Sustainability related MOOCs starting September and Beyond (part 1)

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 5.41.24 PMSeptember has arrived, which means the start to a new school year for many students around the world. It also means the start of a range of new MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) available for free online, presented by Universities across the world. These courses are open to anyone with an interest in the topic, last between three and fourteen weeks, and take from three to eight hours of time per week to complete. Many of them also provide a certificate upon completion.

Here is a selection of fifteen MOOCs (seven in part 1 of the blog) beginning in the coming weeks, which cover a range of topics from social entrepreneurship, to ethical decision making, greening the economy and sustainability more broadly.

  1. Copenhagen Business School is organising a 12-week course on Social Entrepreneurship starting on the 3rd of September. The course will teach students how to create societal impact through social entrepreneurship, how to identify an opportunity and how to make it a reality. During the course students will form groups with other students online to identify an opportunity to create social change, develop a business model, and outline ideas in a business plan, which they will submit in the end to possibly receive start-up funding.
  2. The University of Exeter has an 8-week course starting on the 8th of September on Discovering Business in Society. This introductory course taught in conjunction with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) looks at how businesses function and interact with the wider socio-economic environment, including tensions brought about by competition for resources, the legal and moral framework for business activity, and the complexities of knowledge management in organisations. The course will require 5 hours of work per week and at the end students can pay to take an exam to qualify for a Statement of Attainment.
  3. The Age of Sustainability is a 14-week course organised by Columbia University and presented by Jeffrey Sachs. The course gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainability development drawing on the most recent developments in the social, policy, and physical sciences.
  4. University of Illinois has an 8-week Introduction to Sustainability course that started on the 25th of August. The course explores how today’s human societies can endure in the face of global change, ecosystem degradation, and resource limitation. The course will focus on sustainability theory and practices including population, ecosystems, global change, energy, agriculture, water, environmental economics and policy, ethics, and cultural history.
  5. The University of Leiden is organising a course called Configuring the World: A Critical Political Economy Approach starting September 1st, which looks at the influences that shape the world in which we live today, including globalisation, diversity, governance, international institutions, and economic development and social change. The course lasts 8 weeks and students can earn a Certificate of Completion.
  6. The University of Lausanne has a course on Unethical Decision Making in Companies starting on the 22nd of September and lasting seven weeks. The course aims to empower students to analyse the risks of unethical or illegal behaviour that might be triggered by strong organisational contexts. It will draw from various disciplines such as management, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and literature in order to learn what these disciplines contribute to a better understanding of unethical behaviour. The course is free and students can receive a Certificate of Completion.
  7. The University of Maryland’s course on Making Better Groups Decisions: Voting, Judgement Aggregation and Fair Division is a 7-week course that starts on September 1st. The course explores different decision making methods and the problems that arise when a group of people need to make a decision. It examines the question “Can we and how do we find a choice that is fair”?

Engaging Students in Making Sustainability a Reality – Babson College

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 9.02.08 AMStudents are an incredible resource for schools moving forward with responsible management and sustainability on campus. Finding ways to get them actively engaged in not just supporting, but actively creating and implementing innovative sustainability projects on campus can bring about a range of positive impacts.

At Babson College in the US a group of students are selected each year to help the school move forward with its sustainability goals on campus and in the curriculum. I recently spoke with Michael Chmura about how they engage students as interns in bringing their sustainability policies and principles to life.

Briefly describe Babson’s approach to sustainability and responsible management.
Babson’s approach to sustainability and responsible management in academics and operations is defined by the integration of three factors—Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibility, and Sustainability (SEERS)—into our curriculum, as core principles of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action, and as part of our commitment as a founding PRME Champions institution, and to climate neutrality by 2050 through our 2009 signing of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment

What is the Sustainability Office Intern Programme?
Our student interns work in the Sustainability Office on a diverse set of projects, ranging from project development to communications and outreach. Interns act as peer educators through presentations to first year seminar courses, write our monthly newsletter, produce our social media, manage compost collection projects, conduct waste audits, educate about sustainable foods, and organise campus-wide sustainability events.

How does the programme work in practice?
Our students are hired through the common student leadership application used for all on-campus jobs. The position is paid and generally takes 6-8 hours per week. Students are selected based on their leadership ability, professionalism, and enthusiasm. Prior knowledge of sustainability is not required. The Sustainability Office staff meets every Friday to review project progress and assignments, and to plan future initiatives.

