Engaging Stakeholders in Prioritising Issues – ISAE/FGV

ISAEStakeholder engagement is an important tool for Universities to involve those groups and individuals who impact and are impacted by the Universities’ activities and programmes. Working with stakeholders provides the opportunity to explore a School’s strengths, look at what risks and opportunities exist and develop new ideas.

ISAE/FGV in Brazil regularly organises Multi-Stakeholder Panels, inviting a range of important stakeholders to the University to discuss and prioritise issues, and make suggestions for future actions. I spoke with Norman Arruda Filho, President of ISAE, about their stakeholder engagement process.

Why is it important to engage stakeholders and how do you identify and engage them? 

Engaging stakeholders allows us to collect their perceptions and improve our sustainable practices. To do this, first we select the stakeholders that most impact our relationships and then try to include them in a series of activities that we hold: internal sustainability courses, institutional trainings, lectures and Multi-Stakeholder Panels. The Multi-Stakeholder panels also help us to make our stakeholders multipliers of sustainability.

What is the Multi-Stakeholder Panel?

ISAE’s Multi-Stakeholder Panel is an annual event that gathers the institution’s main stakeholders. The objective of the meeting is to listen to and appraise stakeholders’ opinions about the challenges of corporate sustainability. This action is aligned to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) principle of stakeholders’ inclusion for determining materiality.

The events have a range of presentations, individual surveys, debates, group meetings, forums and circles of dialogue. They offers an opportunity to collect perceptions about ISAE’s sustainability actions, collect and prioritise materiality issues in accordance with stakeholders, propose future actions for each theme prioritised by stakeholders and reflect on the process of continuous improvement of relationships between stakeholders.

Who is invited to be part of the panel?

In 2012, the Management Excellence Committee at ISAE identified our stakeholders—who included employees, institutional strategic partners, students, NGO representatives, suppliers, corporate clients, competitors, faculty, financial entities, government, trade unions, specialists, the Global Compact and PRME.

We used the following criteria in choosing the participants of the Multi-Stakeholder Panel

  • Perception of the group of stakeholders’ degree of influence and interest in ISAE
  • Perception of ISAE’s degree of influence and interest in a particular group of stakeholders
  • Diversity of internal and external publics
  • Diversity within the same public (e.g.: inviting an engaged employee or student, or a less engaged one)

What were the results?

Stakeholders show us what our best sustainable practices are, and identify which practices we should improve, or even propose new practices that we must implement. The meeting allowed us to identify main risks and opportunities according to the perceptions of participants. A full list of these is available in our SIP report (see link below).

Once we collected the issues, we prioritised them. This required a more thorough reflection focusing on the current context of sustainability and important topics for the education sector. The reflections emphasised including sustainability in the core business, not simply as individual actions of social responsibility. It also confirmed the upward trend to transversally include sustainability in the curricula, not just as isolated disciplines but as concepts and practices that permeate across disciplines, emphasising faculty training, the use of new methods, internal public training, the role of public opinion leaders and social mobilisation. The prioritised topics are outlined below.


The stakeholders also made a number of suggestions of actions in relation to the prioritised issues. In our report we provide a list of these suggestions as well links to different parts of the document which provide more information as to what has been done in relation to those suggestions.

What have been some of the challenges of this stakeholder engagement process?

The big challenge is to make sure that participants understand the importance of this process and participate in the Panel Multi-Stakeholder event.

Forty-eight participants were invited to the Multi-Stakeholder Panel although only 18 attended. The low participation rate resulted in a narrower vision but allowed us to identify main themes and contribute to the materiality of the report. The next time around we will be exploring engagement strategies in order to get greater involvement of different stakeholder groups.

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

To do it. Engaging your stakeholders is the best way to identify if your practices are effective. This event also helps to demonstrate the value of the sustainable practices to the institution.

Also do not forget to collect the stakeholders’ perceptions for your SIP report. It is a strong tool for strategic planning of any institution.

To view ISAE’s latest Sharing Information on Progress report click here.

Communicating your Big Picture through your SIP Report- Ivey Business School

Ivey SIP 2014One of the requirements of being a PRME signatory is regular submission of Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports. These reports provide a unique opportunity to bring together the different activities, individuals and groups working on campus on topics related to PRME to develop the reports, and to share their activities internally and externally.

