Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) advanced studies at the University of Geneva

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Today, we are increasingly becoming aware of the need for a better stewardship towards our planet and our stakeholders. How to best tackle those issues is hotly debated. There are many challenges ahead, including reconsidering our unsustainable lifestyles. Whichever option is chosen, it appears to be an uphill battle.

Since 2008, the University of Geneva has been training professionals in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) field with the objective of helping participants:

  • understand the different aspects of CSR and Sustainability with the aim of being able to put them into practice in different strategic and operational environments;
  • master the CSR and sustainable development decision making tools and analytical instruments used by institutions today and likely to be used in the future;
  • promote the CSR skills of individuals so that they may play an important role in making the concept even more widespread than it is today.

The CSR-program

With more than 17 000 students enrolled, the University of Geneva is a major institution in Geneva. I met with the CSR Course Coordinator, Dr Catherine Ferrier, to learn more about the program.

The CSR program is taught in English within the faculty of Economic and Social Sciences as part of HEC Executive. Every year it welcomes about 40 international participants from both the public and private sector. They attend the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS), the Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) and the Executive Summer Course. “These numbers have been maintained since we launched the various courses”, said Catherine Ferrier. “Some participants also enrol as an Executive MBA specialization. We were pioneers when we launched our program and we continuously adapt its contents to stay at the forefront of this rapidly evolving field”.

In addition to executive education, the University of Geneva, together with the CSR program alumni association, organizes the CSR Thursday Lunches which are open to anyone who wishes to learn and discuss CSR-related issues. They usually take place once a month in Geneva. These lunches begin with a presentation by a CSR practitioner, followed by a Q&A session and are a great learning and networking opportunity.

Dr Ferrier is passionate about her job – something which showed when we debated on the future of CSR: “There is no doubt in my mind that CSR and sustainability are going to be even more important in the future. Already today, any organisation needs to take this seriously. The risk that a company runs when using CSR as window dressing is too high. The field is becoming increasingly advanced. Any SME or large company can embed CSR. If anything, what we have seen over the last few years is that an efficiently implemented CSR strategy has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.”

CSR is about how you do business. It is a concrete approach to sustainable development that goes beyond environmental issues and helps companies and organizations manage risks and remain competitive in the long run. Doing good is good business. The University of Geneva understood this a long time ago and is engaged in training professionals to tackle the challenges of responsible business and sustainable development.

The June 2013 CSR Executive Summer Course will cover topics such as business and human rights; standards and labels; and sustainability and supply chains. It is going to be interesting to discuss the recent tragic event in Bangladesh and the agreement that some major textile companies have come to.


 Dr Catherine Ferrier is Scientific Collaborator at the University of Geneva. Her research and teaching focus on environmental policies incl. freshwater, climate change, and the green economy. Since its creation in 2008, she has coordinated the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Geneva, expanding and strengthening the programme through the CSR Summer Course, the CSR Thursday Lunches and the CSR Alumni association.

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