Students Exploring Solutions to Local SDG Challenges – Universidad EAFIT


Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals requires the support and involvement of all groups in exploring the challenges but also proposing innovative solutions. This is exactly what the students at Universidad EAFIT in Colombia are doing. Over the past year they have been developing a range of solutions to SDGs with a particular focus on the issues most relevant to their country and community. I spoke with Maria Alejandra Gonzalez Perez, Professor of Management at Universidad EAFIT, about their involvement in the global initiative Ideas for Action.

What is I4A and how did EAFIT become involved?

I4A (Ideas for Action) is a joint project between the World Bank Group and Wharton Business School to foster the engagement of young people in international development, and with a specific focus in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I4A wanted to increase the participation of Latin America in the initiative. We were personally invited by Prof. Djordjija Petkoski at the Wharton School to participate in the annual competition.

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

I4A annual competition aims to promote a generation of ideas for financing and implementing the SDGs. Winners are invited to present their projects at the IMF and World Bank annual meeting, and they receive support by a start-up accelerator in Wharton. In 2017, over 700 projects were submitted, and around 30 of them were by teams from EAFIT.

How were EAFIT students specifically involved?

As part of their CSR course, or as a voluntary project, students designed their projects, and submitted their projects to Ideas 4 action. Students were given academic recognition for the power of their ideas, the realistic possibilities of implementing the project, and their commitment. Click here for an overview presentation. 

What kinds of ideas were proposed/what was the impact on the students?

Most of the projects submitted by EAFIT addressed SDGs 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). The majority of the proposed initiatives were focused on post-conflict Colombia, and how to create economic and social inclusion for former guerrilla members. The ideas range from extreme wild tourism, community based micro-financing, reforestation, and organic agriculture.

Students expressed that this project gave them the opportunity of building ideas for a more inclusive and sustainable future for their country. It also gave them networking opportunities with other students from around the world, and interaction with senior members of the World Bank.

How did you incorporate this into the curriculum?

Nearly 80% of the submitted projects were from students that take the course “Ethics and Social Responsibility” in the Business Management undergraduate programme. They were assessed based on originality, power of the idea, realistic possibilities of implementation, and, background research (data mining) on the issues and opportunities.

The other 20% of the submissions were by members of the student research groups (Observatory on Trade Investment and Development). They participated because they wanted the opportunity to contribute and be heard.

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

It was our first time participating, and what we found most challenging was ensuring that students understood the importance of the SDGs. It was an excellent way to encourage them to bring together everything they had learned in the business curriculum and apply it to current environmental, social and economic challenges taking place in Colombia. After Brazil, Colombia was the country with most submissions in Latin America. This gave visibility to students, our School, and the country.

What other initiatives are you currently involved?

We are currently involved with WikiRate and have several research groups looking at corporate performance on SDGs 8 and 16. Another initiative on campus that we are proud of is our student research group, the Observatory on Trade Investment and Development. It is a space where students publish articles with short analysis and opinions about the topic of business, investment and development focused primarily on emergent markets and exploring sustainable development. The forum is inspired by the United Nations Conference on trade and Development (UNCTAD). EAFIT is also a member of the Global Compact.


12 Visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report (Part 2 of 2)

Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, beyond being a requirement for PRME signatories, are an opportunity to bring together the work a school is doing in the area of responsible management education, reflect on that work and explore future opportunities. SIPs can provide an important communication tool to raise awareness both internally and externally about your initiatives. Using visuals in your report is one way to bring the information contained within your report to life, to make it easier for your stakeholders to navigate, understand, engage in, and to take action on. To inspire your next SIP report, here are 6 more visuals taken from recent SIP reports (see Part 1 for the first 6 visuals). These examples are intended to be an exploration of the different approaches taken from different schools. For more examples you can browse through all of the SIP reports on the PRME website.

INCAE in Costa Rica publishes a sustainability dashboard which tracks their consumption and sustainability initiatives on campus over the years, starting in 2010. This includes electricity, solid waste, water, purchasing and a number of other environmental actions on campus.

HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences in Finland have produced a one page report based on an infographic summary for their letter of commitment which very briefly outlines some statistics relating to their engagement in PRME as well as a few goals moving forward.


Hult International Business School provides a visual overview of the proportion of compulsory courses where learning objectives include explicit reference to ethics, responsibility and sustainability across all programmes offered by the school.

Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business in the Philippines provides an illustration of how the university intends to address the sustainability challenges of the 21st century through actions directed towards self, school and society, visually bringing to life the school’s strategy in this area.

The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town in South Africa has a range of special features on current and past students actively engaged in PRME related topics both within the university but in particular externally in the community, within government and companies.

The University of Western Australia conducted a sustainability audit in early 2015. This visual shows the key energy and waste management results of part of this audit as well as the financial and environmental benefits possible if each parameter is improved by 100%.

12 Visuals to get inspired by for your next SIP report (Part 1 of 2)

Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, beyond being a requirement for PRME signatories, are an opportunity to bring together the work a school is doing in the area of responsible management education, reflect on that work and explore future opportunities. SIPs can provide an important communication tool to raise awareness both internally and externally about your initiatives. Using visuals in your report is one way to bring the information contained within your report to life, to make it easier for your stakeholders to navigate, understand, engage in, and to take action on. To inspire your next SIP report, here are 12 visuals (in two parts) taken from recent SIP reports. These examples are intended to be an exploration of the different approaches taken from different schools. For more examples you can browse through all of the SIP reports on the PRME website.


Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria in Canada has been working steadily to measure and reduce its carbon footprint. Over the past few years they have put in place new systems for data collection to ensure more accurate measurements for the various sources of emissions related to the school’s operations. They publish an annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Gustavson, prepared by Synergy Enterprises, one of many sustainability-oriented companies founded by former University of Victoria students.

Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa has a series of illustrations created to capture the school’s ongoing commitment to the principles of PRME. The first explores GIBS’s engagement through its people, the second its impact on its community and globally and the third innovation that it is fostering.


The MBA office at Reykjavik University Business School in Iceland interviewed all teachers in the MBA programme in order to map the extent to which a focus on ethics was built into each course. This showed that nine courses out of twelve have CSR or business ethics elements in them. Of the nine, three put a great deal of emphasis on the subject as can be seen in the syllabus mapping.

Copenhagen Business School in Denmark provides a snapshot of different sustainability related research projects. They also include a picture, the name and contact details for those responsible for each project, making it easy to find out where you can find out more information about their projects, whether you are a member of the community or not.


Material issues for KU Leuven Faculty of Economics and Business in Belgium are displayed in the materiality matrix. These issues are categorized based on their ascending relevance to stakeholders (based on engagement activities) and the organization (based on the school’s vision, mission, values, and strategy). The most material sustainability issues are education and research that address sustainability topics, as well as the promotion of diversity/non-discrimination with an emphasis on gender equality.


Hanken School of Economics
in Finland uses tables such as this one throughout their report to outline goals from previous reports, progress made on those goals and to lay out future goals. Here they also address any delays or challenges to reaching set goals.

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Sweden, India and Brazil

As businesses become more and 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 often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, 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. Here are some examples from Sweden, India and Brazil

Elizabeth Mary Barratt, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Filippa K has developed a new business model based on sustainability which includes integrating circular economies in their value chain as well as their “Lease the Look” trial where they are testing the sharing economy trend by leasing out their clothes.

Max Hamburgers are nudging their customers with information to choose the most sustainable burger alternative, along with significantly expanding their vegetarian alternatives.

Axel Johnson AB has set a measurable target that their management will have at least 50% women in their companies, along with at least 20% with an international now-Swedish passport.

Dr Kasturi Das, Institute of Management Technology, India

Jayaashree Industries provides low cost sanitary napkins to rural women who cannot afford them because they are sold at a premium price as well as l sanitary napkins making machines which can produce the napkins at low cost to encourage the development of local entrepreneurs.