The challenge in putting together these reports is often how to bring together and best feature the growing number of PRME related activities, plans and goals happening across campus. For example, at Ivey Business School in Canada as mentioned in the Dean’s letter in their latest SIP report, “Responsible leadership is a shared goal and a mandatory part of every student’s formation, and every single member of the Ivey faculty embraces at least one of the PRME goals in their research, teaching and service.” Ivey Business School’s most recent SIP report provides a snapshot of this shared goal. I recently spoke with Oana Branzei, Director of the Sustainability Certificate Programme and Founder of the Social Innovation Lab at Ivey about the process they used to put together their SIP report and what lessons they learnt.

What approach did you take when preparing your report?

Having been directly involved in developing curricula, certificates and courses in sustainability since I joined Ivey in 2007, I kept an eye on the big picture—especially the bold innovations some of our peer schools introduced, and the small details. Much was going on, and internally we could see the big puzzle and the fine-grained pieces. Conveying this externally however was something else—to help third parties understand how so many efforts fit seamlessly into a greater whole, the report had to catch a glimpse of the way of thinking, learning and being Ivey is famous for. Therefore, I approached the report with three goals: conveying the culture in which our many activities are embedded and the ways in which the Ivey tradition provides coherence and foresight to students and faculty; shortlisting activities but conveying the ways in which we are personally and professionally vested in their impact on Ivey leaders; and showing the ways in which the Ivey spirit takes shape during the programmes and continues to give back after graduation.

How did you go about putting together the report itself?

Both our Dean Robert Kennedy and our Associate Dean Robert Klassen are passionate about PRME and if anything they set a high bar for me. But perhaps the highest bar was set by my predecessor, and in many ways role model, Paul Beamish, who underscored the importance of having someone in this role who is directly involved in as many aspects as possible and who can ‘walk the talk’ as we often say.

The process of putting the facts together took us a few weeks—we reached out to different centres and programmes and poured over their detailed (and beautiful) reports. There was so much we could say, but that would overwhelm anybody, and one of the goals of the PRME report was to distill and share good practices. Picking examples was not easy, so we tried to focus on the ‘so-what’ and explain the linkages between teaching, research and practice. This, after all, is one of the signature strengths of our school, and something that runs deep into the Ivey culture.

I wrote (maybe even rewrote a few times) the report. When I felt it did justice to the bouquet of activities and the unifying themes and threads that brought them together, I shared it with our Deans and the directors of the main centres. Within less than 48 hours I heard back from everyone. They had read it, made suggestions—and all of them took this opportunity to point out how much more I could have said. These conversation also led to a mutual commitment to touch base every term, so for the next report we can provide a time-stamped view of activities that will showcase the range of initiatives as well as the rhythm of innovating at Ivey. I also plan to include excerpts from one-on-one conversations with all these directors in the next report, because I think featuring multiple voices would portray an even fuller picture of what is going on within Ivey.

Is there a part of your report or the process that you are particularly proud of? What parts were challenging?

That’s a great question—the most challenging part for me was deciding what to leave out. The second most challenging part was to showcase as evenly as possible the many foci of activities taking place under the auspices of different centres and institutes without duplicating their own reports, and to find an overarching way to integrate the activities themselves, in a way that boils down to good practices that come through clearly for someone not necessarily familiar with Ivey’s unique pedagogy or structure. I also wanted to balance the facts, and the text, with snapshots that are worth the proverbial thousand words because they capture moments of learning, connection and impact. For the final report I wanted to show people coming together, especially across boundaries, because overcoming these boundaries is so important in bringing sustainability to life in class and beyond. In the end, I wanted this report to delight as much as educate—and I wanted the facts, descriptions and images to draw the reader into our wonderfully Ivey-green world. From that perspective, I hope, the reader gets a deep-seated sense of how these activities fit in and enrich the Ivey experience. Not a mere check-list of innovations, but a lived and believed in way of learning and giving back to the Ivey community and the business community Ivey leaders stand out in.

What advice would you have for other schools putting together their SIP reports?

