Business Contributions to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals – Issue Briefs (part 2 of 2)

Post 2015Over more than a decade, the international community has been working on reaching targets set forth by the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals which focused global attention on a limited set of concrete human development goals and provided targets for national and international development priorities. As these targets are set to expire in 2015, the international community, including the private sector and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are currently discussing what will comprise the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) post-2015.

Based on extensive consultations with the UN Global Compact network of companies around the world, a series of ten issue briefs have been developed to explore the critical role business has to play in achieving sustainable development goals, and the willingness of the business community and HEIs, to support the efforts of government and civil society in this work. These briefs provide suggestions of issues and accountability mechanisms to be included in the SDGs, and outline business’ role in helping to achieve these goals. These papers were presented to the co-chairs of the inter-governmental Open Working Group on SDG.

Here, in Part 2 of the blogpost, is an introduction to the issues of infrastructure & technology, peace & stability, poverty, water & sanitation and women’s empowerment. For more detailed information click on the links below to access the full issue brief. (See Part 1 for energy & climate, education, food & agriculture, governance & human rights, and health)

Infrastructure and Technology: Technology is the beating heart of economic transformation, and good infrastructure protects the environment while providing the leverage people need to lift themselves out of poverty. This includes deploying investment sufficient to meet requirements for “green” transport, energy, and water systems in the developing world and upgrading and replacing old infrastructure in the developed world, increasing the share of the population with access to public transportation, stepping up R&D in both public and private sectors and reducing carbon emissions from the construction and operation of buildings. Equally important, is creating universal and affordable access to the internet and computing technology, and effective use of e-governance to increase managerial capacity and transparency. Businesses are engaging in these issues in a variety of ways, including through the Green Growth Action Alliance launched by the World Economic Forum.

Peace and Stability: Businesses consider peace and security to be crucial to sustainable development, and an area where their own interests give them reason to complement the responsibility of public institutions to build and maintain peaceful situations. This includes improving access to justice, services and economic opportunity for diverse ethnic, religious and social groups; improving mediation, dispute resolution and dialogue mechanisms to prevent and resolve conflict and to build peace; and reducing violent deaths, preventing and reducing the illicit trade of small arms, and reducing the reach and extent of organised crime—especially through the provisions of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. Violent crimes are bad for business, and companies are looking at the means they have at their disposal to defuse social conflicts before they get out of hand or, in post-conflict situations, help to weave a strong social fabric leading to shared prosperity and stability. Businesses are engaging in these issues through platforms such as the UN Global Compact’s Business For Peace.

Poverty: The eradication of poverty is widely expected to be the overarching objective of the Sustainable Development Goals. This includes eliminating extreme poverty (those living under $1.25/day in 2005 real US dollars), creating jobs , eliminating child labour, ensuring full access to private finance and reducing the Gini co-efficient rating, a measurement of income inequality, in each country. Recognising the drawbacks that even moderate poverty poses to societies and economies, a growing number of companies are adopting new policies and practices that are inclusive of the poor as employees, customers, suppliers, and neighbours. This includes work being done through the Women’s Empowerment Principles and the Poverty Footprint Methodology.

Water and Sanitation: Water and sanitation are key given their cross-cutting nature in relation to sustainable development priorities—including energy, food, and women’s and girl’s empowerment. This includes universal access to affordable and safe fresh water, and basic and improved sanitation facilities to bring freshwater use in line with supply, and ensure establishment and full implementation of national water effluent standards. A growing number of companies are adopting new policies and practices to reduce their corporate water use, improve the quality of water returned to the environment, and to provide decent water, sanitation and hygiene services for employees, and the communities in which they operate. Further efforts include the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate and the CEO Water Mandate’s Water Action Hub.

Women’s Empowerment: A key target for the sustainable development priorities will be to achieve women’s and girl’s empowerment. This includes increasing the proportion of leadership positions held by women in public and private sectors, universally recognising and enforcing equal pay for equal work, increasing full and equal access of women to ownership, property rights and land titles, and reducing the rates of violent acts committed against women and girls. In addition to gender equality being a fundamental and inviolable human right, women’s and girls’ empowerment is essential to expanding economic growth, promoting social development, and enhancing business performance. The full incorporation of women’s capacities into labour forces would add percentage points to most national growth rates. Business is engaging through the Women’ Empowerment Principles among a range of efforts, to further this goal.

