IMD International

IMD joins forces with organizations to promote process

innovation in sustainable value chains

November 24, 2010

IMD's research and learning Center for Corporate Sustainability Management (CSM) launched its first Masterclass Workshop in embedding sustainable agriculture strategies in companies involved in commodity value chains last month. The event was developed and run in partnership with the food & beverage industry-driven Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) and the IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative.

IMD's CSM, led by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers, is a center of excellence for innovation and strategy in corporate sustainability. A newly constituted advisory group of senior IMD faculty have recently endorsed its three-fold mission: 1) to assist its member companies to embed sustainability strategies and cross fertilize learning in doing so; 2) contribute to and promote the mainstreaming of corporate responsibility/sustainability within IMD as a business school and 3) provide a forward looking perspective to companies on complex sustainability issues by linking and partnering with other like-minded organizations and centers of excellence. “As one of the world's foremost business schools, IMD is well placed to make its mark as a leader in this important area,” stated Ionescu-Somers.

The Masterclass Workshop is an example of an activity that meets all of these objectives. The SAI Platform member companies, having worked since 2001 on developing guidelines and standards for sustainable agriculture, found that the main barriers to implementation of sustainable agriculture strategies were related to fixed mindsets and knowledge barriers, not only at the farm level, but also amongst managers in food & beverage organizations, be they procurement, marketing/sales or other functions. CSM's empirical work over the last few years had also proven that these are the primary barriers to embedding sustainability strategies no matter what the industry. This is interesting to both companies and IMD; on the one hand companies can certainly act on this issue, because it is an internal barrier. On the other hand, IMD as a business school and disseminator of knowledge, can solidly contribute to breaking down this barrier.

On 18/19 October, some 30 mainstream managers from companies linked to commodity value chains participated in the Masterclass. The first day of the Masterclass helped managers to understand the business context that lends strategic relevance to sustainable agriculture as an issue and broker knowledge with leading experts; build a business case for sustainable agriculture and exchange their expertise with others managers while doing so; and learn from best practice examples in this field. A case study on Unilever's move to 100% sustainable tea in its Lipton supply chain was greatly valued by participants, as was a high level "knowledge brokering" intervention from Dr Jason Clay, Vice President for Market Transformation at WWF. The second day of the Masterclass focused on empowering managers to instigate change within their organization and return to their company with a plan of action.

Comprehensive feedback from the participants is helping to make the Masterclass as relevant and useful as possible. The Masterclass Workshop is a research and learning initiative that will be run again next year. It can also be run as an internal training event. Should you and your company be interested in hearing more about either option, please contact or Learn more about CSM events.

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