Goonj recycles discarded clothes and household goods into useful products for the poor. It collects and delivers 1,000 tons of materials a year through a network of hundreds of volunteers and partners. It also runs local development projects in villages and slum areas.

Julio Cesar Borges, FEA-RP/USP, Brazil

Votorantim Cimentos, a Brazilian cement company, is working with one of our alumnus on embedding sustainability into large projects taking place in an extremely poor region of the country.

CPFL, a Brazilian energy company, has been working with some of our professors to develop sustainable solutions for the energy sector. They outline their targets and progress of the targets on their website.

Celebrating Student Achievements at FEA-RP/USP

As we have seen over the past month on PRiMEtime, the students themselves are often the drivers of new ideas and change on campus relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and PRME. Their energy and willingness to get involved and engaged can lead to some exciting new initiatives and programmes. At FEA-RP/USP in Brazil, students created the Sustainable Student Organisation Awards to annually support student projects relating to sustainability, PRME and the SDGs. I spoke with Julio Cesar Borges and Professor Adriana Caldana at the University about this initiative.

Why is it important to engage students in the SDGs on campus?

The time that students are at university is a crucial time to form responsible leaders. Students complete the course and most of them do not return to academia. They will follow their professional life in companies, NGOs, personal etc.. Therefore it is crucial that we educate them about the SDGs and sustainability issues during their time with us. The interest in sustainable projects has been growing every year spontaneously among students. The school and some professors are facilitating actors of this emerging phenomenon. 

What are the Sustainable Students Organisation Awards?

There are nine student organisations at FEA-RP/USP who have been a major drive in promoting the SDGs on campus. These groups are self-managed and offer hundreds of engagement opportunities to students across campus. In September, the Sustainability Office in collaboration with the students created the Sustainable Students Organisation Awards (2nd edition). Its intention is to promote projects that are current in progress and stimulate the creation of others.

This year the competition was to create a video of up to three minutes, demonstrating a sustainable project related to the Sustainable Development Goals and how these projects have impacted the lives of people. The next challenge was to disseminate the videos on Facebook and social media in order to publicise the SDGs, the student projects and the importance of systemic and responsible vision in a school of management that occupies a position of prominence and national recognition.

Describe one of the projects

The winning student organization was the Financial Market Club and their “Nest Egg Project” (Projeto Pe de Meia). 59 million Brazilians are defaulters and 81% know little to nothing about personal finances. The project delivers financial education in a dynamic and intuitive way. It has been active in 7 states and 16 cities across the country and has already served 5000 people. There are two strands of this project. First the work with children and adolescents and second with executives and workers from the most diverse sectors of the economy. The goal of the project is really to bring financial education to everyone.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The main challenges is being able to change the mindset of students, and staff in relation to sustainability and business. The more the students get engaged, the more successes we are seeing as they have a significant impact not just on other students but on the staff as well. Hundreds of people were impacted by the student projects presented in the videos. In a one week period there were over 7,800 views and 1,700 involvements (likes, comments, shares). The final stage of the challenge involved representatives of the student organization presenting the videos to a judging commission composed of teachers, professionals and a doctoral student. The Dean of the college delivered personally the trophy to the winners.

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

Provide students with freedom of expression and action, autonomy, and protect and encourage genuine and spontaneous action. Be sure to respect the differences while also promoting and recognising student´s achievements. The school also plays the important role of listening to the criticism it receives (even if it is inappropriate), to mediate conflicts and to provide additional resources and support where possible.

What is next for the initiative?

The “Sustainable Students Organisation Awards” will be continued in the coming years. We will focus on obtaining sponsorship and recognition of companies engaged in sustainable development. We will also be working to get more participation of students and professors.


What do Students Think about Responsible Management Education

Every two years, The United Nations- supported Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) and Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) Associate Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal collaborate on an international study that measures that attitudes of business students around the world have towards responsible management education and corporate social responsibility.

The results are increasingly positive. As would be expected, a growing number of students around the world are not only aware of, but requesting more focus on sustainability within their business degrees. Here are twelve insights pulled from the survey data.

