HEC Paris Brings Together 600 Experts For Annual Sustainable Business Conference

Fact of the day: if all buildings in France were energy efficient, the country's energy consumption would drop by a third!

We spoke to HEC Paris MBA Sergio Portatadino, President of this year's HEC Paris Sustainable Business Conference, to find out what new ideas came out of one of France's most tweeted about events!

Every year, HEC Paris organizes the Sustainable Business Conference to investigate the concrete business actions that can be taken to make the switch to a more positive model of economic growth.

This year’s conference, held at the Jouy-en-Josas Campus on March 22, focused on "Enabling the Sustainable City". The panel tackled questions such as how to reduce energy consumption in the smart city, how partnerships between public and private sector can enhance smart cities and how to spread smart mobility.

Before embarking on the HEC Paris MBA Sergio, 30, was a Consultant at Poyry Management Consulting, a Finnish firm providing services for firms in the power, nuclear and oil and gas sectors.  The ideas generated at the conference have renewed his enthusiasm for wanting to remain in the energy sector.

According to Sergio, the biggest take-away from the day is that it is up to individuals to really make the difference. “There are companies such as Danone who are leading the way in terms of becoming more efficient and reducing waste but the real potential for change comes from people”, he says.

He continued, “The most interesting new fact I learned was from Didier Roux, VP Research and Innovation at Saint Gobain who said that if all buildings in France were energy efficient, France could reduce its energy consumption by a third”.

The speakers for the conference were selected using the “power of the MBA”, Sergio said. The Net Impact Club had sent out an email asking members to form teams and submit their ideas and Sergio’s team and idea was selected. Eventually, a larger group of about 55 to 60 students were organized into departments based on  thetracks of Clean tech, Infrastructure and Mobility and Social Business, to organise the conference.

The students leveraged their personal networks and HEC Paris’ alumni connections to select the excellent speakers at the conference. Sergio also set up an advisory board which he says was very useful in directing the team to speakers.

Keynote speakers included Emmanuel faber, Vice Chairman of the Board of Danone, Didier Roux, VP Research and Innovation at construction firm St Gobain, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, spokesperson for Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sergio was most impressed by the contribution of Maximillien Rouer, who is President and co-founder of BeCitizen, HEC Paris’ partner for the conference.

Rouer, who is an expert on environmental issues, administrator of two investment funds: BeCapital, which invests in "positive economy technologies" and Gingkgo, which focuses on reducing soil pollution, with assets of €150 million and €70 million respectively, set out the framework under which the ideas of the sustainable city could be set in place.

Sergio and some of his colleagues are hoping to put some of the ideas they’ve learned into action during a summer project in Tanzania. His team wanted a country where there is a clear energy shortage and a lot of potential to implement the ideas of solar panel. Tanzania has legislation in place to support solar panels, Sergio says.

After five months of planning and successful execution, the Sustainable Business Conference team are now preparing to hand over to the transition team in April. They are still ecstatic at how well the event was received, including making the top five most tweeted about topics in France on the day!

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