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 Finland, Belgium and France.
Nikodemus Solitander and Martin Fougèr, Hanken School of Economics, Finland
Finland is not really a leader in sustainability issues – especially in comparison to its Nordic counterparts. However, one interesting recent development is that companies seem to be increasingly willing to engage with NGOs and be active in social responsibility initiatives. One good example of a company taking an active stance relating to social responsibility is SOK / S-group (retailing cooperative, second largest retail organization in Finland), S-group has become particularly responsive to NGO claims in the past few years, and is actively taking on the issues raised. When it comes to environmental responsibility, Finnish companies often pride themselves on their ability to innovate in ways that are more sustainable. St1, a Finnish energy company which has taken the lead in sustainable bioethanol production and is using waste and industrial side products as raw material (instead of e.g. palm oil, much criticized by environmental organizations). St1 has a very clear sustainability vision that permeates its strategy and at the same time they make it clear that in order to be able to finance these types of innovations they have to be pragmatic (they are not yet generating profits with their waste-based biofuel and they thus finance its production by operating more traditional service stations).
Talia Stough and Kim Ceulemans, University of Brussels, Belgium
Colruyt Group is Belgian company, active in all segments of the retail chain, and amongst others working on ecological and fair trade food partnerships. Colruyt Group values education for sustainable development, is a sponsor of the Environment, Health, and Safety degree program here at HUB, and they are actively involved in our sustainability commitment.Umicore is a Belgian, now global, materials technology and recycling group. In 2013, Umicore was ranked as the most sustainable company in the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index.KAURI is the Belgian multi-actor learning network and knowledge centre on Corporate Responsibility (Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Governance & Corporate Citizenship) and NGO Accountability.
Tashina Giraud, Sustainable Development Manager, Euromed, France
La Poste (French Postal Service) is a long term partner for our school. They helped us launch our first research chair in 2007 on sustainable performance and are a founding member of the Responsible Management Network. La Poste has put in place an ambitious zero-carbon policy with eco-driving classes, electric vehicles and carbon compensation. Through this, sending your mail in France no longer emits CO2. The Poste is also a new partner in the circular economy research chair.
Adecco (temporary job placement) is one of the founding members of the Responsible Management Network and they invest heavily on this topic, such as by putting in place a employment agency that helps find jobs for “de-socialized” people.