For more details about the business sectors contribution to the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals visit the UN Global Compact site and stay tuned for future Primetime Posts on the topic.

From now through July 2014, the Online Consultation for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda on Engaging with the Private Sector is being held on the World We Want platform, hosted by the UN Global Compact and UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). You can contribute to the dialogue at www.worldwewant2015.org/privatesector2015.

 

Business Contributions to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals – Issue Briefs (part 1 of 2)

Post 2015

Over more than a decade, the international community has been working on reaching targets set forth by the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals which focused global attention on a limited set of concrete human development goals and provided targets for national and international development priorities. As these targets are set to expire in 2015, the international community, including the private sector and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are currently discussing what will comprise the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) post-2015.

Based on extensive consultations with the UN Global Compact network of companies around the world, a series of ten issue briefs have been developed to explore the critical role business has to play in achieving sustainable development goals, and the willingness of the business community and HEIs, to support the efforts of government and civil society in this work. These briefs provide suggestions of issues and accountability mechanisms to be included in the SDGs and outline business’ role in helping to achieve these goals. These papers were presented to the co-chairs of the inter-governmental Open Working Group on SDG.

Here is a brief introduction to the different issues presented including, in part 1, energy & climate, education, food & agriculture, governance & human rights, and health, and in part 2 infrastructure & technology, peace & stability, poverty, water & sanitation and women’s empowerment. For more detailed information click on the links to access the full issue briefs.

Energy & Climate: Climate change and unmet energy demands are challenges that recognise no political or physical boundaries, crossing all sectors and industries globally. The private sector has a role to play as solutions-providers in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change and ensuring energy security, while simultaneously generating attractive financial returns. It also plays a role in developing new and innovative solutions to climate and energy challenges, and finding ways to collaborate and form partnerships, seizing opportunities for greater investment in technological solutions. Additionally, businesses themselves are aligning business practices to advance climate solutions—raising standards, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions, and committing to longer range sustainability objectives and goals in order to better align their efforts and strategies in relation to the broad global sustainable development agenda. For more on one active private sector participation, see Caring for Climate, an initiative aimed at advancing the role of business in addressing climate change.

Education: Businesses consistently single out education as the first or second priority for the post-2015 world, and also one of the areas where they are best positioned to make a difference. This includes ensuring that every child completes primary education, facilitating computing skills in secondary schools, increasing the percentage of young adults with skills needed for work, achieving parity in enrolment and educational opportunities at all levels for girls and women, and including sustainable development concepts at all levels of schooling with special emphasis on business school. The business community is doing this through partnerships, on the job training, the development of new technologies, and through initiatives such as the Framework for Business Engagement in Education and the Principles for Responsible Management Education.

Food & Agriculture: Farming and food occupy a pivotal position in sustainable development. Enhanced harvests, food processing and distribution will help to eradicate hunger, renovation of the rural sectors of the developing world, where the great bulk if the poor are found, is key to an advance on prosperity, and current agricultural practices are at once contributing and threatened by, climate change. The business sector believes the goals in this area should focus on eradicating hunger and halting increase of obesity and malnutrition, doubling the productivity of agriculture in the least developed countries, stopping and turning back the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation resulting from farming and livestock, decreasing overexploitation of ocean fish stocks, and reducing food waste. Business can play a role through development of new crops, training of farmers, utilising new technologies and processes, and increasing collaboration and lesson-sharing through issue platforms such as the Food and Agriculture Business Principles.

Governance & Human Rights: The business community identified both fair and efficient governance and an environment where human rights can flourish as not only benefiting business, but being necessary features of a sustainable society. This includes raising awareness and implementation of all UN human rights conventions and instruments, achieving competitive and transparent procurement processes, further developing an open, rule based, non-discriminatory international trading and financial system, and establishing a climate supportive of business and investment at home and from overseas—including further incentives in favour of sustainability. Business can play a role through scrupulous respect for human rights in the workplace and in their dealings with stakeholders, as well as through the framework laid out in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.

