HEC Liège-School of Management of the University of Liège hosted the 6th Philippe de Woot International Award Ceremony. Given the sanitary conditions, this 2020 edition, initially planned for last March, took place virtually on November 10th. This was a first since the creation of the Prize 10 years ago.
This year’s Prize was awarded to LINE DIDELOT, a graduate of ICHEC, for her thesis entitled: « How can migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers through skill development and employment be integrated in Greek society by means of a centre for displaced persons in Athens, Greece? The ANKAA Project« .
« The jury particularly appreciated the fact that the societal challenge of migration management is being approached from the original perspective of social entrepreneurship organizational models. It also underlined the relevance of the systemic approach deployed in the thesis, and its concrete and particularly inspiring results, » emphasized Virginie Xhauflair, co-chair of the juries.
The laureate wins a prize of 3,000 euros, half of which will be invested in an environmental or social project of her choice. This logically went to the ANKAA project.
« Winning the Philippe de Woot Prize was a very nice surprise, » Line said. « I am particularly happy and proud for this recognition of my graduate thesis, which allows me to highlight a current and crucial concern: migration and the importance of social inclusion ».
Applications have been examined in two steps:
Among the 42 submitted master’s thesis sent from 9 countries, the academic jury selected six dissertations presented below.
Then, the jury had selected 3 nominees. Next to 2020’s winners Line DIDELOT (ICHEC, Belgium), the other nominees were Thirion Isaline (Université de Liège, HEC Liège – Belgium) and Daniel Asger Caceres Larsen and Rasmus Grand Berthelsen (Copenhagen Business School – Denmark).
Claudia BRUFFAERTS (Louvain School of Management, UCL, Belgium)
As a matter of fact, the trend of this 21st century is sustainable development and corporate social responsibility.It was precisely in this context that in September 2015 the Member States of the United Nations approved their agenda for 2030 and the 17 objectives -better known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).In addition to addressing the new challenges of our society, the SDGs are becoming a new framework for firms to review their activities and communication in terms of sustainable development. Integrating SDGs has many benefits but also involves risks, in particular accusations of SDG washing.The subject of our research is therefore highly relevant; »How can an enterprise ensure the credibility of the integration of SDGs in its sustainable development report?”. Answering this question involves firstly the identification of the factors impacting the credibility of the SDG reporting, and, secondly, the identification of best practices across different sustainable reports.
Daniel Asger Caceres Larsen and Rasmus Grand Berthelsen (Copenhagen Business School – Denmark)
This thesis contributes to the emerging field of literature on market-driven development cooperation by looking into cross-sector partnerships as a policy tool for rural development interventions. Taking offset in the academic debate on determinants of economic development, we identify three strands of theory, which guide the formation of a conceptual framework: Cross-sector Partnerships, Base-of-the-Pyramid, and the Drivers of Change framework. Following a theory-based evaluation approach, we rely on these theories to identify the most important factors of success for market-driven rural development interventions at the micro-level. We demonstrate the empirical relevance of this framework by applying it to an in-depth case study of an agricultural development intervention undertaken between the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CARE and Chr. Hansen. We establish that the empirical findings demonstrate the adequacy of combining these three strands of theory to evaluate cross-sector partnerships as an emerging type of development assistance and foreign investment. Rooted in the contemporary debate on collaborative approaches to economic development, accelerated by the adoption of the SDGs, we argue that market-driven development cooperation, although narrow in scope, is an innovative policy tool to employ private sector capital and technology more strategically in sustainable development. The conceptual framework presented in this thesis is a useful tool to evaluate such interventions.
Line DIDELOT (ICHEC – Belgium)
In 2015, the influx of refugees from Turkey to Greece experienced an unprecedented increase which was broadcasted internationally as a crisis in need of urgent support.Billions of euro have been allocated to this situation, but what happens when the funding stops, and interest dwindles?What about the needs of the local community whose livelihoods have also suffered considerably from the country’s financial crisis? Involved in the refugee crisis since January 2016, five volunteers founded “ANKAA Project”, a non-profit organization active in Greece.The ANKAA Project aims to facilitate inclusion in the Athens community by breaking the cycle of disempowerment for displaced people. People are provided with the tools to create their own sustainable solutions for rebuilding their lives in a dignified and personal manner.Together with participants, a personally tailored programme gets created supported by a collaborative network and self-ledwork spaces to target skill development, vocational training, language, entrepreneurship, education and employment opportunities. ANKAA works in co-construction with its partners and participants, as the entire project is supported by a strong network of private individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and educational institutions. The vocational training programme is open to refugees, asylum seekers, Greeks or any other member of the Athens community. This approach is innovative and rare among other actors active in Greece.
