INSEAD champion and environmental advocate André Hoffmann is helping create responsible leaders who make better decisions
André Hoffmann, MBA ’90D is a “big” thinker.
He is a man whose vision leaps far beyond merely the next business quarter, even though as Vice Chairman of Roche Holding Ltd., the global pharmaceutical firm founded in 1896 by his great-grandfather, he remains acutely aware of both near-term and longer-term strategic possibilities. For example, the INSEAD alumnus and Board member is exploring how Big Data can transform value creation within his company and how that additional knowledge may influence society overall—today, tomorrow and decades from now.
“I’m very excited about Big Data,” André says. “Today, technology allows us to create enormous sets of relevant data. It also allows us to analyse these in such a way that we can chart business development more accurately and, to certain extent, in real time, thus enabling better decision-making. Such decisions will have a ripple effect, in business and beyond.”
As business grows increasingly complex, it mirrors the complexity and challenges present in the larger world, including environmental issues related to resource scarcity and sustainability. This complexity, André believes, demands robust leadership that is rooted in reason, science and data, as well as in a profound understanding of our responsibilities.
“To address the most significant challenges in governance and society, we need better trained, better educated people,” says André, 55, a graduate of the St. Gallen School of Economics.
After all, he says, the stakes have never been higher for humanity as it hurtles along what, in geologic terms, has been called the “Anthropocene Era,” the first truly man-made period in our history. “The future of the planet is for the first time in our hands,” André has said. “How can we fulfil this excruciating responsibility without science and its capacity to innovate?”
The Swiss philanthropist and father of four has devoted himself to advancing both education and sustainability. As a passionate advocate for biodiversity preservation, he serves as Vice President of World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF) and President of Fondation MAVA, organisations dedicated to nature conservation. His own Fondation Hoffmann, launched in 2000 with his spouse Rosalie, supports global projects related to sustainable development, international governance and education. In 2010, Fondation Hoffmann began collaborating with Swiss-based IFPD, a nongovernmental organisation focused on poverty eradication, education, and health in developing nations. As a senior advisor for London-based Chatham House, a preeminent source of independent thinking of a variety of global issues, André is helping provide stakeholders in business, government and society with the rigorous analysis and data necessary for wise policymaking and decisions across an array of areas—from the environment to international law, economics and security.
At the same time, André has been an unflagging champion of INSEAD and its mission to produce management knowledge that transforms individuals, organisations and the world. His numerous contributions to INSEAD have included service on the school’s Board of Directors, the Alumni Fund, the Alumni Association and as Chairman of the Audit Committee. His generous financial support over the years has proven instrumental in spurring INSEAD’s thought leadership, including by establishing the André and Rosalie Hoffmann Chair in Family Business.
In recognition of his on-going support, INSEAD honoured André in 2005 with membership in the school’s Circle of Patrons, which distinguishes those alumni and friends who have made exemplary contributions to the school at the highest level.
Most recently, André has made an extraordinary gift to INSEAD to spearhead the school’s current Asia Campus expansion in Singapore. His contribution is helping make possible construction of the INSEAD Leadership Development Centre, a six-storey, state-of-the-art global innovation hub that will attract even more senior executives to the school’s Asia Campus. The campus was established in 2000 and, since then, has grown as regional demand for INSEAD teaching and research has increased. In line with André’s commitment to sustainability, the new building, now underway, will meet the Singapore Building and Construction Authority’s “Green Mark” scheme, a rigorous benchmark that adheres to global best practices in environmentally friendly design.
For André, this impressive building will enable INSEAD to continue doing what it has done so well for more than half a century: produce knowledge and leadership that makes the world a better, stronger and more prosperous place.
“The duty of a business school today is to help people make the right decisions,” André says. “We must make the right decisions in what I would call the four scarce resources: time, money, talent and, of course, natural resources. Being able to help INSEAD create the capacities and frameworks to enable the right decisions and processes to move forward is vitally important to me.”
What’s more, André believes that Asia is a key geographic platform for INSEAD to build on its successes there, even as the school bolsters its overall global strengths across three campuses.
“As ‘The Business School for the World,’ INSEAD needs to be present in various parts of the world—not only to teach about them, but to understand how business is conducted there, locally,” André says. Though he does not believe that INSEAD must have a presence in every major market, he says that the school’s mission depends on its ability to create managers who see the big picture and who can thrive in challenging markets that spill across borders.
“INSEAD’s role in Asia, as in Europe and the Middle East, is to create international managers attuned to the needs of today’s global business,” André says. He believes that INSEAD’s success in achieving this goal is rooted both in the exceptional talent of its faculty and students, as well as in the school’s diverse global structure, curriculum and culture.
“Diversity in the business school gives us very different approaches to the same problems,” says André, recalling his own INSEAD education and the way he and his classmates came to learn how to make decisions “the INSEAD way.” In doing so, they drew on the group’s different experiences and talents to find stronger, more robust solutions. In such a non-dogmatic environment, he says, innovation thrives. And so can true leadership.
“The great leader is somebody who is humble, somebody who can receive ideas from others, as well as provide ideas,” André states. “Diversity gives you the opportunity to develop these capacities. That’s one of the reasons why INSEAD has been an important part of my life and has helped me succeed with the things that I do every day.”
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Photo of André Hoffmann, courtesy of Mr Hervé Hôte