My first advice is to have a concept that conveys the culture of the place. Best practices tend to be localised, embedded, even customised to the history and the future outlook of each school. Without a clear sense of time and place, a report is just that. SIP reports on the other hand underscore the importance of learning from one another, and I think business schools have a great deal more to learn from their cultures than from their activities. I also think stakeholders reading the SIP reports can better appreciate the purpose, passion and all in all authenticity of what a school does if they can touch and feel the fabric that links different innovations together.

My second advice is to say less, and show more. A lot of the reports I looked at have long, indeed overwhelming lists, and it is hard to determine which practices hit the spot of their core constituencies. I was often lost among strong statements of plans and rarely found that glimmer of hope and possibility that most expect to take away from a class well taught, or a day well-spent doing something worthwhile. Some of the reports included picture-perfect shots of facilities, but the ones that I wanted to learn more about were the ones that capture leadership in the making, those moments where you could just tell something special and memorable had taken place. Those are the ones I keep searching for—because those are the one that will add value at Ivey.

What are your plans for the next report(s)?

We have agreed to create a simple one-picture overview (infographic) of PRME at Ivey that uses a fishbone graph to show the many angles from which sustainability and responsible leadership inform and transform the signature Ivey experience. The goal of this overview is to feature the linkages among many different foci of activities and expertise and direct the interested reader to places where they can learn a lot more about specific themes and topics. Ideally we can update it every term and link in recent video reports, media, or even brand new cases so that we create a real-time sense of the place sustainability and responsible leadership play at Ivey. The goal of this portal is not to duplicate the excellent repositories already available, but to capture new connections among existing activities, and eventually draw the reader into the many wonders of the Ivey world.


Introducing All Students to Not-for-Profit Management – Peter J. Tobin College of Business

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 09.18.41One of the many skills that business school students should have upon graduation is the ability to understand and work with a range of different types of stakeholders, including not-for-profits (NFPs). The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University in the US has been running a course for that past few years that is geared specifically at amplifying student skills in tackling problems facing not-for-profit managers. Students from the introductory management course collaborate with local not-for-profits on solving a real world problem or specific need they are facing. In the following semester, seniors continue working with that community service site, designing a strategic plan to implement any or all suggestions that were recommended by the previous group.

I recently spoke with Linda Sama, Associate Dean for Global Initiatives, about this programme.

What is the not-for-profit management course and how did it come about?

The Peter J. Tobin College of Business incorporated a consulting assignment to not-for-profit organisations as part of its two management courses that are required of all undergraduate students in the college—one occurring at the start of their business curriculum, and one at the end (capstone strategy course). This bookended approach to designing strategies for live challenges facing area not-for-profits allows students to grow their skills in analysis, strategic planning, and strategy implementation. The presentation of students’ findings to the top-level executives and board members of the not-for-profits with whom they work throughout the semester hones students’ professional presentation and leadership skills, as well.

Typically, the students in the sophomore level management course will deal with the organisation’s issues at a more fundamental planning level, devoting time to understanding the industry and competitive environment in which the organisation operates. The senior-level students in the capstone course focus their work on how to devise and implement strategic recommendations, including a look at related costs and benefits of implementation. The professors for different sections of the course agree to coordinate around the project, so that while each professor may engage in teaching the course in his or her own fashion to relay the material needed for students’ success with the projects and overall learning, they approach the project in a consistent way. Each class develops teams for tackling the challenge faced by the not-for-profit, and all students in the class enjoy the benefits of working with the executives and engaging in a “live case.” The class then chooses the best team to present its recommendations and findings to the executives in a day-long series of student presentations across both levels of the management course.

Why have this kind of a course?

The drivers for this for me were multiple. First, we learnt from our college board of advisors who are also employers of many of our students in full-time jobs or internships that while our students were well-prepared academically and very hard-working, many of them lacked “polish” that may deter their professional success. The college already has a course dedicated to student consulting work for four different organisations (three for-profit, and one not-for-profit) in a six-credit, one year programme titled “Executive-in-Residence Programme,” or EIRP. However, participants in EIRP are invited to the course by dint of their academic achievement (minimum GPA) and an interview that determines the student’s ability to handle the high-pressure consulting environment. We felt that this left out the larger majority of our students who were in greatest need of the skill set referenced by our Board of Advisors, and we devised this bookended programme to offer all students a similar experience as that enjoyed by our honors students in EIRP.

