In January 2021, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) participated in the Positive Impact Rating (PIR) created by students, for students, with the rewarding objective of contributing as a lever of change for transformation and improvement in business schools around the world.
At EHL, the Sustainability Committee*, with the help of the student council, decided to launch the PIR survey, the first assessment of global business schools, to give students the chance to evaluate their own school on how it is solving societal and sustainable challenges. It was significant to collect as many points of view as possible and allow students to raise their voices to inform the school on what it should start, stop, and continue doing in order to help identify the aspects which could be improved to create a positive change. Indeed, understanding the way students perceive sustainability within their study environment eventually helps EHL improve its areas of focus in terms of sustainable practices. By addressing increasing concerns of the younger generations, which are directly concerned and at the core of the discussion as students, EHL has integrated sustainability in its organization, dedicating a team of staff members to work specifically on this matter. Since then, the school has been able to build a complete strategy for sustainability as well as the set of commitments, supported by the board members and each department with the goal of working together to achieve a set of common objectives.
Watch Caroline Caillet and Chloé Reboh explain the results of the Positive Impact Rating 2021:
How did we capture the voice of students? Methodology & data analysis
EHL is dedicated to supporting and driving the continued improvement of sustainability within the school, therefore, the Sustainability Committee has taken the initiative to directly reach out to the future leaders of the hospitality industry: students. It does not only allow us to address practical issues related to sustainability faced by EHL but also raise awareness while presenting the data and from there, take action.
Demographics of the respondents:
First, in order to understand where EHL stands in comparison to other business schools, the rating survey asked the EHL students 20 multiple questions in seven relevant impact dimensions that sit within three areas: Energizing, Educating, and Engaging.
In the statistical analysis, it is demonstrated that undergraduates (7.2), females (7.1), and national students (7.1) are rating EHL with a lower score than postgraduates (8.6), male (7.6) and international students (7.6). The latter resulted in achieving level 3 out of 5, making EHL a progressing school.
Second, we have conducted three open-ended questions to collect answers, suggestions, and new ideas to implement:
What should EHL start doing in term of sustainability?
What should EHL stop doing in term of sustainability?
What should EHL continue doing in term of sustainability?
A total of 551 respondents have participated in the survey.
In order to capture the maximum value of all raw data received and understand students’ opinions, we have divided all items into the basis of ESG letters (Environmental, Social, Governance) to run the data analysis on the software Nvivo. From there, we have divided each letter into sub-categories, depending on the recurrent themes observed.
What are the results?
Overall, the continue (19%) and stop (12%) questions have received more answers in environmental related topics whereas the remaining questions demonstrate an interest in starting social initiatives (16%) compared to environment and governance. A total of 13 sub-categories within each letter enabled us to target students’ views and perspectives within the sustainability topic. It is crucial to point out that some categories were not recurrently mentioned by students, which nonetheless does not make it any less relevant.
On the one hand, students primarily encourage the school to continue striving for the current teaching methods, recycling practices and to take into consideration student voices. As EHL has been implementing new solutions for better waste management as well as a drastic plastic consumption reduction, quotes such as ”Including students from around the world, sharing cultures and habits to find a common ground on social issues.” or “It should continue trying to proactively engage all its members (students, staff, teachers) in sustainability issues.” arose from the data collection.
On the other hand, 23% of respondents would like to see more sustainability in courses, from AP to BOSC6. To raise awareness on the matter, the latter has been emphasized during the EHL faculty presentation by the president of the Sustainability Committee, Chloé Reboh. Moreover, students would like to enhance communication between all stakeholders and start providing new sustainable food options, having multiple choices of portions and more vegan options. This last suggestion was taken into account immediately by EHL who introduced meatless Wednesdays every month since June 2021. During those days, meat-based products are not part of the menu on campus.
Lastly, even if school is thriving to make efforts, the primary concern remains linked to food and plastic. According to students, EHL should majorly reduce (and eventually completely ban) the use of plastic as well as improve food waste management even more. Suggestions such as “Engage students in volunteering activities” and “Create challenges to drive innovative solutions” were observed multiple times. Moreover, the comments received regarding the dress code were immediately taken into account and resulted in helping the recent update of it, notably touching on diversity and inclusion.
Key Findings and forecasted actions
All in all, these results demonstrate a will to improve sustainability within EHL as a whole and in many different aspects. As the school has a strong interest in innovation and sustainable improvements, it is essential to listen to the student body. After analyzing all data and undergoing multiple discussions, EHL’s sustainability team have come up with key findings and forecasted actions. The latter were linked to EHL’s Sustainability Strategy “Contributing beyond education” and its 4 pillars, which were inspired by 5 United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals):
Integrate sustainability in education
Care for our people
Contribute to our communities
Respect our environment
The forecasted actions are:
More vegan options in EHL outlets
Action plan to reduce food waste and single use items
Ensure alignment with EHL values
Work with EHL Sustainability team to help achieve the sustainability commitments
The long-term objectives related to the future vision of school:
Reduce food waste by 50% in 2025
Move to PIR Level 4 * (transforming school) in 2022
Implement sustainability within the curriculum from AP to BOSC6
To conclude, the Positive Impact Rating enabled EHL to understand what has been done and what still needs to be done to take some clear actions and continue moving towards a greener future. This student-led assessment not only helped EHL communicate its sustainability initiatives, but it also gave the chance to students to speak up and suggest new sustainable ideas. We will make our best to apply the forecasted actions and participate in the PIR project on a yearly basis. From there, we hope to run ongoing data analyses with the aim of understanding EHL’s standpoint as one of our main objectives.
“EHL’s participation in the PIR has proven a fantastic opportunity to deepen the dialogue with our students on sustainability, understand better what they identify as main issues, and build a culture of collaboration. We are now working more actively with our students to bring positive change.”
N. Danthine, Director of Strategy and Sustainability
“The results from the PIR study remind us that students are thirsty for cutting-edge knowledge on sustainability solutions and alternatives, new approaches to the latest academic and industry debates, and meaningful, fulfilling experiences in a sustainable campus and a caring university.”
C. Martin-Rios, Associate Professor of Management.
All in all, it could be compared to a team project. If all stakeholders put in some effort, we could, step by step, improve sustainability within our school and hence, within ourselves. Every small action, opinion, idea counts, and we strongly encourage students and faculty to bring forward their ideas and send them to the sustainability team.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all people who kindly helped us by contributing to this project. A special thanks to Professor Carlos Martin-Rios and his precious advice and expertise on the data analysis. A great recognition to the Sustainability Team, Ms. Noémie Danthine and Ms. Natacha Reymond for their continuous support, trust and advice.
*The PIR has been coordinated by EHL Sustainability Committee in collaboration with the Student Council and the Sustainability Team. EHL Sustainability Committee is a sustainable committee with a humanitarian mind. Its focus entirely lies on raising awareness amongst the society on various ecological and humanitarian crises around the globe through projects, events and campaigns. As future responsible leaders, two of the main objectives are to show that small actions are meaningful and can have a huge impact, to give students the means to promote and encourage sustainability at EHL, but also in their future professional careers.
All in all, the role of the Sustainability Committee at EHL is to act as the liaison between school management and the students, for example informing the EHL Student body about the sustainable initiatives EHL takes. The committee also organizes the yearly Sustainability Week, a big national event organized by major universities in Switzerland. This year, there will be a first-time event at EHL: the SDG Summit in order to keep raising awareness among staff, faculty and students.