What are some of the projects that the interns work on?
Our students organised our annual move-out recycling event called “Slash the Trash,” to divert reusable goods to charity shops and collect recyclables during the end of year move-out from the residence halls. This programme has increased in size every year, from 3 tons last year to 5 tons this past May. Some of our students created a module on sustainability for teaching in the first year seminar course. Another project involved students analysing the residence hall collection system, and doing trials of different methods of collecting recyclables to improve diversion rates. The interns have also been involved in researching how apparel is purchased on campus by departments and found sustainable alternatives for purchasing.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?
Both our move-out recycling programme and first year seminar module continue to be implemented every year. Our first year of “Slash the Trash” led to an overall waste reduction of nearly 29% of the waste associated with end-of-the-year student move out, and increased the move out recycling rate by 12.63 tons.

Challenges continue to be increasing individual behaviour in recycling rates throughout the year. We hope to remove barriers to recycling through targeted education programmes and better-designed waste diversion stations in our campus centre.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
Paying students, even a modest hourly rate, makes your position competitive with other campus jobs, and provides a level of accountability and responsibility. It also teaches students that you can get paid for something you are passionate about and that they can look for similar jobs beyond their time at Babson.

What’s next for the interns?
We are focused on engaging more of our campus community through direct outreach in offices and residence halls. Our goal is to make sustainable living a social norm at Babson – and our continued work with students’ residential life is essential in reaching that goal.

Creative Sustainability – Aalto University School of Business

It is widely thought that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to teach sustainability effectively. Aalto University School of Business has used this idea to create an innovative master’s degree that brings together three different schools, and the students, faculty and courses from the three different disciplines, to enable students to think about, explore and develop innovative solutions to business, environmental and societal problems. I had the chance recently to speak with Minna Halme and Armi Temmes about this unique programme.

What is the Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme?

Our Master’s Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability is a joint programme with the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the School of Business and the School of Engineering. It is a multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of architecture, business, design, landscape planning, real estate and urban planning. The programme is also offered as a minor for master-level students at Aalto University.

The programme is unique because it brings together students from different fields to study in multidisciplinary teams to create new sustainable solutions for human, urban, industry and business environments. The pedagogical approach is based on integrating teaching and research, problem-based learning, blended learning and a strong connection to practical outcomes.

The programme began in 2007 before Aalto University was even in operation. At the time, key individuals from the different departments came together to create this programme as a minor study programme. When Aalto University was formed in 2010, the programme became a master’s level programme.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

Students have access to a wide range of elective courses from across the different schools involved in the programme. We have several critical academic reading seminars but also courses like “How to Change the World: Innovation toward Sustainability,” where sustainability challenges are taken as starting points for innovation of new forms of individual action, economic activity, business models, and organisational forms. There are also project courses that offer the opportunity to work with real-life sustainability questions of companies, NGOs or public organisations.

Why have a Master’s in Creative Sustainability? Why make it interdisciplinary with science, art, technology and business?

The interdisciplinary Master’s Programme follows directly the aims of Aalto University itself – to combine technology, business and design. We believe this is knowledge any business needs to have.

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

Cooperation is an investment; it takes time and patience to develop a common Masters’ Programme with other schools. The programme takes place across different schools that all have their own study structures. In order to make this work a lot of time was needed to circumvent the existing bureaucracy and lobby for special rules for interdisciplinary studies. The rewards, however, are great.

Preparing for the Upcoming UN Discussions Around Carbon Pricing

Climate SummitIn late September 2014, 300 Heads of State and Government, Chief Executive Officers, Civil Society Leaders and Heads of UN Agencies will convene in New York for the UN Climate Summit 2014. Integral to the summit, the Private Sector Forum (PSF) will bring the voice of the private sector to the intergovernmental debate, addressing in particular how businesses across sectors are taking action on climate change.

The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear the importance of putting a price on carbon to help limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In support of this goal, the PSF will be putting a particular focus on carbon pricing, and more specifically, on actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies.

Through the Caring for Climate initiative, organised by the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme and the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing have been developed. The Criteria, which will be featured at the Climate Summit, look at integrating carbon pricing into long-term strategies and investment decisions, responsible policy advocacy, and communicating on progress (a reporting requirement of the UN Global Compact aimed at advancing transparency and accountability, and driving continuous improvement). This Criteria complements the Statement on Putting a Price on Carbon, developed by the World Bank Group and other partners, which has already been signed by more than 20 countries and more than 230 companies around the world, acknowledging strong global support for action on pricing carbon. The World Bank Groups also report in the 2014 State and Trends in Carbon Pricing, that nearly 40 countries, and more than 20 cities, states and provinces, currently use carbon pricing mechanisms such as emissions trading systems and carbon taxes.