Since one of our key competencies for student learning is that of effective communication, we wanted to be sure to have an equivalent assessment of this competency for all students. While this is true at the MBA level as well, it is our experience that most MBA students are armed with the skills needed to meet the challenges of the professional working world, with many already employed in positions with significant responsibility. We do offer EIRP at the MBA level as well as the undergraduate level, so many MBA students do enjoy this type of experience.

Why not-for-profits?

We chose a not-for-profit organisation as the target for students’ work and presentations because it fits well with our mission of academic service to organisations and people in need, and also because these organisations presented relatively “safer” environments for students to apply their skills and learning.

How has the programme been received?

The success of the programme has been exceptional. Students, faculty and the NFPs we work with have all attested to the value of participating in this programme. Many of the organisations have implemented the student-offered strategies, and one organisation feted the college at a major dinner to thank us for the work our students completed with them. And yes, there have been challenges. The level of competence across teams has not always been consistently high within any given semester, and from semester to semester. However, generally, the “winning” teams perform quite well. Ironically, some of the best performances come from the sophomore classes, where students are truly excited about being a part of something important and making a difference in people’s lives. The other challenge is in finding new organisations to work with each year. We are assisted in this effort by the University’s office of Academic Service Learning, and we also plumb our alumni base to identify interest. We are able to recycle organisations, but usually not in consecutive years, since their most pressing problems were just addressed by our students. We want the exercise to be not merely academic, but to represent real-life challenges facing the not-for-profit organisation, giving students a true appreciation of the specific difficulties of running an organisation for which profit is not the driving motivation.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

For other schools interested in putting something like this in place, the keys are to find good organisations willing to put some time into mentoring students as they formulate their strategies and who are available to attend the presentations; to identify faculty across sections of the courses who are “on board” with the concept so that no students are left out; and, to have champions among those faculty members who will promote the programme and work out the logistics.

March 8th is International Women’s Day


International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s. It represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. This year the theme is “Make it Happen” (follow #MakeitHappen on social media) and is an opportunity to explore how both women and men can become stronger catalysts for change.

Beyond organising your own events on campus, there are a number of international events taking place over the upcoming week that your students and staff can follow/take part in. The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a set of Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, will have their annual event on the 10th and 11th of March in New York, where more than 880 business leaders from around the world will share their best practices in leadership on gender equality. The programmes includes a key note by Hillary Rodham Clinton, sessions presenting cutting edge policies and practice that are creating and improving employment opportunities for women, and look at how these strategies can be scaled up to overcome persistent challenge and barriers. The event will be broadcast live online and is an opportunity to engage students in these important discussions. Also online, the UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson will host a special event to further her HeForShe campaign, which engages men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls’ full participation in society.

Quite a few other businesses will have online, live webcasts of their events with recordings available afterwards including Deloitte, Accenture and many others are organising events locally open to business school students, faculty and staff.

Business schools are also organising a wide range of events in celebration of the day. Newcastle University Business School in the UK is organising a one-day event, Women in Business, to celebrate the success and hear the incredible stories of the region’s business women. INSEAD is hosting Inspire Impact Empower, an event on their Abu Dhabi Campus that brings together women leaders from the Middle East and provides them with a global platform to share their experiences. The University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business in the US organises an annual event called Women Leading Women, run by women and about women, which presents opportunities to discover common ground and make lasting connections. Monash Business School in Australia is having a series of guest speakers including one of Australia’s most powerful female chief executives. The University of Southampton celebrates the day over a full week of events across campus.

Business schools’ focus on women is not limited to celebrations of International Women’s Day. IILM in India has a series of events throughout the year focused on unleashing the potential of women in the workplace to discuss the various challenges faced by working women, and highlight the measures taken by the organisations that address these challenges. Maastricht University in the Netherlands organises an international research and policy seminar on promoting women’s entrepreneurship, exploring the role of women entrepreneurs in economic grown and social change, and looking at which policies and practices work best. The Women in Scotland’s Economy Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University works to promote and make visible women’s contribution and has contributed to an improved understanding of women’s economic contribution and informed the policies of both the Scottish Government and Parliament. In Turkey, Sabanci University maintains a database of board-ready women across the country, supports companies who want to have female directors on their boards, and monitors the change in gender diversity of corporate boards. They also produce an annually updated Women Empowered Board Index.

