A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Spring 2016 (part 1)

MOOCs on sustainability


Every year there appears to be an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses offered this Spring 2016, listed by topic, from PRME signatory and non-signatory schools. These courses focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, and international development.

Ethical Leadership Character, Civility, and Community: Explore theoretical and practical elements of ethical leadership with an emphasis on leaders’ personal narratives within social historical contexts. From Boston University – starts March 15, 2016.

Managing Responsibly: Practicing Sustainability, Responsibility and Ethics: Work on your competence to solve tasks and problems related to sustainability, responsibility, and ethics. From University of Manchester – starts March 7, 2016

Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Understand the multidimensional nature of corporate social responsibility and recognise the risks of CSR washing, as well as the opportunities related to a strong CSR communication strategy. From Universite Catholique de Louvain – starts February 25, 2016

New Models of Business in Society: This course discusses the emergence of a new story about business, one that locates business within a societal framework. From University of Virginia – available now

Effective Altruism: Builds on the simple, yet unsettling, idea that living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good one can do. This course explores how altruism can be put into practice in your own life. From Princeton University – available now

Leadership in 21st Century Organizations: Explore your own personal leadership approach and how to avoid the slippery slope of ethical failures. From Copenhagen Business School – available now

Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals: Covers the basic definitions and history of sustainable development and sustainability in business – from a niche interest to the present day. From University of Bath – starts April 4, 2016

How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business: Learn what it takes to create a successful fashion business with a social or environmental ethos from leading entrepreneurs. From the Ethical Fashion Forum, the global industry body for sustainable fashion – available now

Changer le monde/Creer son entreprise sociale (French): Outlines how to turn your passion into a social or environmental enterprise. From ESSEC Business School – starts February 20, 2016

Social Entrepreneurship 101: Discovering Your Passion and Path to Change the World: Explores how to apply entrepreneurial skills to social problems and design lasting solutions. From Acumen – starts February 23, 2016

International Development
International Human Rights: Examine the sources of human rights, the rights of individuals, the duties of States, and the mechanisms of protection. From Universite Catholique de Louvain – starts February 29, 2016.

Global Health and Humanitarianism: Is humanitarianism an effective, justifiable and sustainable response to ill-health, inequality, injustice, and war? From University of Manchester – starts February 15, 2016.

Engaging Citizens: A Game Changer for Development?: What conditions are necessary for inclusive and effective citizen engagement? Can it positively improve people’s lives? This course provides an overview of citizen engagement, critically analysing how it can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results. From The World Bank Group – started February 1, 2016

Eight+ Places to find Business Partners for your Sustainability Projects (part 2)

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 13.09.51Business schools are increasingly looking to establish partnerships with businesses around sustainability. These partnerships take a variety of shapes, from research to student projects, internships to co-lecturing, and the development of new programmes or new events. But one of the main challenges schools mention when it comes to developing business-business school partnerships is how to find the businesses to connect with in the first place. Here is the second part exploring various opportunities.

  1. Sustainable Development Goals: Adopted in September 2015, these 17 global goals and 169 related targets lay out a path over the next 15 years to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. The goals impact all stakeholders, including business, and require all stakeholders, including business, to engage in order to ensure that they are achieved by 2030. Business schools can translate the specific SDGs for business, locally, nationally, and internationally through research, consulting projects, tailored events and training, etc. For more, click here to stay connected to Global Compact news related to the SDGs.
  1. Specific Calls to Action: Beyond interest in similar thematic areas, there is overlap in the issues and topics that the PRME and Global Compact communities engage in. For example, the recent call to action in response to the refugee crisis provides opportunities for business schools and businesses to partner to support refugees by providing effective training/education to incoming refugees to ensure productive contribution to host country and helping to prepare refugees for return to rebuild home country. To see a list of current pledges click here. Partnering to address burgeoning refugee crisis
  1. Companies your school already engages with: Many businesses have already developed relationships with business schools, but perhaps not yet in the space of responsible management or sustainability. If organisations are already partnering with the school, why not propose to engage them through this topic as well.
  1. Join/replicate existing partnerships: Business schools around the world are already engaged in numerous innovative partnerships. Several are looking for additional partners, while others are scalable or replicable within different geographical areas. The Business Partnership Hub is a Global Compact platform that provides examples of current business partnerships around Global Compact focus areas. The recently launched resource Partner with Business Schools to Advance Sustainability: Ideas to Inspire Action provides a range of current business-business school partnerships within the PRME networks.
  1. Take advantage of opportunities through PRME: The PRME Secretariat regularly provides information of opportunities to interact with businesses from the Global Compact. A few examples include

Eight+ Places to find Business Partners for your Sustainability Projects (part 1)

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 13.09.51Business schools are increasingly looking to establish partnerships with businesses around sustainability. These partnerships take a variety of shapes, from research to student projects, internships to co-lecturing, and the development of new programmes or new events. But one of the main challenges schools mention when it comes to developing business-business school partnerships is how to find the businesses to connect with in the first place. In this two part blog we explore eight opportunities worth exploring.