Health: Health is central to development and is an investment that enables economic growth and wealth, as well as better quality of lives. This includes affordable access to quality treatment and care for all, the reduction of the reach of TB, malaria,HIV/AIDS, and non-communicable diseases, universal reproductive health services, and reducing maternal and under-five mortality. Health care constitutes a major industry and is involved in global campaigns to fight disease and make medications more affordable. They are also involved in innovative partnerships in wide-ranging areas such as research & development, disease elimination, new business models, community partnerships, and innovative licensing.

 

From now through July 2014, the Online Consultation for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda on Engaging with the Private Sector is being held on the World We Want platform, hosted by the UN Global Compact and UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). You can contribute to the dialogue at www.worldwewant2015.org/privatesector2015.

From the pilot phase to the online portal: Key steps toward Anti-Corruption Toolkit for MBA programmes

Berlin2

 

Almost exactly one year ago, I had the chance to speak with Matthias Kleinhempel and Gabriel Cecchini from the Center for Governance and Transparency at IAE Business School in Argentina and coordinators of the PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption in Curriculum Change. Together with the members of the Working Group, they had been working on developing an innovative new resource for integrating anti-corruption (AC) values into the core curricula of leading business schools. This new online Toolkit utilises a mix of core concept readings, details case discussions, primary sources, and documents, and includes scenarios devised for class discussion. Each of the ten study modules contains a long list of resources that allow faculty of different countries to design a course that is appropriately suited to the necessities of his/her students.

The online Toolkit, which was funded through a grant from the Siemens Integrity Initiative, was tested during a pilot phase, and participating schools recently submitted their feedback on how to make the toolkit even stronger. I recently had the chance to speak with Matthias and Gabriel about this project.

1. What is the status of the toolkit?

Over the past two years, the PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption has developed and tested a unique approach to teaching business and management school students about anti-corruption. The resulting Anti-Corruption Toolkit provides flexible guidelines and resources for MBA programmes in Business Schools around the world. The Toolkit was piloted in 12 schools from 10 different countries between mid-2012 and mid-2013. Last July, the Working Group met at Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance in Berlin to review feedback from this pilot process, focusing particularly in the following areas:

- Localising content to specific countries and regions,

- Creating a system for easily updating material, and

- Integrating a user friendly search engine for the web-based toolkit.

Following this meeting, the Toolkit will be finalised to help professors design anti-corruption courses and select the most adequate content and/or teaching methods for stand-alone courses and/or for anti-corruption sessions as part of other modules, with the understanding that courses can be customised to the needs and context of the institutions using it.

2. How is the toolkit being used by schools?

The toolkit was implemented differently by each of the 12 schools. Some of them incorporated selected topics into already existing courses, while others implemented the toolkit almost in its entirety; others integrated only some documents/materials or points of view about corruption; some courses were mandatory, while others were optional/elective; some courses had many dozens students, while others had only a handful of them.

3. What changes will be made based on feedback from the pilot phase?

Maintenance and refinement of the Toolkit were among the primary challenges cited by the pilot schools. A website was designed to allow professors to submit additional material in the different topic areas. Standards of relevance and quality will be assured by “gatekeepers” designated by the PRME Working Group which developed the toolkit.

4. How can faculty access the Toolkit?

The Toolkit and its online portal (http://actoolkit.unprme.org/)  are available at no cost to all interested business schools and universities around the world. The Toolkit is organised around 11 topics/modules covering different aspects of anti-corruption and corporate integrity problems and issues, plus a teaching methods section with a broad scope of tools and approaches to improve anti-corruption teaching. Additionally, it will provide a search function for easy access to concepts, key words, and tools.

5. How was the Toolkit used at IAE Business School?

The AC toolkit was implemented in its pilot phase at IAE Business School during the second semester of 2012 through the incorporation of some of its content into a 10 session-elective course “Corporate Governance and Anti-Corruption,” both in the MBA and Executive MBA programmes. The course was designed to help students gain a better understanding of the relevance of anti-corruption policies and of its importance for corporate governance.