Several schools actively collaborate with already existing local campaigns. Reutlingen University in Germany regularly participates in a regional campaign organised by the Ministry of Finance and Economy for supporting women in the economy by organising lecturers or workshops on one of the following topics: return to the workforce after parental leave, women in senior management positions, female entrepreneurs, or work-life-balance. Rather than organise their own event, ESPAE will be supporting a Women’s Start up Weekend in Guayaquil, Ecuador on International Women’s Day, an event that invites women and men to create, in 54 hours, technology based solutions and business that solve problems faced by women.

Schools also take the opportunity to celebrate and highlight the efforts they are making in this area across campus and within their own operations. University of New South Wales in Australia has an Academic Women’s Employment Strategy, which includes a series of annual gender equity employment goals and targets. ESAN University in Peru opened a lactarium for use by mothers who are breastfeeding to save and store breastmilk and pumps in a private, comfortable and hygienic environment while at work.

For faculty, the PRME Working Group on Gender Equality’s Resource Repository continues to provides a wide range of materials and resources that can assist faculty in integrating gender issues and awareness into management education throughout the year, including case studies, syllabi, texts and good practices.

For more information on events and resources available around the world on this topic visit the official website for International Women’s Day (#IWD2015).

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Spring 2015

resources-naturelles_608x211There are a growing number of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) being offered on a range of sustainability and ethical topics. These courses are available for free online, open to anyone with an interest in the topic, and they last between three and fourteen weeks and take between three and eight hours of time per week to complete. Here is a selection of courses from PRME signatory and non-signatory schools being offered this Spring 2015.

Other courses currently being offered include;

  • Learning for Sustainability: Developing a personal ethic by the University of Edinburgh looks at our own personal understandings of sustainability, and the significance of these as they shape environmental, social, economic and moral principles for individual, collective or corporate behaviour. (Start date: June 2015)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and its impact on Information Technology from the Open Education Consortium (offered in Spanish) explores the role of CSR in economic and financial sustainability, and how organisations generate informational models that allow companies to value success and compare their progress between sectors and geographically. (Start date: May 2015)
  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs): How can PPPs help deliver better services from World Bank Group explores the key principles of PPPs and how they can be used to address the infrastructure gaps in emerging markets. (Start date: June 2015)
  • Introduction to Sustainability, Resilience and Society by University of Washington examines the complex but critical concepts of sustainability and resilience, including a self-analysis of your own environmental impact. The University is also running an Introduction to Media Ethics exploring ethics in communication, social media and new technologies, as well as the course Introduction to Globalisation and You, which examines the impact of market led global integration on the economy and on our personal lives. (All three are currently open)
  • Biomimicry: A Sustainable Design Methodology from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design explores the principles of biomimicry and how it emulates nature’s best ideas and blueprints in order to solve human design challenges. (Start date: March 23 2015)
  • Circumpolar Innovation from the University of Saskatchewan examines the manner in which scientific and technological innovation, or the commercialisation of technology-based products and services, is shaping the Circumpolar world, with a focus on environmental sustainability. (Currently open)
  • The Challenges of Global Poverty from MIT explores the challenges posed by massive and persistent world poverty. Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? Should we leave economic development to the market? To NGOs? To Foreign aid? (Open now)
  • Introduction to Environmental Sciences from Dartmouth University explores the natural world and how it is influenced by people. Major topics include food, energy, human population, biodiversity and global change. (Currently open)
  • Basics of Energy Sustainability from Rice University explores the basics of energy sustainability through technological and economic frameworks, and global markets. (Start date: October 2015)

MBA for Life – Willamette University Atkinson Graduate School of Management

prmeAs the business world and graduates career options change, a school’s alumni require new skills and knowledge to help them take on roles and responsibilities that require fresh insights and ideas. Willamette University responded to this need by developing a lifelong relationship with its alumni through the MBA for Life programme—a programme where graduates have access to the courses in the MBA curriculum throughout their careers. I spoke with Judy O’Neill, Associate Dean and Director of Admission at Atkinson Graduate School of Management about this programme.

