Challenges – Why did you leave Sciences Po Paris in 2021 to join the HEC school?
Yann Algan – After having participated in the creation of the economics department of Sciences Po Paris with Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Richard Descoings, then taking the direction of the school of public affairs, I wanted to take a step aside, discover another ecosystem with a training related to societal issues. However, I think that companies have a big role to play in terms of digital transition, global warming and the fight against inequalities. They must be at the forefront, otherwise we will not succeed. There are also very high expectations from young people. The company has become a total political object.
What precisely can the role of a business school be in such a context?
We are at a critical point with very strong mistrust. It’s a fascinating moment that pushes us to adapt and evolve in order to think up the solutions of tomorrow. Not yesterday’s. But HEC is not an institution that follows but that drives. Thanks to our faculty of 140 professors-researchers, very international, which includes sociologists, economists, data scientists, we have to solve the problems. This, for example, is the purpose of the sustainable finance chair headed by Augustin Landier.
How to avoid unease setting in among students who are increasingly eco-anxious?
For the first time, this year, the training cycle of the Grande Ecole program began with a stay for students in Chamonix where they were made aware of global warming and planetary limits. It must, however, be certain that there are not two parallel thoughts developing in the school. These climate issues must therefore be integrated into all courses, including marketing, accounting or supply chain, by offering expertise that helps find solutions. The case studies must also be renewed by taking inspiration from examples such as the transformation of the Renault factory in Flins around the circular economy. It’s being written.
Business schools have more of a reputation for promoting growth at all costs, business tax optimization…
We have to start changing the paradigms, recognizing that the markets are not perfect, that they can lead to mass unemployment, that the GAFAs sometimes represent a danger. But to keep this discourse, HEC must be beyond reproach, hence the reflection on the creation of an ethics committee and on the origin of the donations we receive. But to say that we can make the energy transition without TotalEnergies is difficult. The question of the social diversity of our schools is also important. We must democratize excellence. Here again, HEC has a model role to play by welcoming more scholarship holders. The modification of the rules of the entrance examination made it possible this year.
Would you go so far as to advocate degrowth among students?
Faced with the coming wall, human beings must find solutions such as economic mechanisms to limit, for example, CO2 emissions. To do this, HEC must be absolutely open to all debates, by welcoming for example Christian Gollier or Timothée Parrique, economist of degrowth, and thus clarify the positions to be taken with facts, research and data.