H.K.H. Kronprinsessens tale ved CBS Responsibility Day den 1. september 2021

Offentliggjort den 1. september 2021

Good morning,

I am so pleased to be here to welcome you all on your first day at CBS. I am so happy that we can be so many in this room.

The pandemic has meant that we have been forced to adapt to new ways of living, working and not least learning. It has challenged us all and it has also taught us a lot. We have discovered that we can adapt, that we can change attitudes and behaviour – and almost overnight. And this is, perhaps, one of the most valuable lessons we have learnt.

This day marks a new beginning for all of you as business students in a world that can no longer do “business as usual”.

We all need to adapt and change in order to address global issues. It will be at times challenging, it will be complicated but, you as the new legion of business students are in a unique position to address these challenges and perhaps even transform them into opportunities.

The businesses and industries that you will potentially engage in will, in many ways I suspect, be quite different to those of your parents’ generation. Public and governmental pressure to put planet and people as a measure of profit is becoming the new business paradigm and this shift will influence not only your studies but, your long-term careers.

This way of thinking needs to be integrated into problem-solving, development, innovation and creation – into how we move towards a sustainable world and future. 

And it is your generation that has all the potential in the world to do just that .... Yes, it may seem a bit daunting and a heavy weight on your shoulders, but what an exciting ride it could be. You can, quite literally change the way business is viewed and conducted, you can change the world.

Luckily, you are not expected to go about changing the world today … or tomorrow - maybe after a semester though ….  No, first you need to acquire the knowledge, the tools, the confidence, the experience ….. then you can go about changing the world.

We have a global agenda to follow, the United Nations 2030 agenda, which, I am sure you all have heard about. To achieve the goals of the 2030 agenda requires that we all are on board, that no-one is left behind. We all have a part to play in tackling global challenges and meeting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs as they are more commonly referred to. These ambitious, but vital goals, signed by all United Nations member states were adopted in 2015 with 2030 as the deadline for meeting them, and the clock is ticking loudly.

The case you will be introduced to today concerns Ørsted, the Danish green energy company, and their journey to become carbon neutral while still growing their business globally.

They are taking on one of the most pressing challenges of the 2030 agenda. Namely, trying to reduce the earth’s carbon footprint – a daunting task under any circumstances but made even more so, as Ørsted’s quest is for a world run entirely on green energy.

But they need help from all corners, and you ‘the youth’ with all your youthful restless energy, innovative and creative thinking and problem-solving skills can help them move a little closer to achieving this ambitious goal through this year’s Responsibility Day case competition.

Not only will you be helping Ørsted, you will also be addressing the type of business challenges that you will more than likely encounter in the future. However, perhaps even more significantly, you will be contributing to achieving an important SDG, namely SDG 13 on Climate Change.

And it gets better. Meeting one SDG rarely escapes touching upon others. Inevitably, there may be negative impacts in some instances but, in the majority of cases addressing one SDG helps meet other SDG goals. Take for instance reducing carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels with an alternative green energy source.

In the developing world, approximately three billion people cook on primitive indoor stoves. Harvesting the wood necessary to fuel these stoves is contributing to local deforestation, while millions of tonnes of soot are produced from the wood, coal and crop waste used by the stoves.

According to the United Nations, smoke from these stoves kills 1.9 million people, most of which are women and children. They die from lung and heart diseases and low birth weight. It is women who prepare most meals with their children close by their sides and thereby the ones disproportionately affected.

By increasing access to cleaner, green electricity sources such as solar, wind or hydro energy, these stoves can, hopefully one day, be replaced with safer electric versions. These energy sources can be cheaper and more reliable, making them more affordable to those who have so little.

And these new energy sources can also open up entrepreneurial enterprises that could produce stoves locally (as is already happening in some parts of the world).

This, in turn, would reduce carbon emissions even more as the carbon produced by transportation would be cut significantly. And production of these new stoves using affordable green energy could stimulate other new, local industries. This example, addresses, Goals 3,5,7, 12 and 13 - clearly illustrating the interconnection between the SDGs.

Achieving the 17 SDGs requires enormous investments, dedicated innovation and far reaching partnerships. I am certain that most of you here today will work with addressing the SDGs, in one way or the other, in your future jobs. The 17 ambitious goals not only represent areas where we need to see action, they also represent future business opportunities for purpose-driven bright minds like you. 

The education you are embarking on today can open up a whole world of opportunities not only for yourself but for you to make a positive impact on our planet and societies.  During the next three years, you will experience a great deal. You will grow both personally and academically but, also as a global citizen.

My own first day at University was probably quite similar in some respects and in others quite different from your start today. There was a lot of excitement and perhaps a feeling of everything being a bit overwhelming which I’m sure some of you must be experiencing, if you’re honest with yourself. But while my first day was filled with lecture plans and introduction to new classes, you get to spend your first day at University learning about the responsibility you have and solving real-life business and societal challenges.

CBS has always championed critical thinking and now is no exception. Be pioneers and forward thinking by helping to bridge the gap between what was taught yesterday with what needs to be taught today. Be critical but kind. Make change through partnerships with faculty, policy makers, business and society.

As students of CBS, you will reach out to both business and the society in which they operate to help them identify their future needs and local and global challenges. And together with educators you will help to discover new ways to meet those needs and challenges. And when the time comes for you to leave CBS, I am sure you will be equipped with the skills and competencies needed to take on the challenges and opportunities that you will encounter.

Responsibility Day, however, is not just about your responsibilities as a student. It is also about your responsibility as an individual. Global challenges are fast becoming local challenges. And as a graduate of the future, you will need to know how to navigate your business through, for example, climate-related challenges and issues of equality.

But what you as an individual do or don’t do, also counts. What measures have you or could you take to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you know enough about greenhouse gases to know how and where best to make a real impact?

The Ørsted case will hopefully answer some of these questions, and initiatives such as CBS’ Carbon Literacy Training should help your understanding of these global challenges and enable you to make educated and impactful decisions.

Throughout your education, business and private lives, you will be challenged with difficult dilemmas and the need to make trade-offs, which was so elegantly explained by the rector. This year’s Responsibility Day exemplifies just that. How can Ørsted grow while retaining their standing as one of the most sustainable companies in the world? And how can they grow while at the same time pledging to decarbonise not only their own immediate activities but those of their suppliers as well?

And what changes, sacrifices or trade-offs are you are willing to make, for example to your short-term bottom-line, to help ensure a healthier planet? I hope this year’s case challenge will both inspire, broaden your knowledge and emphasize that ‘you guys’ have a central role to play.

You have a duty to challenge the status quo and the strategies of today’s leaders.  I’m sure you have heard it before, and you will no doubt hear it again; tomorrow’s leaders are the youth of today.

And here, I would like to share with you the words of Robert. F Kennedy:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

I wish you the very best of luck with the case competition and with your studies at CBS and all your future endeavours.

Thank you.