A range of resources on climate change and the private sector are available to engage students in these discussions in the lead up to the summit. A report released by the Caring for Climate initiative, Adapting for a Green Economy: Companies, Communities and Climate Change, provides a wealth of information around climate change and its implications, both in terms of risks and opportunities for business. The Climate and Energy Action Hub, part of the UN Global Compact’s Business Partnership Hub, is an online platform where companies can upload and browse partnership project opportunities, and showcase private sector climate projects that have potential for scalability. The Private Sector Initiative – database of actions on adaptation features good practices and profitable climate change adaptation activities being taken up by private companies (sometimes in partnership with NGOs or the public sector) from a wide range of regions and sectors. Adaptation activities may relate either to ensuring the resilience of business operations, or the provision of technologies or services that assist in the adaptation of vulnerable communities to climate change.

UNESCO launched an online database of resources on Climate Change Education (CCE), which provides access to hundreds of resources on good practices, teaching and learning materials, scientific articles and multimedia material from around the world in English, French and Spanish, organised by education level/type of resource. They have also created a special toolkit on how to integrate Climate Change Education into the curriculum which, although created for use by secondary school teachers, provides a range of links to regional resources as well as high quality graphs that can be used in the classroom.

Leading up to the Climate Summit 2014 and to COP 21 (December 2015), we will share opportunities for universities to engage in and follow the debate, as well as resources on climate change and responsible management that can be used in the classroom. Schools can engage in dialogues planned globally through the UN Global Compact Local Networks, which explore climate change risks and opportunities, sustainable development, and climate change adaptation at the local level. Happening in parallel to the Climate Summit, schools in and around New York City can get engaged through Climate Week NYC, or online, following #Climate2014, #climatechange, @UN_ClimateTalks on Twitter.

The International Year of Small Island Developing States

SIDSSmall Island Development States (SIDS) were first recognised as a distinct group of countries at the United Nations at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. There are currently 39 SIDS spread out across the Caribbean, the Pacific, Indian Ocean and South China Sea, which are home to over 63.2 million people. They are a very diverse group making up countries such as Comores with a GDP per capita of $830, to Singapore where it is $51,000.

The SIDS have their own peculiar vulnerabilities and characteristics, so that the difficulties they face in the pursuit of sustainable development are particularly severe and complex. Their unique characteristics can also present benefits and make ideal locations for pilot projects in renewable energy. For example, the island of Tokelau recently began producing 100% of its energy from solar sources.

2014 is the International Year of Small Island States, an opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary resilience and rich cultural heritage of the people of SIDS. To celebrate this, we feature three schools making a difference in the field of responsible business, in their respective SIDS countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Dominican Republic.

Trinidad and Tobago: Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business

The Sustainable Renewable Energy Business Incubator Initiative at Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business aims to grow and nurture companies operating within the emerging sustainable energy sector in Trinidad and Tobago, through the provision of business support, facilitation of access to markets and access to finance, as well as technology transfer and joint ventures. The incubator has hosted a range of companies including photovoltaic panels for solar generated energy, recycling and proper tire disposal for generation of supplemental fuel substitute, and power generation using tidal power.

The school continues to partner with the Energy Chamber in promoting responsible business on the island, through the annual CSR Leadership Awards intended to recognise companies of all sizes that demonstrate a deep and genuine commitment to sustainability. It also organises the Social Enterprise Hive, an annual event that highlights Social Enterprise within the community. Participants in this programme learn how to develop and maintain ethical practices by using role models from the community to connect what socially responsible practices look and feel like.

Singapore: Lee Kong Chian School of Business – Singapore Management University

The Lien Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University was established in 2006 with the vision of being a thought leader and catalyst for positive social change in Singapore and beyond. The Centre connects with the community through its publications, its education programmes, open forums, and competitions. One of these programmes is iLeap, a professional education course for non-profit leaders, run annually since 2010 and consisting of 14 modules over 14 weeks. The course is designed to enhance the strategic leadership, governance, and operational management capabilities of non-profit executives, in collaboration with select community partners.

In 2013, the university launched a values-based education programme called SMU LifeLessons, that is implemented through co-curricular activities. Undergraduate students participate in the programme throughout their years at the university. Various topics—such as personal values along with business values, purpose, mission, conflict management, and developing a world view—are covered across different years using instructional methods that include case studies, journaling, and group discussions.