  1. Global Compact Local Networks: Similar to the regional PRME Chapters, Global Compact Local Networks bring together businesses in a particular country and organise corporate sustainability activities based on local priorities and needs. These activities range from seminars, reporting trainings, issue-specific workshops, country-based consultations, and policy dialogue to collective action projects, partnerships, networking events, local newsletters, and awards. Many of these are open to the PRME community. There are Local Networks in over 80 countries. For more information click here.
  1. Global Compact Focus Areas: Businesses in the Global Compact are driving change across a range of corporate sustainability issues and topics. These different focus areas have platforms, meetings, and events, many of which are accessible to PRME Signatories and provide opportunities to connect with likeminded businesses on issues also of interest to schools. Some of these focus areas include:
  1. Global Compact’s Work on Financial Markets: The Global Compact supports a number of projects involving the Financial Sector. This includes the Global Compact 100, Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative, and Short-Termism in Financial Markets. The Principles for Responsible Investment, a sister initiative of PRME and the Global Compact, has a special academic research network that regularly connects practionners with academic research on thought-provoking analyses, current thinking, and future trends.

Taking Action on the SDGs in India – TERI University

IMG_5233The new Sustainable Development Goals, agreed upon by world governments in September 2015, came into effect 1 January 2016. This new set of goals will help guide international priorities as well as the work of business and business schools for the next 15 years.

New Signatory, TERI University in India, has already begun implementing several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 12, which is related to Sustainable Consumption and Production. They have partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and EU-funded SWITCH-Asia programme, the largest European Union programme on SCP. This partnership allows them to support, train, and prepare various stakeholders (especially policymakers and students) for the forthcoming sustainable development challenges.

I spoke with Dr. Kaushik Ranjan Bandyopadhyay, Associate Professor at the Department of Business Sustainability at TERI University about this initiative.

Why is Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) important in South Asia?

South Asia is a region of diversity and is home to around a quarter of the global population. Besides registering a consistent pace of economic growth of around 6% over the past two decades, the region is also home to a lion’s share of the world’s middle class.

The growing economic activity coupled with rising aspiration of the middle class is reflected in growing material consumption and a concomitant increase in production. This trend will undoubtedly exert severe pressure on the environment, making it almost necessary for the region to focus on resource and material efficiency and internalise SCP in policymaking.

However, the internalisation of SCP in policymaking in South Asia may not necessarily be that challenging as the region also happens to have a unique character with communities still abiding by the traditional norms. These norms, with their fulcrum lying in age-old traditional knowledge, encourage sustainable consumption and production especially in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and other sectors. Backed by robust social institutions and a deep respect for the environment that are rooted in religion and culture, the region also appears to be conducive to assimilate the paradigm of SCP in policymaking.

How is TERI involved in SCP in the region?

From 2-6 November 2015 TERI ran The Winter School – BLISS 2015, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under the aegis of the EU-funded Switch Asia programme focused on interdisciplinary training on the theme: ‘Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.’ The primary aim of the Winter School was to facilitate an improved understanding of complexities relating to sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the significance of various strategy options and institutional arrangements to mainstream SCP for effective policy planning.

What are the key features of the programme (Winter School)? 

The Winter School hosted both national and international speakers from UNEP, 10 Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on SCP, Indian institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and TERI as well as heads of various government departments and development foundations. The Winter School was open to all interested individuals from policymakers to students.

The sessions in the Winter School covered the 2030 SCP Agenda– SDG 12 and the 10YFP on SCP and also addressed key thematic areas like Business Case for SCP, Behavioral Change and Education for SCP, Sustainable Procurement, Sustainable Urban Settlements and Integration of SCP into Policy at regional and national levels.

What have been some of the challenges and success?