Students who took the course (23 in MBA; 26 in EMBA) found the toolkit’s materials generally useful. They appreciated the material as excellent bases for interesting discussions around the issue of corruption. When preparing the elective course, four main topics from the toolkit were particularly useful: Core Concepts, International Standards, Supply Chain, and Managing Anti-Corruption Issues. With respect to methods, long and short case studies were used as well as dilemma scenarios and lectures with guest speakers (i.e., compliance practitioners); additionally, group work and discussion were incorporated.

6. What are the next steps for the Toolkit?

Looking forward past this Toolkit stage, the Working Group will continue working in a second phase in the direction of creating bridges between academia and business through education actions aimed at “train the trainers” and best business practices programmes and workshops, in order to share academic knowledge and tools with compliance practitioners around the world. Information about this next phase will be communicated in due time.

What happened at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly

prmeOn September 25-26, the Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariat and CEEMAN co-organised the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly in Bled Slovenia, held in conjunction with the 21st CEEMAN Annual Conference on September 27. The events brought together more than 200 members of responsible management education community and included some influential speakers including the former President of Slovenia, Janez Stanovnik, Dr. Jernej Pkalo, Minister for Education, Science, and Sport in Slovenia, Nikos Koumettis, President of the Central & Southern Europe Business Unit for The Coca-Cola Company, as well as Deans from a range of leading business schools around the world. The focus of the event was to discuss the creation of a new intellectual, research, and institutional agenda that develops leaders for the future we want.

A few outcomes of the Summit included a range of new and updated resources to assist signatories in their efforts to implement responsible management education. The second edition of the Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Learning to go beyond was released, featuring 27 new case stories from 17 countries. As with the first edition, launched at Rio+20, these inspirational guides highlight the real implementers of responsible management education.  A series of additional case stories were also selected in a blind peer review process for inclusion in the Summit and can be found here.

The second edition of the 2013 PRME MGSM MBA Study was launched, an international survey of MBA students and their attitudes towards corporate sustainability and responsible management. A total of 1,285 postgraduate students contributed to the online survey. Generally the students reported that their schools are preparing them well on issues of business ethics and social responsibility but at the same time there is evidence to suggest that academic institutions would be well served by maintaining and increasing the scope of responsible management education in across their curricula.

The issue area PRME Working Groups have also been very active over the past year. The PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption has developed an Anti-Corruption Toolkit, available online, which provides eleven comprehensive anti-corruption modules for business schools and management-related academic institutions around the world. The modules can be used individually or collectively and aim to address the ethical, moral, and practical challenges that students will face in the marketplace. The PRME Working Group on Gender Equality has continued to update the Global Resource Repository, which provides resources for faculty to integrate gender issues into management education, and includes an inventory of case studies, syllabi, text books, good practices, etc., for application in a variety of disciplines. The PRME Working Group on Poverty as a Challenge to Management Education will soon publish the second edition of The Collection of Best Practices and Inspirational Solutions for Fighting Poverty through Management Education: A Compendium of Teaching Resources.

A couple of recognitions were given out for Excellent in Reporting. In the first category of those PRME signatories that submitted more than 3 Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, Hanken School of Economics from Finland was selected because of its report’s clear and coherent structure, readability, and the information regarding the evolution of their activities and their future goals and plans. A second school recognised in this category was ISAE/FGV from Brazil, which created a sustainability report that uses a range of different reporting frameworks (PRME, GRI, MDGs, UNGC) and combines readability with detail and technicality for those mentioned audiences. The second category of awards recognised the cohort of new signatories reporting for the first time. In this category, Glasgow Caledonian University’s SIP report was recognised for presenting initiatives for each Principle in an easily identifiable way, and actions undertaken have been show in concise, realistic, useful, and inspiring ways.