  1. Students understand how important these topics are to business. 92% felt the overall effectiveness of a business can be determined to a great extent by the degree to which it is ethical and socially responsible, 96% believe that social responsibility and profitability can be compatible, and 95% believe companies should be doing a lot more for society and the environment.
  1. Of these, a growing number understand the importance of it also being taught in business school. Between 70 and 80% of students believe that schools should teach them about business ethics, environmental sustainability, the SDGs, CSR. 59% of students reported to have been educated about business ethics to a good/excellent degree.
  1. But not all students are being reached, and not all to the same degree. 26% percent felt that there was already too much emphasis on these topics in their business education. Between 20-30% felt that schools shouldn’t teach students about sustainability topics at all. 
  1. The students that are interested want more: Only 40% of respondents felt their school met their RME expectations to a high degree or better. 28% wanted their school to teach them more about these topics, particularly around ethics and environmental sustainability.
  1. General sustainability topics are being presented but what about specific topics and to what extended? Respondents felt that while topics such as business ethics, CSR and diversity were being taught to a good degree, more specific topics within sustainability, such as anti-corruption, human rights, fair trade, social entrepreneurship not as much with between 11 and 16% of respondents saying that had not learnt about these topics at all.
  1. Students are not aware of some of the key players that will increasingly be relevant in their post degree careers. 24% of students were aware of the UN Global Compact, 26% were aware of their schools involvement in PRME (67.5% were unsure) and only 37% had heard of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  1. Students want to know what they can do to get more involved, especially on a daily basis. Respondents showed that they regularly engage in sustainability behaviour through their products they purchase (over 90%), boycott ‘bad’ companies (81%), buy organic (85%)
  1. Students also want their schools to get more involved. When asked if students felt their business school was doing enough to help develop responsible leadership Over half of the students felt that schools provide either just enough or more than enough, 28% felt their school was helping but not enough and 6.5% suggested their school wasn’t helping at all
  1. Students not only need to be exposed to sustainability, but perhaps more importantly, how to use it within their post degree jobs. 38% of respondents felt that they were either well equipped or very well equipped to apply their CSR knowledge in real life (16.7% felt either not very well or not at all equipped).
  1. Engaging in sustainability goes beyond just teaching. It is also about students getting involved in their community and causes that are important to them. 33% of respondents were involved in volunteering activities and over three quarters of respondents participated in no social movements.
  1. Students are willing to take a pay cut to work for companies that take CSR and sustainability seriously: 88% of respondents felt it was between fairly important and absolutely essential to make a lot of money. However, half of the respondents would give up more than 20% of their initial financial benefit to work for a company that cares about employees. One in five students would sacrifice 40% or more of their future salary to work for a company that demonstrates several aspects of CSR.
  1. Students have some good ideas as to what schools could do to increase their teaching of responsible management. When asked what else business schools should do to increase responsible management the respondents suggested adding additional topics and contents to their programmes, utilising real life case students and industry speakers to explore the topics, and providing more encouragement for students to engage further these topics.

Nearly 1800 students responded to the online survey mainly from Brazil, India, the US, Spain, Canada, Mexico and Australia. The average age was 27 and 46% of respondents were female. Respondents included by undergraduate and MBA students. To read the full report click here.

Students Create New Initiative to Develop Women Business Leaders – Slippery Rock University

Credit:Slippery Rock UniversityStudents are often the ones driving sustainability efforts on campus. Not only are they increasingly interested, but now are also outspoken and engaged in ensuring that relevant sustainability topics become part of their business school experience. Because of this, it is important that schools and faculty be prepared to support student initiatives and give them the opportunity to develop. At Slippery Rock University in the United States, two graduate students saw a need for a Centre focused on development of female business leaders and proposed the development of a new Centre on campus. I spoke with Professor Diane Galbraith, their mentor and faculty leader at Slippery Rock University.

What is the Women’s Business Centre?