The biggest challenge in organising this Winter School was demystifying the notion of SCP itself to a lay audience. This was coupled with challenges in identifying and obtaining the participation of relevant policymakers and participants from the region within a short span of time for a face-to-face interaction as well as simultaneously ensuring and managing the online participation from participants all across the globe. However, TERI University could successfully overcome the challenge by drawing on its past experiences in organising the summer schools on Building and Learning in Sustainability Science (BLISS) for the last two years. The Winter School was a success and was attended on-campus as well as online by more than 200 participants including Government officials from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India), researchers, practitioners, academics, and students.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar in place?

To identify the synergy that such a thematic school has with the institutions’ vision and mission and plan well in advance so as to have adequate and relevant participation of the intended beneficiaries from such schools or workshops.

What is next?

Under the Switch-Asia project, the university has been entrusted with the task of creating a course on SCP for policymakers in the South Asian region and executing three-start-up research projects addressing various themes on SCP. The first meeting towards developing the course curriculum on SCP involving experts and practitioners was held on 18 September 2015 and a subsequent meeting will be held early next year. A follow-up school will be held next year in line with the Winter School to further advance capacity building for policy makers in the region. The follow-up school will reflect on the outcomes of the three start-up research projects that are currently being carried out.

What other initiatives are happening at TERI in the field of sustainability that you would like to share with the wider PRME community?

Besides the Switch-Asia project, TERI University is also executing a project on Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings. The Project aims to strengthen two flagship missions promulgated by the new Government of India; National Skill Development and Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India). The proposed Project is of 3-year duration. It is a joint-initiative of the TERI University, Coca-Cola, India, and TERI with support from USAID to help achieve the Government’s sanitation targets by conducting a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) risk analysis in Kolkata and Chennai slums, developing participatory intervention strategies in urban areas, and building capacity of faculty and students through a model sanitation curriculum. Specifically, the programme plans to reach twenty municipal schools and 2,500 students through school WASH programmes, 50,000 beneficiaries in low-income settlements, and over 300 professionals through WASH governance studies.

TERI is also well-known for its flagship programme Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL). LaBL is a global initiative to facilitate clean energy access and the delivery of last mile energy services for basic and productive use. The initiative enables energy poor communities to transition from traditional and inefficient energy sources to modern, more efficient and sustainable energy solutions. Operating through an entrepreneurial model of energy service delivery, LaBL accelerates market development for clean energy technologies through knowledge sharing, capacity building, and market seeding.

Management Education and the United Nations

As an initiative established by the United Nations, PRME provides a range of opportunities for signatories to engage with a range of programmes throughout the UN system. This includes the wider “UN family” made up of the UN and its many affiliated programmes (e.g. UNDP, UNEP), funds (e.g. UNICEF), and specialised agencies (e.g. ILO, IMF, World Bank) each working on a different subset of sustainability issues globally and locally.

For example, signatories are invited and encouraged to engage in cross-programme projects relating to education and sustainable development including:

SDGSustainable Development Goals (SDG)

On 26 September 2015, all 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted a plan for achieving a better future for all—laying out a path over the next 15 years to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. At the heart of “Agenda 2030” are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets that address the most important economic, social, environmental, and governance challenges of our time. These goals will help guide national government priorities, however it is the private sector that will be key to the success of each goal—through responsible business operations, new business models, investment, innovation and technology, and collaboration. For companies, successful implementation of the SDGs will strengthen the enabling environment for doing business and building markets around the world. Overall, the SDGs represent an unprecedented opportunity for business and academic institutions to align their own sustainability goals with goals for the broader society. Although the SDGs don’t officially begin until January 2016, now is the time to start exploring how to align curricula, projects, research, and partnerships and raising awareness about the goals on campus. For business updates on the SDGs, click here, for updates from PRME, click here, and stay tuned to PRiMEtime.

HESIHigher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI)

HESI was created by a consortium of UN entities (UNESCO, UNDESA, UNEP, Global Compact, PRME, and UNU) in the run up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Through HESI, higher education institutions commit to teach sustainable development concepts in their core curricula, conduct research on sustainable development issues, green their campuses and support sustainability efforts in the communities in which they are embedded. Although not specifically focused on management education, many PRME signatories are engaged.

