One main focus for Cisco is “educating future problem solvers,” according to Carsten Johnson, who lead our interactive discussion at Cisco Germany. Throughout this session, Carsten discussed the five areas of focus with regards to sustainability and Cisco. These five areas included governance and ethics, supply chain, people, society, and the environment. Carsten mentioned some of the programs Cisco is currently implementing in each of these five areas, including the Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad). This initiative has provided over 5.5 million students with classes ranging from coding to entrepreneurship. In addition, this academy focuses on helping provide education for underserved areas across the globe. Our time at Cisco helped all of us understand how this company is making a difference and adding to the positive change we all want to see in the world.
Days 6,7, and 8 were spent in the historic city of Heidelberg, Germany. From the cultural charm, historic visits, all the way to the amazing collection of food from across the globe, the weekend was one we will not soon forget.
“I learn everyday,” stated Daniel Schmid, Chief Sustainability Officer of SAP. Daniel led a discussion about the importance of connectivity, co-innovation, and learning. “By being more sustainable, you have better decision making, and a better company,” said Daniel. Daniel highlighted the many reports and initiatives SAP has in place, such as the Social Sabbatical program, in which employees can take time off work to put their specialized technology skills to good use for underserved communities all over the world. One of the most impressive facets of SAP’s sustainability initiatives is their Business Health Culture Index. This is a cause and effect analysis that quantifies employees ability to be innovative, creative, and have a worklife balance. SAP is leading the technology sector in sustainability reporting and initiatives, continuously pushing the limits to be one innovative company that is creating the positive they want to see in the world.
“Buildings are the leading causes of green house gas emissions,” stated Michel Kratz, President of Eurmoac 2. We had the pleasure to tour this innovative company as our first business visit. Based on sustainable design principles, this organization produces building block like materials for passive house construction out of styrofoam. An exciting new idea that has been proven to fully insulate a home to lower energy costs and waste, while decreasing the time and difficulty of building a passive house. It was a great example of an innovative company that was making a positive change in the world.
“Knowing cultural differences is vital to any successful international business relationship,” stated Bertrand Agostini, professor at ICN, who led us through a workshop on cross cultural communication on our third day in Nancy. This workshop included a great background on the differences in the government, culture, and history of the United States and France. With over 66 million people, and the world’s sixth largest economy, France is a major player in Europe, and particularly the European Union. This class helped us to comprehend how the French see situations, and why they think and act in certain ways. Bertrand highlighted the importance of knowing a people’s culture to fully understand how to approach a business relationship with them. Heading into the future, each one of us will be prepared to facilitate a business relationship with most French companies and enhance the opportunities for economic gain, environmental protection, and social enhancements on a global level.
Starting this day, we began our cross-cultural learning experience with a trip to ICN Business School in Nancy, France. After a brief overview of the campus, we had a insightful lesson with a resident professor which focused on susustainbility in the luxury industry. One great takeaway from this workshop was the new research that is pointing towards a fourth pillar of sustainability. This pillar, along with the social, environmental, and economic pillars, focuses on culture. This was enlightening, but seemed to be obvious as well. The application of this idea that culture can have the underlying rooots of all other pillars, particularly in the luxury industry, and still can be overlooked was well defined. Businesses need to understand that their culture is the root of their business, and without ethical values and sustainable ideals, that culture will be the biggest barrier to sustainable change that the company will face. After that, we took an amazing walking tour around beautiful Nancy, which is rich in history and culture. We are all having an amazing time!
“Prepare for landing” was the last thing I heard before we touched down in our first stop on our European tour. Landing and being in Paris, France today was an exciting opportunity that I have never had before. Our stay in Paris was shortlived, as we headed out on a train bound for Nancy, France and ICN Business School. It’s only the first day of our trip, but the enthusiasm, expectations, and eagerness are at all time high. Even through the jetlag, we are all ready to start experiencing the culture, people, and looking forwad to finding out how the French people are making the positive change they want to see in the world.