As more female business students graduate from Slippery Rock University and other colleges around the world, they may find themselves unprepared for their future careers. Already at an unequal playing field with the current gender wage gap, women must consistently overcome obstacles in the world of business. These obstacles include pay differences, finding mentors, developing negotiation skills, achieving work life balance, and conflict resolution. Men may have already developed these skill sets or have a larger network to help them acquire these skills. According to the Harvard Business Review, “[…] among graduates of elite MBA programs around the world—the high potentials on whom companies are counting to navigate the turbulent global economy over the next decade—women continue to lag men at every single career stage, right from their first professional jobs” (Carter, N.M., & Silva, C., March 2010).

In the fall of 2015, two Slippery Rock University (SRU) Master of Business Administration students, Katelin McCallan and Cheyanne Crevar, embarked on a journey to create a business organization for women in the Slippery Rock area. The students, along with their advisers, Dr. Diane D. Galbraith and Dr. Melanie Anderson, created a new group, Women’s Solar Center, also known as Solar (a metaphor for helping women in business shine). This was started based on an authentic desire to help women succeed.

How was the Centre created?

Katelin and Cheyanne were working as graduate students for the university. They discovered a women’s entrepreneurial center called EMagnify located at Seton Hill University. The head of the center was leaving and the group was going to be disbanded from the area. We learned that the region does not have many centers for women who want to prosper in business or outlets to learn and grow in this space. This resulted in proposing that Slippery Rock University step up and create a center that addresses the needs of our peers and the advancement of women.

They contacted myself and a colleague, Dr. Anderson to be part of this journey. The four of us met on a regular basis to develop the centre, its mission and write up a grant proposal to support the Centre. We received a $4,289 Faculty-Student Research Grant, which allowed the two students to further develop the Centre. They have been working to recruit female alumni in business and create a space where female students and alumni could get support in starting a business, contract negotiations, salary negotiations, mentoring and work/life balance. We had a first start up meeting that drew 50 women.

What are the goals/aims of the centre? 

We want to utilize the resources of faculty, alumni, and students of Slippery Rock University to break down the barriers for women in business and help them on their journey towards advancement and achieving work life balance. The group will reach out to students, faculty, staff, and regional community members. Women involved in Solar will learn about various professional topics including networking, conflict resolution, professional document building, and negotiation. In addition to skill development and education, women will have the chance to participate in mentoring programs with Slippery Rock University professors and community members.

Presently, we are working on securing area speakers to provide information in a variety of areas. Our December speaker was a woman from the Dress for Success organization that focuses on professional dress in the workplace. We are planning to develop an advisory board to further develop the Centre. Students and alumni will need to pay dues to join the Centre, $25 for a semester and $35 for the year. This will help pay for speakers and events.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

As a new initiative, our biggest challenge is marketing and raising awareness as well as securing resources to grow and develop the Centre. Local organisations such as the Ohio University’s Women in Business (OWIB) were very receptive to helping us launch the Centre. We have already started offering a range of workshops that appeal to students and group members and this was an essential step for our collective growth as professionals in our respective fields.

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

Start small since this can be such a big initiative. We are not re-inventing the wheel because others have paved the way for us. We know that we need sponsorships and to tap into the community. People need to be impassioned about helping women. Graduate assistants started this enterprise and we need to secure ongoing resources for continuity. We are still in the initial phases ourselves, so we are exploring options to help this organization succeed.

Solar came about because of students, an MBA project to be specific. It is important that schools and faculty have ways to support student initiatives. We as facilitators are more than willing to take an idea from incubation to reality, since we are advocates for creativity and innovation. When these students proposed their idea, we encouraged them to develop it and then provide the groundwork to bring it to fruition. The culture has to be receptive to new ideas as well as the faculty needs to provide the oversight and business acumen to move these projects forward.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are in the planning stages. We are discussing the creation of a signature event to host annually that becomes synonymous with our organization and our mission. In addition, we are discussing a philanthropic partner who is as passionate as we are in supporting women. As we progress, we would like to expand in the region, even as a center for women in business. When these plans materialize, we will request additional resources, possibly a full-time position and/or director. In the interim, we are attempting to secure graduate assistants in the Business department to assist the organization’s student officers.


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