The HESI network comes together regularly, most recently in October 2015 in Paris to discuss Higher Education for Climate Change Action. The event provided an opportunity to:

  • take stock of progress made since Rio+20 by sharing best practices and lessons learnt,
  • discuss the roles and responsibilities of higher education institutions in contributing to business and technological innovation around climate change adaptation and mitigation, and
  • encourage new or enhanced commitments, particularly around the facilitation of academic and scientific inputs into the formulation of climate policies.

The meeting resulted in the formulation of a message and a set of policy recommendations to be presented to the UNFCC Secretariat at COP21 in December 2015 in Paris.

UNESCO Global Action Plan on Education for Sustainable Development

gap-esd_logoBuilding on the momentum and increasing importance of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) beyond the International Decade for Sustainable Development (2005-2015), the Global Action Plan (GAP) seeks to generate and scale-up concrete actions arou
nd ESD in all levels and areas of education and learning
to accelerate progress towards sustainable development. In order to do this five priority action areas have been identified; mainstreaming ESD into educational and sustainable development policies, integrating sustainability principles into education and training settings, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilising youth, and accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level. For more on the GAP, click here.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) coordinates a wide range of local, regional, and global projects around education for all, at all levels, and in all areas. For more, visit en.unesco.org. One of these projects is the Global Business Coalition for Education, which brings the business community together to accelerate progress in delivering quality education for all of the world’s children and youth.

For more on UN-related educational programmes and opportunities to engage, keep an eye out for notices in the PRME Newsletter.

Empowering the Next Generation of Faculty Around Sustainability – Oikos PhD Fellowship Programme and the University of St. Gallen


If faculty engagement is one of the keys to bringing about responsible and sustainable curricular change in business schools, then empowering the next generation of faculty, the PhD students, is perhaps even more crucial. The University of St. Gallen, University of Zurich, and PRME supporting organisation oikos work together to offer the PhD Fellowship Programme, a unique opportunity to support international PhD students writing their thesis on sustainability in economics or management. I recently spoke with current oikos PhD Fellow Lena Hoernlein about this innovative programme.

How and why did the oikos PhD Fellowship Programme start?

The oikos PhD Fellowship Programme was initiated in 2006 at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, to support international PhD students writing their thesis on sustainability in economics or management and to provide them with an opportunity to engage in oikos programmes.

oikos is an international student-driven organisation for sustainability in economics and management. Founded in 1987, oikos empowers future leaders to drive change towards worldwide sustainability. oikos programmes embed environmental and social perspectives in faculties for economics and management and promote the integration of sustainability in curricula. PhD students are being key actors in shaping teaching and research, so the launch of the Fellowship Programme was the next logical step.

How does the programme work?

oikos PhD Fellows receive a 3-year grant to complete PhD courses, conduct research, finalise doctoral thesis and lead specific oikos initiatives. The fellowship covers a monthly stipend of 3’000 CHF as well as a travel and research budget of 3’600 CHF per year. Fellows conduct their research on topics related to sustainability in the fields of management, economics or finance. The Fellow is expected to engage in oikos programs, with 70% of time devoted to studies and research and 30% allocated to oikos initiatives.

What kind of research topics do the PhD Fellows do?

oikos PhD Fellows research a wide range of topics related to sustainability challenges, including social, environmental and economic concerns, framed in a business context. –Research topics that the programme supported in the past included human rights responsibilities of companies from the perspective of business ethics theories, the link between migration and development, the interplay between trade and sustainability, the development of the ethical fashion industry, and growth strategies of entrepreneurial firms in the sustainable lifestyle industry. My own research focuses on the incentives facing investors in natural gas and renewable energies in the transition towards a low carbon energy system.

What role do you think PhD and programs like oikos Fellowships can have on advancing sustainability and business and the SDGs?

The integration of sustainability into economics and management is key to making businesses and economies more sustainable. Sustainable business will remain an oxymoron and the SDGs will be out of reach without changes in the economic models that underpin policymaking and the management theories that drive corporate decisions. PhD students and young scholars are key to address this challenge, insert new thinking into academic debates, and shift teaching towards an approach that integrates sustainability into the core curricula. Supporting those researchers and lecturers that are willing and able to make this happen is crucial. Programmes like the oikos PhD fellowships will help to make a contribution in this direction. But obviously, much more needs to be done.

Do you think PhD programmes need to change in order for that to happen? In what way?