D. J Houf (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – The Netherlands)
The relation between corporate social performance and the company’s financial performance has played a central part in recent discussions between managers, investors, policy makers, and academia. The role of a company has been questioned and there are generally two opposing streams, those who believe that companies have ultimate responsibility to its shareholders and should therefore seek to maximize their wealth, and those who believe that companies should benefit all of its stakeholders instead. Many different papers sought to identify the perspective of shareholders on the matter by analysing stock market response to sustainable news but came with limitations and contradicting results. In this paper, however, I strive to overcome these limitations and perform an event study on over 160,000 events related to either positive or negative ESG-news. Subsequently, the sustainable influence of the country of incorporation on this market reaction is tested, whilst countries that are in general more progressed in sustainability may respond differently than countries ranking worse. The results indicate that there is indeed a significant positive response to positive ESG news and a significant negative reaction to negative news. Country sustainability is not found to have a significant effect.
Karsten Jasper (University of Amsterdam – The Netherlands)
The incentive of this exploratory study was the fact that companies have been called up to take proactive action on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but seem to be underperforming. Why this is the case and how companies are in fact approaching the SDGs has not been subjected to rigorous scientific research yet and therefore this study develops a framework of corporate SDG approaches. This framework is applied in practice by mapping the industry-leading companies regarding sustainability into one of the nine SDG approaches. Thereafter, semi-structured interviews with sustainability managers were performed to understand what drives companies to take a certain approach and what the influence of the approaches is on making an actual substantive impact on achieving the SDGs. The results show multiple trends that can explain why companies are underperforming on achieving the SDGs. Firstly, companies are mainly using the SDGs as reporting framework to translate their already existing sustainability practices. Furthermore, most companies prioritize the so called ‘material’ SDGs, while the UN specifically states that the SDGs are interlinked and indivisible, and should thus not be prioritized. Lastly, this study shows that companies in general found it difficult to integrate the SDGs completely into their business.
Thirion Isaline (Université de Liège, HEC Liège – Belgium)
Impact fund managers pursue investments generating social and/or environmental impact alongside financial returns. Similarly to their counterparts in traditional Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, they are typically entitled to a fixed compensation for running the fund, as well as a variable part conditioned upon the fund’s performance.Yet whilst traditional variable compensation schemes typically reward fund managers for their financial performance, the framework for impact funds should, in line with their fundamental impact strategy, incentivise fund managers on the impact performance as well. Some pioneer impact funds have designed innovative impact-based reward structures, however the concept is very novel and was never well documented. Therefore, this research investigate show a variable compensation scheme for fund managers might be set up, in which the fund’s impact performance would be appropriately weighted. Based on primary data collected via interviews with key players of the impact field, we identify potential frameworks to structure an impact-based financial reward scheme. Further, we find that it may be a valuable scheme as it ensures fund manager’s commitment to impact, to the extent that it is based on a sufficiently reliable impact assessment methodology and appropriately mitigates risks related to impact-based incentives.
During the ceremony, Valérie Swaen underlined the importance of teaching the values of CSR and sustainable development, made even more necessary by the current crisis, which shows the vulnerability of our modern society: « The difficult conditions we are experiencing today can be an opportunity to reshape higher education. We need to question our teaching practices. Interdisciplinarity, the use of active teaching methods that encourage creativity, students’ reflection and emotional engagement, strengthened collaborations and partnerships with businesses, NGOs, public institutions: these are some of the pathways towards a true understanding of sustainability. »
Rob Hopkins, Founder and leader of the Transition Movement and guest speaker of the evening, then shared his original and powerfully motivating vision of things around two words that open many doors: « what if… ». « To face the climate and ecological emergency, to move things forward and change behaviors, » he stressed, « we must create a collective desire through the power of imagination and narration ». His speech was widely applauded by the 200 or so participants at the evening.
To see again this event, we invite you to watch the following video:
Any graduate student from a university or business school with a Master’s degree whose dissertation deals with CSR or sustainable development defended during the academic years 2021-2022 & 2022-2023 can apply for this award.