“Giving back to society,” says Pascal Marmier, SF ’08, “doesn't automatically mean self-sacrifice.” Marmier has the authority to make this point, because he has spent his professional life proving it.
As Senior Advisor for Swissnex Boston, Marmier accelerates the pace of sci-tech collaboration between Swiss and US-based scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs, especially in areas of sustainability and climate change. Swissnex Boston is one of a number of global “knowledge and networking outposts” established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research.
Under the umbrella of Think Swiss, a US-wide initiative on education and innovation, Marmier has created a variety of engaging interdisciplinary programs that explore ways to live and work efficiently. His “climate trail” nature walk has been adopted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
What distinguishes Marmier from other environmental activists is his emphasis on innovation. He has come to the MIT Sloan Fellows Program to plumb the intersecting frontiers of science, business, and sustainability. “The Sloan Fellows Program is a rare, dynamic microcosm of the world economy and the various actors in it. It's such a fertile environment and a powerful engine for accomplishing the things I want to do.”
Marmier, who is in his second year of the program under the flex option, is one of the few fellows who is shouldering professional responsibilities while he studies. To optimize productivity, he has established temporary swissnex Boston offices at the Cambridge Innovation Center, only a block or two from the MIT campus, while the program's permanent Cambridge headquarters are renovated. “The array of innovators in the building is amazing,” he says, “and at least a dozen of them are alumni of the Sloan Fellows Program.”
That experience has underscored for Marmier the buoyant air of camaraderie within the MIT and Sloan Fellows communities. “The collaborative spirit here is invigorating and spiritually nourishing.” He includes members of the faculty in that support community. MIT Sloan faculty like Rick Locke and Otto Scharmer, who are among the world's leading thinkers in areas of socially responsible business, have provided him with both extraordinary clarity and inspiration for his thesis work, which focuses on the intersection of sustainability and innovation.
Marmier describes his time in Cambridge as a mad dash “to get the most out of this incredible environment.” One manifestation of that push is the new Sloan Fellows Social Impact Group, of which he is a cofounder. This team of mid-career executives from non-profit, government, and corporate backgrounds meets to share experiences and collaborate on the development of new ideas in the realm of socially responsible business.
The club, Marmier says, is focused on initiating change. Central to that mission is spreading the word that giving back to society is less about self-sacrifice than it is about commitment. “Be a change agent. Reshape processes within your company. Rethink supply chains with an eye toward environmental impact. Make a career in socially responsible investing. We need to get people and organizations to work together — not just companies, but individual citizens.”
Indeed, with Pascal Marmier and the other members of the Sloan Fellows Social Impact Group on the case, change cannot be far behind.