Absolutely. The problem with a lot of PhD programmes is often that research takes place in an ivory tower. We believe that inspiring students and professors to do more research on sustainability related questions and work on solutions can benefit both research and society. We are facing great challenges today – climate change, poverty, the financial and economic crisis, to name just a few – and these challenges actually provide a playground for researchers and an opportunity to directly impact policymaking. PhD programmes should reflect this. Once academia reflects this shift, programmes such as the oikos Fellowship won’t be necessary, but this is still a far off paradigm shift.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Several fellows have already completed their PhD – with some of them being awarded for their research – and now promote sustainability in both academia and practice. Some have remained at universities and are continuing to drive the integration of sustainability in economics and management through their teaching and research. Others have moved into NGOs or built up their own initiatives to support the sustainability momentum.

A key challenge has been to involve mainstream institutes in the programme. Chairs dedicated to sustainability research have been key in building up the sustainability momentum at business schools and faculties for economics. However, it is critical to move into a next phase where long-term economic, social and environmental issues are pursued as an integral part of what happens in mainstream research. In that context, we are delighted that our most recent fellowships are the result of a collaboration with the Department of Banking and Finance at the University of Zurich. This partnership reflects the realisation – linked, inter alia to the lessons of the financial crisis – that finance research is essential in addressing sustainability issues in our economic system. In finance research today, on the one hand, some analysis is now done on the drivers and mechanisms of the financial crisis. On the other hand, this is still a niche field, and other sustainability related questions are mainly ignored altogether. But there are a lot of opportunities for fruitful research: the finance sector does not only have its own problems with regards to sustainability, as an academic discipline it also offers a lot of interesting tools that can be used to analyse sustainability issues in other sectors.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place and what’s next for the PhD Fellowship?

A PhD Fellowship such as this one needs a network of committed individuals. This group might consist of an engaged PhD administrator or academic director at the university, a few professors, and an NGO like oikos that can give input from the outside. Then it needs a lot of perseverance and patience – academic research takes a lot of time!

Our next fellowship class starts on the February 1, 2016. For more information click here.

2015 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)

It is once again time for PRiMEtime’s year-end review. 2015 was another exciting year with a lot of innovative new initiatives and approaches at business schools around the world to embedding responsible leadership and sustainability into their programmes. Sixty articles were posted featuring over 182 examples from more than 114 schools in 38 countries. In this 2-part year-end post we review what happened this year and what we have to look forward to next year. (Click here to view Part 1)

Principle 5Principle 5: Partnerships

A growing number of schools are partnering with local businesses to advance sustainability on campus and beyond. In fact, through a new project between Global Compact LEAD and PRME Champions many of these partnerships were highlighted this year including The American University in Cairo’s Women on Boards programme, the development of local sustainability networks by ESPAE, University of Guelph partnership around food, Novo School of Business and Economics’ partnership around children consumer behaviour and the University of Technology Sydney partnership around insurers role in sustainable growth. Additional resources were providing to assist schools in developing new partnerships including 5 Key Messages from Business to Business Schools Around Sustainability and 10 Tips.

Another feature focused on examples of schools engaging with local governments in Turkey, Brazil, Australia, US, UK and Latvia.

Principle 6Principle 6: Dialogue

Most of the examples presented through the year have also involved dialogue around responsible management topics, across the campus and beyond. As always, many posts featured Sharing Information on Progress Reports including an overview of the newly released Basic Guide to Sharing Information on Progress, as well as a two part series on visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report.

A number of Sharing Information on Progress Reports were featured and celebrated this year including Reykjavik University’s first report, Ivey Business School’s experiences communicating the big picture through their SIP, the recipients of the Recognition of Sharing Information on Progress Reports were highlighted including KEDGE Business School.

Principle “7”: Organisational Practices

PRME signatories globally are increasingly active in creating more sustainable campuses. Coventry University shared their experiences in gaining sustainability accreditation in the UK. A two-part feature on sustainable buildings on campus highlighted a range of approaches being taken by schools around the world.

Last but not least, as businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies to highlight in the classroom. Featured sustainable business examples collected from faculty in 2015 included:

Thank you for a fantastic 2015 and for contributing all of your good practice examples and stories. We encourage you to engage with the discussion and promotion of PRME and the Sustainable Development Agenda on all levels, including our Chapters and working Groups, as well as through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

2016 will be another exciting year in the field of management education and sustainability in particular through the Sustainable Development Goals and business-business school partnerships. If there are any topics in particular you would like to see covered, or you would like your initiatives to be featured, please do not hesitate to contact me at gweybrecht@thesustainablemba.com.


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