A few weeks ago, INSEAD was in the news for all the wrong reasons, struggling to contain a scandal involving alleged hazing during the school’s traditional Welcome Week. But this week came news of an altogether better sort for the French business school, which announced August 20 that it has accepted the largest individual donation in its history, a gift of €40 million (US$46.4 million) from Class of 1990 alumnus André Hoffmann and his wife Rosalie. It is also the largest reported gift to a European business school in history.
The massive gift will be used to establish the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, which will explore ethics, gender balance, humanitarian operations, social impact, sustainability, tech for good, wealth inequality, and other topics related to the role of business in society. In other words, it will continue the mission articulated by INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov of “business as a force for good.”
“Transformational change towards true sustainability will not take place without a new generation of leaders who are willing and able to change the status quo,” Hoffman said in an announcement posted on INSEAD’s website. “This Institute is poised to help future leaders understand the importance of societal and environmental returns alongside the traditional financial approach, creating shareholder value while lifting up people and protecting our planet.”
A LONG HISTORY OF SUPPORT FOR SUSTAINABILITY, AND INSEAD
Hoffmann, a native of Switzerland who studied economics at St. Gallen University before earning his MBA at INSEAD, is the vice chairman of Roche Holdings, a global pharmaceutical and medical diagnostic company established by his great-grandfather in 1896. A member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum and of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, Hoffmann also serves on the board of Genentech Inc. in California and has contributed to the development of Inovalon Inc., a data-driven, cloud-based analytics company providing insights into the U.S. health system.
At INSEAD, Hoffmann has served as chair of the Audit Committee and on the board of directors, Alumni Fund Board, and National Alumni Associations. Nor is this latest gift the first endowment from the Hoffmanns to INSEAD: The couple helped establish the André and Rosalie Hoffmann Chair in Family Enterprise in 2004, a $5 million commitment, and in 2013 they gave $5 million more toward the Leadership Development Centre on the school’s Asia campus in Singapore. The latter gift led to a Platinum Green Mark award by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore for the campus’s incorporation of best practice environmental design and construction.
Such commitments are not out of the ordinary for André Hoffmann, who is known for focusing on nature conservation and sustainability: He has served on the boards of Wetlands International and the Global Footprint Network, and he was vice president of WWF International for seven years. He is also currently president of Fondation MAVA, a European conservation foundation committed to conserve biodiversity; and president of Fondation Tour du Valat, a research institute primarily active in the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands. He also serves on the board of SystemIQ, which helps transform economic systems in line with sustainable development goals.
The new Hoffmann Global Institute “is envisioned as a transformative force at INSEAD and beyond,” says Katell Le Goulven, executive director of the new Hoffmann Global Institute who recently joined INSEAD from UNICEF. “It aims to forge leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs who align the interests of their organizations with pressing social and environmental challenges. By leveraging research, learning and partner engagement — and through walking the talk at INSEAD — the Institute can contribute to delivering business value with positive societal impact.”
‘POTENTIAL TO ACCELERATE PROGRESS TOWARD A PEACEFUL, PROSPEROUS, SUSTAINABLE FUTURE’
Currently, the Hoffmann Global Institute is “engaging the entire INSEAD community around strategy, governance, and execution,” according to the school’s announcement. “It is already reaching out to partners, including ChangeNOW, the largest positive impact summit in the world. With initiatives on INSEAD campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Institute promises to bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to the most intractable global issues that threaten our sustainable future.”
It’s all part of the Hoffmanns’ firm belief in “business as a force for good” — which happens to be Dean Mihov’s mantra.
“Establishing the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society underpins INSEAD’s vision of business as a force for good,” Mihov said in the school’s announcement of the Hoffmanns’ gift. “Many of our 21st-century challenges cannot be addressed by governments or NGOs alone. Business leaders must rise to the challenge — integrating sustainability, responsibility, and social impact directly into the decisions they make. This is where the Hoffmann Institute holds great potential to accelerate progress towards a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future.
“We are deeply grateful to André and Rosalie Hoffmann for their extraordinary support, and for their contribution to the positive, real-world impact of INSEAD on business and society,” Mihov added.