the project team and supervisors environment.

What is in for your company?

  1. Actionable recommendations. Your company will receive a final report of roughly 15 pages developing actionable recommendations that should help you address (and hopefully improve) some items of your sustainable strategy.

  1. Refreshing and (perhaps) challenging conversations about your CSR strategy.

  1. New or enhanced relationship with HEC Lausanne, one of Europe top business schools.

Previous participating companies (2020):

  • Elite SA [bedding products]

  • Base Aparthotels [Short-stay apartment rental]

  • Helvetia Environment [Waste management]

  • Raiffeisen Genève Ouest-Meyrin [Bank]

  • Menegalli SA [Cleaning and janitorial products]

  • Dr’s Gab [Craft beer brewery]


First attempt

Without exam (cf. terms)  
  • The evaluation will be carried out by a jury composed of representatives of the client and the instructors.

  • The assessment is based on a written academic report as well as an oral group presentation.

  • The same mark will be granted to all members of the group, unless there is an individual penalty.

The final grade will be composed of :

  • 80% - Written report

  • 20 % - Oral presentation*

* Due to the exceptional situation related to the Coronavirus crisis, all presentations will be made through video conferencing of the same type as the mid-term sessions that will take place in April 2021.


Without exam (cf. terms)  

Should the minimum grade not be reached during the project period, the written report will have to be worked on, improved by considering all pieces of feedback received and re-submitted to the jury panel with a new oral presentation.

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