This year has also seen the establishment of a number of regional chapters, with several more in development. PRME Regional Chapters are now present in Asia, Australasia, Latin America, Brazil, UK and Ireland, German-Speaking Europe (DACH – Switzerland, Austria, Germany), Nordic countries, and the Middle East and North  Africa. There are several upcoming PRME regional meetings and activities, including the 3rd PRME MENA Regional Forum (9-11 November in Dubai), the 4th PRME Asia Forum (14-15 November in Manila, Philippines), the 3rd PRME Australia/New Zealand Forum (18-21 November in Waikato, New Zealand), and the PRME Chapter Brazil will meet in Curitiba on 5 November. Participation at these events, which are great opportunities to learn more about PRME, is open to all from the responsible management education community.

To read the 2013 PRME Summit Declaration click here.

What did you take out of the summit? New ideas? New partnerships? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

What happened at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013

UN Global CompactThe UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013: Architects of a Better World took place on 19-20 September in New York. The event brought together representatives from the business community to set the stage for business to shape and advance the post-2015 development agenda and put forward a framework for business to contribute to global priorities, such as climate change, water, food, women’s empowerment, children’s rights, decent jobs, and education, at unprecedented levels. The Global Compact comprises 8,000 companies and 4,000 civil society organisations from 145 countries.

Several major projects and documents were released during the summit. One of the most anticipated ones was the New Global Architecture for Corporate Sustainability designed to “drive and scale up corporate actions to directly advance United Nations goals,” according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It provides an overview of plans to link business engagement with global priorities, in particular around the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and expected Sustainable Development Goals (details to be unveiled by the Secretary General this week). Further, the architecture has already been endorsed by both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

In addition to the existing UN Global Compact programmes, three new programmes were launched on education, agriculture, and peace. Additionally, a new Business Partnership Hub will provide a space online for the business community to post projects around the UN Global Compact’s different themes. Further, the summit officially launched the PRME Champions leadership group (more details to follow in an upcoming blog post).

The summit also saw the launch of several major reports. The Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013 looks at the state of corporate sustainability today – providing an in-depth review of the actions taken by companies around the world to embed responsible practices into their strategies, operations and culture. The report is based on the results form a survey with nearly 2,000 companies across 113 countries.  The Report shows that companies are doing a good job at making commitments, defining goals and setting policies but still have a lot of work to do on putting these into practice. Larger companies are more likely to put these strategies into action than smaller companies however small companies are increasingly taking steps to catch up with their larger peers. Sustainability in the supply chain is not just one of the key actions in sustainability within companies but also one of the biggest roadblocks because tracking compliance is a challenge.

UN Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Architects of a Better World surveyed 1,000 CEOs and includes in depth interviews with 75 of them.   The report says that more than two thirds of chief executives – 67% – believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. Seventy eight percent see sustainability as a route to growth and innovation and 79% believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry. Respondents also site lack of financial resources, a failure to make the link between sustainability and business value as challenges. CEOs are demanding greater collaboration between business, governments and policymakers as well as increased regulations, standards, subsidies and incentives to support their sustainability efforts.

Global Compact 100 is a stock index of companies committed to the UNGC’s ten principles which tracked the stock market performance of GC companies during the past three years, comparing the results against a broad market benchmark, the FTSE All World. Released in partnership with research firm Sustainanalytics, the index shows a total investment return of 26.4% during the past year, surpassing the general global stock market (22.1%). “While the performance of the GC 100 should not be seen as clear evidence of a causal relationship between a commitment to corporate sustainability practices and stock performance, there appears to be an exciting correlation,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director the UN Global Compact. “Moreover, the results may also reflect the fact that sustainability performance is a factor that is receiving increasing interest from investors.”

Corporate Sustainability and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda, based on consultations and surveys with thousands of businesses in all major regions, contains business perspectives and recommendations in three areas: determining the core of a post 2015 agenda, including suggested sustainable development goals and targets; how to engage business and investors towards sustainable development goals; and recommending ways that Governments can advance inclusive and sustainable markets. The proposed goals are: 1) End poverty and increase prosperity via inclusive economic growth; 2) Quality education for all; 3) Achieve women’s and girls’ empowerment; 4) Universal health coverage; 5) Good nutrition for all through sustainable food and agricultural systems; 6) Water and sanitation for all; 7) Sustainable energy for all; 8) Build peaceful and stable societies; 9) Modernize infrastructure and technology; and 10) Good governance and realization of human rights.

