Solvay EMBA Sustainability Lab: Showcasing a Revolutionary Participants' Project

This article was originally produced and written by the Solvay Brussels School Faculty May 2024 Newsletter, titled "Campus Standouts - Benjamin Dumont". We proudly share it here for our Solvay Lifelong Learning blog readers. In this interview, we have the pleasure of meeting Benjamin Dumon...

Marianna Rousaki |Author

Marianna is the Content & Social Media Coordinator at Solvay Brussels School - Lifelong Learning.

Blog Inner Image
Icon

Stay connected


Never miss the latest insights, blogs and news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Subscribe

This article was originally produced and written by the Solvay Brussels School Faculty May 2024 Newsletter, titled "Campus Standouts - Benjamin Dumont". We proudly share it here for our Solvay Lifelong Learning blog readers.

In this interview, we have the pleasure of meeting Benjamin Dumont, both a professional and a student within the Executive MBA program. At the core of the EMBA's Sustainability Lab, Benjamin, alongside Sophia Abdoue and Daniel Cios, envisioned a solution aimed at helping organisations become carbon neutral by assessing, reducing and offsetting the carbon footprint of their events. Y.E.T.I. stands for Your Event Transition Initiative.

Q: What is your academic background? And which programme are you currently pursuing?

BD: My academic background is marketing, management & finance. I’m currently following the Executive MBA programme at Solvay Lifelong Learning.

How has your participation in the EMBA influenced your vision of sustainability and its integration into your current professional career?

The EMBA has shifted my view of sustainability from a check-the-box exercise to a strategic opportunity. I now see it as essential for business growth. Learning about sustainable business models and hearing diverse perspectives has broadened my understanding. As Marketing Manager for the industries at PwC Belgium, I tried to work internally to integrate our Y.E.T.I. solution into our company’s reporting process. To make it a central feature. The interest from another firm in our network, PwC Austria, highlights the potential for international collaboration. Overall, the EMBA has equipped me to drive sustainable practices that benefit both clients and stakeholders.

How has your academic training influenced your approach to the development of the Y.E.T.I. application? 

 

Y.E.T.I. logo

 First of all, this was a group work. A joint effort, with Sophia Abdoue and Daniel Cios. Y.E.T.I. stands for Your Event Transition Initiative (Y.E.T.I.) and could be implemented within any organisation as a plug-and-play service (Software as a Service). The concept is a tool that can measure the carbon footprint of an event based on a 4 key pillars methodology. Together with the tool, we also developed a roadmap towards carbon neutrality. With Y.E.T.I. we are able to calculate the following components: Transport, Facility, Catering and Promotional Material. We created a prototype that was presented in class, and then to PwC Belgium. We gained traction and interest for further development and fine-tuning with developers. Y.E.T.I. might even become a new service offering in our sustainability advisory line of service.

What was the development process of the Y.E.T.I application? How did the EMBA support you in its conception?

Y.E.T.I. was developed during Bruno van Pottelsberghe's Sustainability Lab, a three-month class/lab initiative. It commenced with an introductory class and the goal, per group, was to devise a new, concrete idea that could effectively aid companies in reducing their carbon footprint. Subsequently, we had three months to collaborate within our groups and provide status updates during key milestone joint sessions with our class. During our final pitch, we were required to demonstrate the applicability of our solution, present supporting data, discuss scalability, and highlight the concrete interest from companies in implementing our solution. The project integrated elements from the program, and we were tasked with applying the concepts learned.

What specific technologies did you use to collect and analyse real-time data in the Y.E.T.I application?

There are multiple elements associated with data collection. We extend our gratitude to PwC Belgium for their support, commitment, and transparency in assisting us in accessing relevant information during our lab project. Special thanks to Sandy Aers, the Chief Operations Officer, and Bonnie Griffiths, Head of Sustainability at PwC Belgium. Additionally, we utilised resources from Too Good To Go and My Emissions Green.

Initially, we analysed an existing static form provided by PwC for event organisation (Internal Request Ticket), which contained essential information for event success. Subsequently, we collaborated with a chatbot to guide and enhance our carbon footprint analysis. We acquired chatbot prototyping skills through Alexander Hahn's Entrepreneurship Empowerment class.

