HEC Paris - MBA Program

The Certificate

Mission and Objective

The Social Business Certificate was launched in April 2009. Its aim is to contribute to training a new generation of managers, aware of societal challenges and aspiring to be part of the solution, regardless of their professional activity.

Across the Social Business Certificate, the objectives of HEC Paris and its partners are:

  • To train students in innovative business approaches that reduce poverty, by offering new economic models in both developed and developing countries;
  • To investigate new ways of co-creation and distribution of wealth to reduce poverty;
  • To help participants acquire key questioning skills on the role of business in society
  • To allow students to incorporate their valuable experience in humanitarian associations into their professional life.

The objective is not necessarily for all students to work in Social Business, but for them to acquire an awareness of the importance of SB in their field of work.


2015 Social Business Certificate

In 2017, the Certificate welcomed participants among whom:

  • 3rd year HEC MSc in Management Grande Ecole students, already specialized in a Major,
  • Students in the HEC Paris MSc and Specialized Masters,
  • HEC MBA students,
  • Students from other schools and universities,
  • Laureates of the French Institut du Service Civique,
  • A small number of managers who were seriously considering shifting career to develop a social business.

During the last seven years, we have welcomed participants from many horizons, within HEC as well as outside of HEC (Polytechnique, AgroParisTech, Paris Universities,…), outside France (Columbia, Bangladesh),  and from the business communities (career shifters, entrepreneurs…). We do enjoy this variety of horizons!

Academic content

The Certificate consists in two distinct components: a “theoretical” part and a “field” part.

Theoretical part

This part entails lectures, cases, conferences, both at HEC and in situ of some social organizations. It is divided in three successive phases: motives / modalities / frontiers.

  • Motives

Should firms be involved in the fight against poverty? The neo-classical economic theory proposes that this de facto does take place, through the creation of value that is shared among shareholders, employees, suppliers and public authorities (via taxes). While this point is not disputed, we examine in this first part the reasons which could prompt firms to be involved more directly in poverty alleviation, through the creation of “inclusive business models” developed both by entrepreneurs and existing firms. We also seek to gain a more in-depth look at what it means to be poor, both in an emerging and in a rich country.

  • Modalities

How can firms deal with poverty issues? This part lies at the heart of the Certificate, and we pivot around three dimensions; a) the size of the actor: we examine social entrepreneurship, medium-sized firms and large multinationals, b) the geographical scope : we study activities in poor, emerging and rich countries, c) the actor’s strategic intent: we cover a wide range of business models, from purely economic models (low cost) to purely social models (philanthropy), emphasizing hybrid models such as BOP strategies and Social Business ventures. We also examine alternative finance and marketing strategies that are deployed to sustain these innovative business models. Each time, we seek to go beyond a mere description of the models under study, analyzing what did or did not work, focusing on the both the breakthrough and the roadblocks.

  • Frontiers

This part comes as a conclusion and aims at introducing new perspectives. We explore how “mainstream” companies can transform themselves, becoming more inclusive and sustainable. We explore this transformation, trying also to highlight, as far as possible, the existing links between this transformation and the new paradigms and behaviors Social Businesses can help create. We look at changes at different levels: new paradigms of how functions can / should reinvent themselves, processes that can lead to this transformation at the corporate level (“change management”), and results in terms of global contribution, that firms can / should bring to society, especially in the context of the new definition of the Millennium Development Goals.

Field part

  • The Immersion week

The name says it all: the objective is for participants to immerse themselves in the field of poverty alleviation by spending one week with social entrepreneurs and social organizations. The objective is both to spend time co-working “in the trenches”, and to meet the managers who are putting their effort in alleviating poverty. Such an immersion is meaningful, humanly rich and full of learnings. It has always made an impact on our participants’ lives. This week is be spent in groups of two participants.

The Chair has forged strong partnerships with various social structures such as Abeilles Maraichères, ANDES, Groupe ARES, Association Approche, AURORE, Baluchon, Clair&Net, ecov, Neuilly Emmaüs Avenir, Emmaüs Défi, Emmaüs Longjumeau, Emmaüs Communities in Brighton Greenwich and Medway, Envie 2E Ile de France, Envie Trappes, Etudes & Chantiers, Farinez-vous, Intramuros, Jardin de Cocagne de Magny-les-Hameaux, Jardins d’Auteuil, la Croix Rouge, la Friperie Solidaire, Phenix, REvivre, le Samu Social, SITA Rebond and many more.

The 2017 Certificate – Highlights

Inspiring changemakers

Participants were exposed to some of the most knowledgeable experts and key leaders in the field of “firm and poverty” as well as very inspiring changemakers.
Among them, we had the great opportunity to welcome Martin Hirsch, head of the Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris, one of our co-presidents, and Arnaud Mourot, co-director of Ashoka Europe.

Special days

such as Access to Energy: with a focus on two main topics: access to energy in emerging countries and developing a renewable energy project in Africa.

Career perspectives

We do not believe that a participant graduating from the SB/EP certificate “should” work in the field of Social Business. While this is definitively an exciting possibility, other options of course do exist, such as working in firms that seek to incorporate societal issues in their strategy.
To give you an idea, around one third of our past participants have been working in the field of social entrepreneurship, another third have been employed by firms who spearheaded the social business movement (in a broad sense), and the last third have been working for firms who are still discovering the issues we work upon – we hope that our participants will play a key role in this endeavor!
Whatever the individual perspective, participants can expect to be exposed to some of the most knowledgeable experts and key leaders in the field of “firm and poverty” as well as very inspiring changemakers.

Questions on the Certificat?

Don’t hesitate to contact Elisabeth de Réals, dereals@hec.fr

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