Innovations That Inspire

Act for Climate

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: EMLYON Business School
Location: France

Combining the understanding of climate fundamentals, the description of concrete climate situations, and the design of tailored actions plans, this course teaches students to develop climate change management theory at scale.

Xavier Blot, Associate Professor and Director of Act for Climate, and Hans-Jörg Schlierer, Professor, EMLYON Business School

Call to Action

Most business leaders are not well-trained, if trained at all, on fundamentals of climate change and how to deal with it from a business perspective. But we need to act fast and at scale because the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated that we have only three years left for action!

This mandatory course for 1,200 master’s students in their first year leads from knowledge to action. The 10 sessions of the course are split into two blocks of five courses each. The first provides an understanding of the major phenomena of climate and recent climate changes, whereas the second part of the course appeals to students’ reflections and proposals as reactions to such changes. In this latter part, students build a systemic understanding around climate change as well as a rigorous action framework to fight it.

This is the true innovation of the course. We engage students in a five-week journey, in groups and tutored by specialists, to study a concrete climate situation and then to build tailored solutions. For instance, the situations can be on the adaptation of a given sky resort, or the mitigation strategy of a specific company. Along the process, they must understand the stakeholders involved and the relationships between them.

The course looks to combine the acquisition of knowledge with the understanding of climate phenomena, which should then be translated into concrete actions. Students are evaluated at the end of the course on the consistency, relevance, and practicality of proposed actions.

Innovation Details

The goal of our innovation is to provide a pedagogical approach for climate action. While the science knowledge is essential, it’s not sufficient for future business leaders to act on. Information needs new mental models. Focusing on concrete situations helps us go beyond the ambient radicalism, the polarizing discourse, that suggeststs an easy solution. Managing complexity can be achieved by analyzing the interdependencies between actors, understanding the root causes, and measuring the consequences of actions. These are the necessary conditions to drive in-depth change.

Our inductive approach to generating new meaning from knowledge consists of 5 steps:

  1. Define the situation via a problem tree.
  2. Map the stakeholders and their discourses.
  3. Determine their interdependencies and what slows the move into action.
  4. Propose recommendations and an action plan.
  5. Update the mapping of the situation in 2050.

To maximize creative opportunities, we propose various entry points, such as by topic or by actor. Each step concludes with a 30-minute discussion with a specialist who tutors the group. Activities are organized online using Mural, a collaborative platform, over five weeks to mix cartographic analysis and narrative approaches. Overall, this investigation helps students get the necessary skills for change management in a new climate regime.

Innovation Impact

The second innovation of the course relies on the format. It’s 100 percent online and can be deployed at scale. We have already deployed the course twice for over 2,400 students representing more than 400 groups. Because we use Mural, we can centralize all the work that accumulates over time, and each new diagnosis is made available to current and future students to develop unique knowledge.

For the school, the course constitutes a colossal reservoir of new approaches. Indeed, each year, more than 400 groups map and develop climate action methodologies on 200 different cases. The outputs will be collected and disseminated over the years to raise awareness in our entire community.

The course also constitutes the beginnings of climate action tracking because we will be able to follow the evolution of these situations over the years and update our recommendations. We wish to provide the educational material in an open-source license because we are convinced this approach can be applied in many different situations.

The École Normale Supérieure de Lyon will use the course next year, and the innovation has already been recognized by the Conference des Grandes Ecoles in France in their Pedagogical Innovation Prize. Last, but not least, the innovation was selected for the PRME Chapter France & Benelux conference in Rotterdam.