Promoting Sustainability with your network – AACSB Sustainability Conference

logoConferences and events give schools the opportunity to come together to share different approaches on how to embed sustainability and responsible leadership into their programmes and campus activities. There are several sustainability events aimed at business schools coming up this summer, including PRME Steering Committee member AACSB’s annual Sustainability Conference. AACSB is increasing taking a focus on sustainability in its operations and working to spread these messages with its members around the world. I had the chance to speak with Kaya Jill at AACSB about the upcoming conference.

1.     What is AACSB and what is its focus on sustainability?

AACSB International (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is a nonprofit membership organization of over 1,300 educational institutions, businesses, and other entities in over 80 countries devoted to the advancement of management education. Established in 1916, AACSB International provides its members with a variety of products and services to assist them with the continuous improvement of their business programs and schools. AACSB’s mission is to advance quality management education worldwide through accreditation, thought leadership, and value-added services. As the premier accrediting body for institutions offering undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees in business and accounting, the association also conducts a wide array of conferences and seminar programs at locations throughout the world. AACSB is also on the steering committee for PRME.

Sustainability, corporate responsibility, and ethics are an integral part of management education. In order to provide students with these critical skills, programs must integrate these elements and initiatives into their curricula. Revealing new ways and best practices in sustainability and corporate responsibility,the AACSB Sustainability Conference highlights b-school and corporate efforts to further serve local and global communities.

2. What is the Sustainability conference and why was it organized that way

This year’s AACSB Sustainability Conference (SC) will occur on June 23-25 in Washington, D.C. This event brings together Deans, Directors, Faculty and Corporate Practitioners to discuss how business schools can influence big picture sustainability issues, as well as impact the development of the next generation of responsible leaders. The program addresses sustainable business, not just in terms of being “green,” but also by being socially responsible. The event is aimed at Deans, associate deans, MBA directors, research and faculty leadership, international directors, faculty, program directors, both those from schools who are just beginning and schools that consider themselves to be more experienced in this area.

AACSB organizes this conference annually to provide a networking platform for management educators interested in sustainability issues facing b-schools worldwide. The conference assists them in achieving these objectives and promotes the importance for education on sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility in business schools.

3.     What have been your experiences with this event in the past? 

The AACSB Sustainability Conference, previously known as Ethics & Governance Conference, goes back to 2006. Over the past 5 years, this event attracted participants from over 350 institutions from countries such as India, Sweden, Hungary, New Zealand and Egypt to name a few.  Some of the past featured speakers include: Frank Mantero (GE Corporation), Neil Weinberg  (Forbes Magazine), and Peter Senge (MIT).

4.     What are some of the highlights for the event this year?

This year’s conference offers 15 sessions on social impact, teaching/curriculum, and best practices. We have 4 plenary sessions featuring such speakers as Haas School of Business Dean and Conference Chair Rich Lyons, co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation Jeffrey Hollender, Managing Director and Head of Venture Capital of Good Energies George Coelho, and Nancy McGaw with the Aspen Institute.

Dean Rich Lyons will talk about innovative programs that educate students to become socially responsible leaders. Lyons’ most recent work focuses on “path-bending leadership” — the idea that the world needs more leaders who can redirect unstable paths — and how business schools and their curricula can help produce more of them. Nancy McGaw will share the latest findings from the Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey, George Coelho will discuss the link between business and engineering in terms of sustainability, and Jeffrey Hollender will talk about the future of business. Hollender’s mission is to inspire and provoke business leaders to think differently about the role they and their companies play in society.

In the conference opening bonus session Giselle Weybrecht, author of The Sustainable MBA, will provide an overview of how you can embed sustainability into all elements of your school. Other sessions include topics such as sustainability metrics, cross campus collaborations, partnerships in communities, new trends in sustainability education, developing responsible leaders, green campus initiatives and more. To view the latest agenda visit:

At this year’s conference, attendees will hear about AACSB’s new three-pronged criteria of Innovation, Impact and Engagement for leadership behavior—core components of the unanimously supported 2013 Accreditation Standards. Participants will learn how to implement the 2013 Accreditation Standards to build sustaining enterprises that foster reliability and to develop new leaders who cultivate and maintain socially responsible organizations that give back to communities.

5. What’s next for AACSB and Sustainability?

AACSB International has just entered into a partnership with GRLI and EFMD. AACSB (and EFMD) will work closely with the GRLI to focus on an important message: that business and business schools need to work collectively to devote greater attention to developing responsible companies and leaders in the future.

The opportunities for b-schools in fostering social impact have never been as numerous as today. Business schools are embracing sustainability themes within their curricula, operations, and infrastructure. We will continue to use our annual Sustainability Conference to provide tools and knowledge to our members in a way that allows them to move forward with these issues.

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