What is Atkinson Graduate School of Management’s approach to sustainability, ethics and responsible leadership?
Our commitment to sustainability, ethics, and responsible leadership stem from our organisation’s mission, purpose and values—and thus are inherent in all that we do. The University motto is “not unto ourselves, alone, are we born.” Atkinson School believes that ethics and environmental responsibility are essential for social and financial well-being, and that sustainability encompasses the four “E’s” that influence long term success—environment, economics, education and equity. We believe, practice and teach that an organisation’s long-term success depends on a commitment to sustainable practices in all four “E’s,” ethics and responsible leadership. Every student at the Atkinson School experiences the unique differences and strong integrations between business, government and not-for-profit organisations, and emerge better prepared to lead and make decisions in a greater societal context. The required and elective MBA curriculum integrates ethics, responsible leadership and sustainability through cases, projects, class discussions, and professional development activities. This content is also evaluated as part of the student course evaluation process and course syllabi are reviewed for relevant content by the faculty lead curriculum committee.

What is the MBA for Life programme?
The MBA for Life programme provides alumni of Willamette University’s MBA programme the opportunity to return to the school and take MBA courses free of charge, for life. The programme encourages lifelong learning, a lifelong relationship with our alumni, and the opportunity for alumni to connect with and learn from faculty and fellow alumni across sectors and industries.

How does it work in practice?
MBA for Life participants may enroll in MBA courses offered by the Atkinson Graduate School of Management free of charge. Alumni who take advantage of this benefit commit to being fully engaged in classes in the same manner as current Willamette MBA students. Participants are expected to attend all class sessions and are graded according to the expectations outlined by the course instructor. Grades appear on the participant’s official academic transcript as post-MBA education. Registration is based on a space available basis.

Why did you introduce it?
The programme was developed as a direct result of conversations between the school’s administration and alumni. As our graduates advance in their careers and take on more responsibilities, they are looking for opportunities to continue their professional development and growth. The Atkinson School’s innovative curriculum and market-focused courses are an excellent fit for those making career transitions or seeking career advancement. The Willamette MBA for Life programme provides alumni the continuing education they desire, the opportunity to reconnect with our school, faculty and alumni, and an MBA investment that continues to deliver a return on investment for years to come. For the school, this programme supports and helps communicate our belief in lifelong learning and our commitment to a lifelong relationship with our alumni.

What benefits are you hoping will come from it?

For the school: Support our lifelong relationship with alumni through a programme designed to enhance their opportunity for lifelong learning and professional success.
For the alumni: Free access to lifelong educational opportunities that support the attainment of new knowledge, fresh insights, and new tools for personal and professional growth.
For the students: The MBA for Life builds the network of our current students and provides for rich course discussions.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?
All Atkinson School programmes are high-touch, face-to-face, and experiential in nature. Thus, the MBA for Life programme takes a commitment of time and effort from the participant to engage in real Atkinson School academic/professional experience. Participants are taking real MBA courses with the same level of rigor, attendance and course requirements expected of current students. This commitment of time and effort can be an issue for some practicing professionals. In addition, some popular classes do not have seating capacity for MBA Life participants every semester because they have filled with current students who have first priority for registration. Lastly, the scope of alumni who can participate in our programme is limited by geography, because participants must attend courses in person.

Since the programme inception in fall semester 2013, 22 alumni have completed course work through the MBA for Life programme, and one alum has completed 3 courses. The topics selected by alums spans the realm of courses we offer, from Lean Six Sigma to Public Policy, from Not-for-Profit Management to Fraud and Controls, from Product Planning to Managing Organizational Change, and from Enterprise Data Management to Principles of Management Consulting. Alumni are excited about the opportunity to expand their knowledge and stay in contact with the school. Faculty and current students appreciate the benefit of the experiences and input from alumni.

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

Global delivery of an MBA for Life programme might be easier for programmes with a significant online component. Face-to-face programmes could consider other ways to engage alumni on a global basis. For example, we use our MBA Alumni Book Club, which is a virtual programme involving reading a book and participating in a call with the book’s author, to provide an option for lifelong learning for all alumni, regardless of geographic location. Another thing you might want to consider are the implications on both the alumni and the current students enrolled in the class in regard to whether the programme should be audit-based or require participants to meet the same requirements of currently enrolled students.


