The 2015 Paris Agreement sent the world a vast warning: Years of trashing the planet has to stop. Keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or risk the full wrath of Mother Nature.

But looking at the tidal wave of climate change issues looming above us, it is easy to feel discouraged and pessimistic. It might seem all our individual efforts are futile. Students currently enrolled at the Asian Strategy Consulting Project (ASCP) at ESSEC will disagree.

Connecting Sustainability to Business

Developed in 2010 as a collaboration between ESSEC Business School and Capgemini Invent France, the ASCP is an opportunity for students from the Master in Management program to consult for companies and help solve real-world business problems in Asia.

In 2021, four out of six of these projects revolve around sustainability. Topics span the future of transport and town planning to fashion, giving students a bird’s eye view of what sustainability looks like in different sectors, how business executives deal with these issues, and how they can apply their knowledge to action.

Every Student Can Make an Impact

For Kirthana Teegala, whose team from the Master in Management (MiM) program is working on an electric vehicle go-to-market strategy for global quality solutions provider TRIGO, this means being at the forefront of an industry capable of changing the planet’s sustainability game.

Noting that the electric vehicle market is still in the infant stages, Kirthana hopes the information her team gathers will contribute to TRIGO’s business and advance the development of the overall electric vehicles sector.

Work of such scale may seem like a massive mountain for students to conquer, but “Capgemini provides full-level training on all aspects of the consulting procedure, from onboarding the client to preparing the bids, project planning, governance, implementation and more,” Kirthana says.

She adds that this on-the-job guidance has helped Kirthana integrate her classroom lessons and shift her mindset from thinking like a student to feeling like a businesswoman.

Learning by Doing

From the clients’ perspectives, students also have a lot to offer. “Their brilliant young minds are adept, not clouded by judgment. They think creatively about things we may not even consider, which will add value to the project’s outcome,” Tvisha Patel, Director of Marketing, Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF), who is working with students on a rebranding exercise, shares.

“Some of the research and insights generated are very relevant and will be leveraged as they continue to work on the branding proposal and communication alignment strategies,” Patel elaborates.

In another fintech project on Islamic banking for the CREALOGIX Group, Senior Marketing Manager Carina Schönenberger was similarly blown away by the quality of work students could perform.

“We will leverage their work as they continue to work on the go-to-market strategy for two countries in the APAC region, which have been mostly untapped by us,” she shares.

The Start of a New Butterfly Effect

Schönenberger adds that it is a “delight” to mentor students and watch them evolve. This sentiment is shared by Richard Qian, Director of Sales & Marketing at TRIGO, who believes that “as a global company, TRIGO has a responsibility to support young people in gaining the knowledge and experience they need.”

To him, this means going beyond simply showing students how the industry works to also helping them understand why the sector is vital to the planet and what they can do to help—which will hopefully inspire them to make a difference, even after graduating.

Qian’s words hold weight because just as the butterfly effect is often used to describe the impact of environmental degradation, the reverse can also be true: Perhaps by nurturing the right skills and values in the next generation, we may set off waves of change for a better, greener future.

Read the first part of the series to learn more about the theme of the 2021 ASCP and the third part for the concluding roundtable discussion.