The Africa Sustainability Barometer was also launched, covering more than 1,000 international companies with operations in the region, as well as local and regional companies. It gauges the state of corporate sustainability reporting and is a joint initiative between the UNGC and the Financial Times.

The Smartest Investment:  A framework for Business engagement in education  was launched at the event as a joint initiative between UNESCO, UNICEF, UNGC, and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. The report makes that case that education is not only good for society but also good for business and charts the means to realize business benefits while advancing education goals.

Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles, launched in collaboration with key civil society organizations, the Principles were developed in response to the need for a common understanding between existing standards and industry initiatives. The Principles will provide a framework for furthering good practice and for developing effective private and public sector policies and partnerships.

For more news about the event visit the UN Global Compact website.

Bringing Sustainability into the Classroom – United Nations International Days (Sept-Dec)

International Year of PeaceEach year, the United Nations promotes awareness of and action on a wide range of political, social, cultural, humanitarian, and human rights issues through a range of International Days focused on particular issues. The first International Day – Human Rights Day on 10 December – was approved in 1950. Today, there are dozens of International Days but also international weeks, years, and even decades observed.

UN International Days are recognised and celebrated by governments, NGOs, and organisations around the world, and now increasingly by businesses and business schools. These events give opportunities for business schools to raise awareness about specific issues with their students and staff and to take action on these issues within their communities. They also provide topics for in-class discussions or assignments.

Below is a selection of the internationally celebrated UN Days taking place between September and December 2013 that might be of interest. For a full list, please visit the UN website.

International Day of Peace (21 September) concentrates the efforts of the UN, governments, and individuals worldwide to promote the ideal of peace and to give positive evidence of their commitment to achieving peace through all viable means. The day is also Global Ceasefire day, a 24-hour period in which hostilities are suspended to enable relief workers to reach civilians.

World Tourism Day (27 September) fosters awareness among the international community of the social, cultural, political, and economic value of tourism. The specific focus of this year’s Day is Tourism and Water.

World Habitat Day (October 7) asks for reflection on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of humankind’s habitat.

World Food Day (16 October) seeks to increase understanding of problems and solutions in the drive to end hunger. The theme for 2013 is Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October) promotes awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries, particularly in developing countries – a need that has become a development priority.

International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (5 December) provides the chance for organisations with volunteering opportunities and individual volunteers to publicise their contributions to development at local, national, and international levels.

International Anti-Corruption Day (9 December) focuses on preventing, exposing, and rejecting corruption, whose cost is not just measured in billions of dollars but also on the negative impact it has on communities, human rights, governance, and economies.

Human Rights Day (10 December) presents an opportunity to celebrate human rights on a global scale, highlight a specific issue, and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere.

How will you celebrate these days with your community? Add them to your calendar and share stories of your festivities with us!

Practical Wisdom and Management Education

Prof. Andre Habisch

Prof. Andre Habisch

The EABIS-Yale Practical Wisdom Initiative seeks to construct a bridge between the worlds of management and the spiritual and philosophical traditions. This cross-disciplinary project brings together practioners and academic experts within each of the world’s six great faith traditions (Christian, Chinese, Jewish, Islamic, Indian, and Buddhist) to discuss how to bring the value of wisdom back into management and management education.

I recently had the chance to speak with Prof. Andre Habisch from Ingolstadt School of Management in Germany and Associate Research Director at the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) about the project.

1.     What is Practical Wisdom?

The concept of “Practical Wisdom” is deeply rooted in the Western philosophical tradition. The corresponding Greek concept of “Phronesis” was at the very heart of Aristotle’s concept of professional development, which complemented the acquisition of instrumental capabilities with character formation (virtues). In ancient Greece, Meno asked Socrates, “can virtue be taught?” Around the same time, Confucius was teaching the key virtues for leadership. Today, 2500 years later, in the field of management development we ask a similar question: “can managers learn to be wise?” Can spiritual traditions – rooted in premodern agrarian society – play a meaningful role in our complex, interconnected modern world?

