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André Schneider, CH

Vice president, Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne and CEO and Chairman, André Schneider Global Advisory AG

What does “Sustainable Entrepreneurship” mean to you personally?

It means understanding that entrepreneurial action has to find a balance between economic, social and environmental challenges. But it also means that more value has to be attached to long-term viability and success than to any short-term successes.

In your view, how deeply embedded has this way of thinking become in society and above all in the minds of entrepreneurs?

I think this way of thinking is generally understood and known, but unfortunately it has not yet become sufficiently established as a basis for decision-making in day to day business. We repeatedly see how short-term challenges take precedence over the “Sustainable Entrepreneurship” principle.

The EU wants to make it obligatory for businesses to publish regular sustainability reports ... What do you think about the discussions regarding the CSR reporting obligation? What effects should we expect?

It is certainly important to improve transparent reporting on this topic, but it is even more important to make sustainability a basis for day to day decision-making. Otherwise there is a risk that we shall concentrate too much on reporting and fail to take the long-term view and make a fundamental change of direction.

As the Vice President of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, what role do you think academic education and special courses of study can generally play in promoting Sustainable Entrepreneurship?

They certainly do have a role, and this subject forms part of our teaching. In order to make sustainability a basis for our society, we need a better understanding of the results of our decisions, we need Sustainable Entrepreneurship, we need sustainability as a principle in government decision-making, and we need social, economic and technological innovation in order to achieve sustainability in all areas. In terms of innovation in particular, our academic institutions play a central role.

In what way can each one of us contribute to increasing the importance and value of Sustainable Entrepreneurship?

We can all contribute if we are fully aware of the level of sustainability of the decisions we make, and modify our decisions accordingly. I would give three examples. There is the issue of mobility and the choice of the most sustainable options. There is the issue of replacing technology, such as iPhones – do I have to upgrade from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s right now? And when we buy food – do we have to eat summer fruits in winter, when they have to be transported over long distances?

How do you see the role of Switzerland in the further development of Sustainable Entrepreneurship?

Switzerland has in the past acted as a model in many areas, but this has to be developed further to encompass the whole issue of environmental sustainability.

What benefit can companies draw from implementing Sustainable Entrepreneurship and integrating it into their core business?

In their core business, such companies will focus less and less on short-term developments and as a result will improve their long-term success. In addition, there is the consideration that present day society is generally coming to regard considerations of sustainable economic activity as more and more important, and companies can also improve customer loyalty thereby and prepare themselves better for future changes in legislation.

Every year the SEA honours entrepreneurs for extraordinary projects which have implemented the principle of Sustainable Entrepreneurship in practice. What persuaded you to support this idea?

The principle of Sustainable Entrepreneurship is still not fully understood, so it is very important to publicise the best examples by means of these awards and to show how important this principle is and the extent to which it also supports companies.

One final question: what is the most impressive example of Sustainable Entrepreneurship that has remained fixed in your memory?

There are a great many, but for me one very important example is still the cooperation between multinational companies in the context of sustainable agriculture in developing countries, with examples such as new mechanisms for helping farmers to access more favourable financing and to insure themselves against losses due to bad weather; better cooperation between farmers and end users in order to guarantee better planning security and reduce the costs arising from having too many middlemen; and providing support in the farmers’ countries in order to improve their rights.