Executive Leadership and Sustainable Operations in the Humanitarian Context 2022

ESM Seminar people playing a board game

The Executive Leadership and Sustainable Operations in the Humanitarian Context is a joint program by the KLU and HELP Logistics. It brings together executives and managers from organizations operating in the humanitarian sector for four days of interactive lectures, panel discussions, and group work at the university’s Hafen City campus.

Climate, health, and geopolitical crises are rapidly driving global demand for humanitarian aid. To deliver this assistance effectively and sustainably, supply chain managers of humanitarian organizations need to be equipped with the right skills and tools. They also have to think both strategically and out of the box across sectors and in various operational contexts.

The sixth delivery of the program took place from 1st to 4th of November, 2022 and aimed to discuss the latest challenges with a group of 22 senior representatives from humanitarian agencies, logistics service providers and donor organizations. Facilitated by professors and experts in their field, the collective knowledge and experience of supply chain and logistics was hugely impressive and led to dynamic exchanges, insights and future networking opportunities.

“There were some real experts in their field who were able to explain on the commercial side what was happening with sustainability,” remarked participant Richard Kneller of the European Commission, at the conclusion of the program. “It is something that the humanitarian community can learn a lot from and they were able to explain it in a very engaging way. The professors here were really good at understanding what the group’s needs were and meeting them, and getting into enough technical detail to give a good understanding without drowning us in information.”

“The unique approach of the facilitators and professors was great,” agreed Innocent Mainjeni, a supply chain programs manager from Village Reach in Malawi. “They encouraged quite a lot of information sharing, which is something that you don’t really expect in academic institutions. They gave us an opportunity to interact, share experiences, and draw lessons related to the work that we do.”

Group work, which included a games night on the first day of the seminar, fostered both collaboration and paved the way for future networking amongst the program’s participants.

“I virtually met some of the people in this room before coming here,” explained Aldo Spaini of the World Food Programme. “But actually having the opportunity to sit with them for a week straight and understand what is their thinking, what is the industry thinking, what is academia thinking on the space of sustainability and logistics was an amazing opportunity. I definitely feel like I started relationships with people I will keep working with in the coming years.”

“There is a lot of willingness in the humanitarian space to collaborate and to try to do things better,” added Juan Galvez of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). “Such as measuring our carbon footprint. Many of us are only starting to see the difficulty, especially on how to get information from suppliers. I didn’t see anybody in the group really much more advanced than the others in that respect.”


Marie Houel, Head of Supply Department at Solidarites International in Paris, meanwhile, was effusive about the composition of the group taking part in the program: “We networked a lot and it’s not just the material that triggered the networking, but the people in the group blended so well. To have the donor perspective in the room, where we are at the moment in the sector at a crossroads into implementing sustainability, was a very good choice by the organisers.”

The theme of leadership, and the method it was delivered, was the also subject of much praise from within the group.

“I especially enjoyed the leadership component,” said Galvez of the IFRC. “How to take out from your normal day to day the operational view, thinking out of the box. It was very interesting and there are not so many of these kind of trainings at least in humanitarian organizations that take place.”

Fellow participant Maijeni concurred: “One of the highlights was the leadership training. I think the concepts in terms of how you relate that to both sustainability and the rest of the work that you do were great. I’ve attended a number of leadership deliveries and I can’t think of any that stand out like this one. It was enlightening and insightful. I would recommend this program to anyone, any time.”

More information: