Doing Business in Europe : Living the Dream

Olivier Delbard is a Professor in the department of Economics, Law and Social Sciences on the Paris campus. Professor Delbard is in charge of projects and programs related to sustainable development and CSR and has been appointed as sustainability coordinator for ESCP Europe.

The headlines are full of negative stories about the European Union these days: Grexit, illegal migrants and asylum seekers, absurd regulations, national interests, the potential UK opt-out, youth unemployment, xenophobia and more. But for those of us teaching and doing business in Europe, it’s a dream come true: the European dream, a vision of doing business in a creative, sustainable and unique way.

There is indeed a European way of doing business which can be challenging, but also exciting and stretching for the managers of today and the future.

Living the european dream

Market rules, with high social standards
From the start, the European vision combined an integrated market, reconciling free competition with “harmonious development” and a “high quality of life” as stipulated in the Treaty of Rome. Even today, with globalisation and the race for enhanced competitiveness, the dream remains: the EU adheres to this difficult path, always trying to maintain a balance between liberalisation and deregulation (currently of services and energy), and high social, environmental and sanitary standards, recognised worldwide for their positive impacts on people and the planet.

Focusing business on social responsibility and environmentally sustainability
One major challenge for the EU today is to convince businesses that they will benefit from strategies that address the need to balance efficiency and profitability on one hand, with the social and environmental benefits they can provide to society on the other. The EU sustainability approach may seem risky in a fast-moving globalised world, but it is definitely the best suited to the European vision of solidarity, territorial cohesion and environmental stewardship.

Forcing creativity and innovation
Businesses may worry that all these social and environmental standards and regulations weigh too heavily on them, posing a major risk to their competitiveness vis-a-vis the rest of the world. There is, however, the right support for Europe-wide R&D, cutting edge innovation, and giving businesses the means to be ever more creative, entrepreneurial and agile. This support is at the core of the Europe 2020 strategy, and many promising projects are currently under way, such as the unitary patent system, the social enterprise initiative, and the simplification of administrative procedures.

The European dream of competitive, sustainable, innovative and socially responsible businesses is alive and happening now, but it needs a new generation of multicultural, mobile, enterprising and creative managers to truly develop it into our ‘normal’ reality.

ESCP Europe Business School is adapting to the needs of the future. We are educating the managers of tomorrow with our new Cultures for Business strategy which keeps innovation, multiculturalism and an entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of all its transnational management education programmes, including its one-year, two-country Master in European Business (MEB) programme.