Partnering with Local Business Networks to Advance Sustainability on Campus and Beyond – ESPAE


Developing partnerships with local business networks is an important way for schools to progress with their sustainability goals. ESPAE-ESPOL in Ecuador has developed over the past seven years a successful and ongoing partnership with local sustainability-focused business network CEMDES, the Ecuadorian chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) made up of the leading companies in Ecuador working on sustainability topics.

I recently had the chance to speak with Virginia Lasio, the Director at ESPAE as well as Ines Manzano, President of CEMDES Board, and Jimmy Andrade, CEMDES Executive Director who shared their experiences working together.

What is happening in Ecuador in the area of responsible leadership? 

There is no clarity on the concept of sustainability in Ecuador, and consequently, its applications are diverse here. It is often mistakenly associated only with environmental and/or social issues, while the economic growth and strategic development of business in our country lacks a vision of sustainability.

The National Institute for Statistics and Census (INEC) reports about 78% companies are non-compliant on local environmental standards. However, every day there is more awareness of the sustainability strategies and actions of international companies that act as role models to us. This is precisely one of the challenges of CEMDES, the Ecuadorian Chapter of WBCSD: to invite firms to abandon “the business as usual.” In achieving this goal, the role of academia is critical in helping to disseminate concepts, strategies, sustainability models, best practice cases, etc.

What are some of the leading companies in this area and why are they interesting?

Several Ecuadorian firms are advancing sustainability plans and projects at diverse stages of development. Pronaca, a leading Ecuadorian and export company in the agrifood industry has led a successful project to increase corn production by small farmers from 3 tons per hectare to 6.5 ton/ha on average, with some farmers reaching 11 tons/ha. The project has had a significant impact on the lives of the 1042 farms involved in the project, 64% of which were small farmers with less than 10 hectares of land.

Other companies of interest include San Carlos and Valdez (sugar mills), Ecuasal and La Fabril (edible oil, palm plantations, and biofuel projects), as well as Industrias Lacteas Toni, Holcim Ecuador and Syngenta.

What is the Cooperation Agreement you have with CEMDES?

ESPAE first signed the Cooperation Agreement in 2009. At the time we were relatively recent signatories of PRME and looking at ways to integrate the principles into our programmes and curriculum. Since it was not possible to introduce new courses or make major changes to the curriculum at the time, we decided to work in collaboration with CEMDES. The initial objective was to develop a Breakfast Seminar series on Sustainable Business Development that addressed mostly environmental issues, which the school does not currently include in its MBA programmes. The Breakfast Seminars are intended to engage faculty, students, and alumni—from across the University and not just the business school—as well as the business community. These events have been going regularly since then and 2015 marks our 7th year. Some of the most popular themes of our seminars recently, have been our sessions on inclusive economy as well as sustainable value chains and carbon footprints.

What kinds of lessons have you learnt through this partnership?

I believe that this joint activity in particular showed us that to take certain initiatives business looks for role models, and they are willing to learn from their peers. The cases presented at the Breakfast Series allow that interaction, discussion and learning. In addition, as a school we realised the importance of business/firms collaboration in the fulfillment of the PRME principles. We have learnt a lot from CEMDES and its members, which is helping us integrate PRME more across the school.

Beyond the Breakfast Series, are there any additional links/partnerships that have been created because of this partnership?

Our cooperation agreement with CEMDES goes beyond organising the Breakfast Series, to developing activities of mutual benefit. We are now also members of CEMDES and I am a member of the CEMDES Board, which has been a great learning opportunity for both institutions.

Through our relationship with CEMDES we have been able to invite key speakers into the classroom. We collaborate on a series of three annual conferences facilitating the exchange of learning from good practices in sustainability, and we receive funding for events from past participants and business attendees of our joint events.

What is next for this partnership?

We have several new projects underway. We have developed a new Master’s in Sustainable Agribusiness, which was definitely influenced by this partnership. We are also currently working on an executive programme on sustainable value chains in collaboration with CEMDES. We are also planning on running a self-assessment on social responsibility practices with CEMDES to receive specialised advice for improvements.

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

Local business networks focused on sustainability are the perfect partner to develop initiatives in the PRME framework and strengthen links among business schools and firms. For us this has been a great learning experience.




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