Our final product evolved into a dynamic form integrated with a calculator and dashboard. This tool enables anyone within the firm to assess the impact of their events and identify strategies for reducing their carbon footprint. Ultimately, our objective aligns with one of PwC's goals: achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

How does the Y.E.T.I. application contribute to raising awareness among event organisers and participants about the environmental impact of their activities?

What is important gets measured, and what is measured can be assessed and acted upon. Our tool is designed to be implemented by any company, regardless of their current stage in achieving carbon neutrality. Alongside our tool, a strategic roadmap supports the journey towards neutrality. We're essentially advocating for a mindset shift or cultural change, which, as widely acknowledged, is a long-term endeavour.

Hence, our solution aims to provide insights into the current event organisation practices within a company. This enables us to quantify the impact of actions taken. By establishing a timeframe to evaluate the current impact, we can progress to the next phase: reducing the carbon footprint. This reduction can be achieved by imposing caps on emissions, akin to budget constraints. Such constraints can enhance collaboration and synergies between departments. Just like budget constraints prompt departments to seek collaboration, fostering content collaboration within the organisation is more advantageous for both the company and its clients, especially when approached with an end-to-end solution.

What is the potential impact of the Y.E.T.I. application on large-scale environmental sustainability?

The potential impact lies in its simplicity! Our solution is plug-and-play, accessible for organisations of any size that are eager to assess, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint related to the events they organise. Our initial pilot received positive feedback at PwC Belgium, and we have also garnered interest from PwC Austria. We believe the solution can be integrated into the network of PwC firms. The next step would be to formalise it as a service offering.

As you may be aware, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) mandates companies to report on the environmental and social impact of their corporate activities and requires the audit (assurance) of reported information. This means our solution will not only assist companies in assessing their carbon footprint but also in reporting it accurately and taking insightful actions towards achieving carbon neutrality.

Have you encountered any challenges juggling between your studies, your profession, and the creation of your application?

Honestly speaking, yes and no. Yes, because like any group project, balancing our obligations with our commitment to this project presented challenges. However, as Executive MBA learners, we were fueled by our passion for this project, and we were all committed to making it a success. The support and accessibility to data and information provided by the Head of Sustainability were crucial for our work.

I also work for PwC, and I must acknowledge the blessing I received from my Director and Senior Manager to work on my project for Solvay alongside my daily responsibilities. We are deeply driven by data and analytics, and Y.E.T.I. promises to offer additional insights into our operations, particularly within the marketing department. This prospect is incredibly exciting!

Which professor has inspired you the most and motivated you the most in creating this application?

The Sustainability Lab, led by Professor Bruno van Pottelsberghe (Dean of SBS-EM and EMBA Programme's Academic Director), prompted my initial thoughts to go to Bruno. His passion for sustainability, along with his guidance in pushing and challenging us to make our project as practical as possible, aiming for concrete solutions rather than theoretical exercises, made for an engaging experience. Additionally, we benefited from dedicated coaching sessions with Bruno, as well as joint sessions with our classmates, which facilitated pitching, defending, and challenging each other's projects. This collaborative environment is integral to our growth.

Do you think this EMBA is important for embarking on projects related to sustainable development?

 

The Executive MBA provides a safe environment where experimentation and idea testing are encouraged. It's akin to a vast sandbox where one endeavors to discover disruptive, concrete, and applicable solutions. With classmates hailing from diverse backgrounds and industries, perspectives are broadened, and ideas are benchmarked against peers. I personally benefited from the expertise, enthusiasm, and experience of my classmates. The supportive atmosphere among everyone was palpable, and I believe Solvay played a pivotal role in fostering this collaborative platform.


MORE INFO ON THE EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAMME

Stay connected


Never miss the latest insights, blogs and news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Subscribe

two_column_section_image
Newsletter subscription

Never miss the latest insights, blogs and news

Subscribe to our newsletter and never miss the latest insights, events and blogs.