2.     Why create an initiative on Practical Wisdom?

There have been discussions within the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) for many years regarding the limits of existing management education. But where should content for a reformed management education be taken from? Contemporary intellectual approaches remain rather constructivist and have no roots in the broader community of managers and entrepreneurs. So we decided to turn to the spiritual and religious traditions of mankind, the basic texts and documents in religious studies that are the result of a reflection process on the “good life” that has lasted for hundreds and thousands of years. We wanted to start digging into the traditions and see what lessons could be applied to modern day business.

3.     What is the EABIS-Yale Practical Wisdom Initiative?

The EABIS-Yale Practical Wisdom Initiative seeks to construct a bridge between the worlds of management and the spiritual and philosophical traditions. It aims to bring spirituality and religion back into management education. We felt that it is not enough to just reproduce spiritual texts or describe the practice of religious entrepreneurs. We have to work on these traditions. We wanted to learn more about how they face their day-to-day challenges with the support of their spiritual tradition.

For that purpose, we organised an international series of conferences on practical wisdom for management from the world’s spiritual and philosophical traditions, addressing the central question: How can we bring back the value of wisdom in management and management education? The conferences are designed to bring together philosophers, theologians, management scholars and business leaders to engage in reflection and dialogue and to find new grounding.

ABIS President Gilbert Lenssen proposed the ambitious project in collaboration with Ted Malloch from the Yale University Center for Faith and Culture and supported by a grant from the Templeton Foundation. I am trained as an economist and (Catholic) theologian. Therefore, I coordinated the project’s content as Associate Research Director of ABIS along with the Project Manager Cristian Loza Adaui.

4.     What have been the outputs of this initiative?

Ingolstadt School of Management generously supported my research on this topic and also sponsored the start-up conference at Eichstätt, Germany in 2009, which was planned and organised in close cooperation with Prof. Dr. Michael Naughton at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. Following our start-up event, there have been six other conferences around the world, each one organised in close collaboration with a renowned business school. These were: CEIBS at Shanghai, for input from the Chinese Tradition (June 2010); Ben-Gurion University at Beer Sheva, for the Jewish tradition (June 2011); Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, for the Islam tradition (November 2011); IIM at Kozhicode, for the Indian tradition (June 2012); Tammasat University at Bangkok, for the Buddhist tradition (November 2012); Soka University at Tokyo, for the Japanese Tradition (May 2013); and Yale University Center for Faith and Culture for the Wrap-Up Conference (July 2013).

Every conference results in a special issue of the Journal of Management Development. So far, we have published four special issues, with more to come. We are currently preparing a book with learnings from this initiative that will be published with Springer Editors.

5. How can or should Practical Wisdom be incorporated into business and management education?

Traditional forms of learning are not enough – we need to induce more reflection from students about their own personal values, how they perceive their role in society, etc. Neuroscience confirms that these learning processes are not triggered merely by conceptual learning. Rather, experimental learning brings about increased knowledge not only about the practice of value-based small and medium entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, but also gives students the opportunity to confront their own identity, values, and ambitions. For example a student should be able to reflect on the question: “Where is my personal red line, which I will never cross even if my employer wants me to?” It is important that they reflect on this before they are exposed to the enormous conformity pressures that exist in many organisation.

6. How has this initiative been received, and what’s next?

The Initiative has been very well received. In some countries, the Initiative has resulted in ongoing initiatives, e.g. the preparation of a Center for Practical Wisdom in Management at Morocco. We are also planning several more ABIS workshops, including one for the Humanist tradition in Germany, one for indigenous tradition in New Zealand, and hopefully some in Africa.

We have been able to acquire funding for a second step of the project from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). In the context of the German-Arab cultural dialogue, we will be able to integrate M.A. students into our program – a necessary next step to really arrive at the operational level of management education.

We are currently looking for business schools in the Arab world to participate in our common initiative with Al-Akhawayn Business School and two other German universities. Students are invited to dedicate their M.A. thesis to the topic of “Practical Wisdom for Sustainable Business” (e.g. value-based management in an SME, Islamic banking, Hallal markets, HR practices and Islamic values, etc.). We will be organising a series of meetings on the topic in the region over the upcoming year. If interested, please email Claudius Bachmann or learn more at the project website.

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