Dominican Republic: Barna Business School

Barna Business School launched the first Chair of Sustainability in the Caribbean region as part of the VICINI Center for Research on Sustainability, which aims to foster joint interests and to produce cutting-edge research, case studies and best practices that help organisations gain competitive advantage and be active agents in their quest to develop. Faculty at the business school are assessed against a learning outcome specifically related to Sustainability, and are developing a range of new case studies around the topic of sustainability and the local context.

Barna has also developed a think tank made up of the individuals responsible for sustainability at some of the leading companies in the Dominican Republic, who meet regularly to discuss to share their experiences. A Sustainability Club has also been put in place to engage alumni in these topics.


The International Year of Small Island Development States coincides with the 2014 Conference on Small Island Developing States in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September. For more visit

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – US, France and Finland

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 16.21.58As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they repeatedly hear the same examples from the same international companies.

In an attempt to share some new examples of good practice, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Below are some examples from the US, France, and Finland.

Joe Lawless, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership & Social Responsibility, Milgard School of Business, USA
Theo Chocolates has done an exceptional job of creating a company based upon the belief that they can make the world a better place through a commitment to social and environmental justice. Their efforts to support farmers and farming communities in cocoa growing regions include supporting their ability to utilise sustainable growing practices without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Theo was the first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country. They are successful in creating a sustainable product profitably, and it is really good!

Caroline Cazi, Director of Human Resources, Diversity and CSR, Montpellier Business School, France
In 2012, Dell launched a commitment to put technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good for people and the planet. It is a first step toward a new sustainability strategy for Dell. The Dell 2020 Legacy of Good Plan brings that strategy into focus and sets the trajectory for how social and environmental sustainability will become an accelerator for successful and sustainable customer and societal outcomes for years to come. Another example is Adecco. While the labor market should be opened to all, many men and women—handicapped, senior, without diplomas, from diverse cultural or socio-economic backgrounds—have no possibility of working. Since 2002, the mission of the Foundation of the Group Adecco is to favour the professional success of all, so that each individual is able to express their talent and aspiration, in their employment.

Minna Halme and Armi Temmes, Professors of Corporate Social Responsibility, Aalto University, School of Business, Finland
Kemira (water management) is an example of a large company, which has changed strategy, and oriented its practices towards corporate responsibility. Below, are other examples from small specialised companies, which have sustainability as the core of their strategy. Globe Hope is an innovative company that designs and manufactures ecological products from recycled and discarded materials. Greenriders is a socially rewarding service that helps users decrease the amount of carbon emissions created through person transportation. Finally, Sharetribe allows users to create a custom sharing, renting, or selling market place online, without having to have any coding experience.

What are your favourite local companies engaged in sustainability? Share them in the comments section below.

Creating a Student Journal – European College of Economics and Management

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 16.23.39The European College of Economics and Management (ECEM) in Bulgaria has had a busy year. The past year has seen their new Sofia campus awarded building of the year in Bulgaria in terms of education facilities, the college launched a new Sustainable Development Policy and courses to support the sustainable development mission, and ECEM launched a new peer-reviewed journal for students around the topic of sustainability. For more on the new student journal and how it came about, I spoke with Vesselin Loulanski from ECEM

What is “Science and Business?”

At the beginning of 2014 we launched a new peer-reviewed journal for students, calling it Science and Business. The journal aims to enhance student-university collaboration in research, and focus on applied research including sustainability issues. The journal also aims to increase professional and personal development opportunities for our students.

Science and Business covers aspects of modern institutional development, societal roles, and capacity building. We want it to focus on applied research to bridge the theory with the real world of economics.

How was it created?

The process took various steps in preparation, time and effort, yet within three months, the idea turned into the first issue of the journal.

We approached this journal very much like any other academic journal and were pleased to see that students took the project seriously. The difference with this journal was that design mattered more, and there was a focus on making it look modern and be more accessible, with a focus on professional rather than scientific content.

What kinds of articles have been featured?

In the first issue there were three business case studies—two papers focused on the tourism and hospitality industry (cultural heritage management and sustainable tourism), and a last paper on economics. Our second issue was a special issue with all six articles from award winners of a national competition which took place under the Union of Economics in Bulgaria. The topic was on e-commerce and global market trends, and articles came from Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students.

Each article is reviewed by a member of the editorial board as well as the editor, and final decisions are made at an editorial board meeting. The special issue was edited by the jury of the national competition with approval of the editorial board.

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

Do not hesitate to lead the process. Students and faculty are happy with the journal. There has been serious submission interest and the journal is getting media attention. We are now looking to further improve the review process and the design of the journal, and hopefully introduce some English language papers. We will also probably have a series of special issues on topics of importance to the business sector in Bulgaria.



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