In August, Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) Report. The report was recognised for Excellence in Reporting among new signatories at the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly earlier this year in Bled, Slovenia. I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Stephen Sinclair and Dr. Alec Wersun, Co-Chairs of the PRME Leadership Team at the Glasgow School for Business and Society, about their experiences putting together the report.
1. Briefly describe GCU’s approach to sustainability
Our approach to sustainability is to make it strategic and incorporate it into our way of working as well as into our teaching and research. While we think it is vital to educate our students (future leaders) about all aspects of the sustainability agenda, we think it is equally important to ‘walk the talk’ and practice what we preach. It is for this reason that the Glasgow School for Business and Society (GSBS) is a member of Business in the Community, the United Kingdom’s largest business-led charity of its kind, committed to building resilient communities, diverse workplaces, and a more sustainable future. It is also important to emphasise that we see ‘sustainability’ as covering not only environmental sustainability, but also economic and social sustainability.
To give you a sense for our commitment to environmental sustainability, GCU recently won a Gold Award under the UK’s ‘Eco-Campus’ programme, thanks partly to installing a more efficient heating system to help the University reduce its carbon footprint, actively encouraging recycling throughout the campus, and setting up a gardening group to grow vegetables on campus for resident students. Environmental sustainability is also a feature of research in all three Schools of the University. For example, GCU recently launched a Climate Justice Resource Hub, in partnership with the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, that aims to uphold the ‘Principles of Climate Justice’ created by that body. Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centreed approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution, equitably and fairly. There is so much more we could tell you, but space precludes this!
2. How did you go about putting together your first SIP report?
Most of the information included in our first SIP report was provided by colleagues, and this was gathered by talking to as many members of staff as possible to learn more about relevant teaching, research, and community and stakeholder engagement activities that they were involved in or knew of. We also contacted a number of our external stakeholders and partners to learn more about what they valued in their relationship with GCU and considered how these accomplishments related to the Six Principles of PRME. Because of the wide-ranging nature of PRME, it is unlikely that all of the potentially relevant information would ever be held in any existing central repository, and so we found that there is no substitute for asking questions and engaging colleagues in dialogue. This process becomes a way of not only learning more about the work underway within GCU but is also a way to publicise GCU’s involvement in PRME itself.
In this sense, our first audience for the report was internal; it was a way of documenting and celebrating some of the excellent work in which our colleagues are engaged. An additional benefit is that, the more we all learn about the work of our colleagues, the greater the opportunities are for new collaborations between us, and this is at the very heart of our inter-disciplinary School, comprising business, law, and social sciences.
3. Is there a part of the report or of the report process that you are particularly proud of?
If we might be permitted to select two features in our SIP report, we take particular pride in our close relationship with Nobel Prize Winner Professor Muhammad Yunus as well as GCU’s commitment to paying a ‘Living Wage’ to all staff.
GCU’s relationship with Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus dates back several years but was deepened and extended when he was appointed University Chancellor in 2012. Our relationship is about far more than merely having Professor Yunus as a figurehead, important as that is, there is a vibrant academic and research aspect as well. For example, the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health is developing an important and entirely new research agenda, exploring the relationship between microenterprise, capability, and health. Sadly, although Glasgow is a vibrant city with lots of exciting things happening, parts of the city, along with other parts of the West of Scotland, are blighted by some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world, so developing and evaluating the viability of innovative responses to this problem is a vital socio-economic issue, as well as an important scientific challenge.
GCU’s commitment to paying all staff a ‘Living Wage’ – beyond that required by the statutory national minimum wage – is an important statement about the value that the University attaches to the well-being of all its members. GCU is the first UK University outside London to make this commitment, and hopefully it will not only contribute to improving the living standards of staff, but also serve as an example to other employers of the importance of recognising and respecting the contribution of all staff.
4. What have been some of the challenges you faced?
PRME is still unfamiliar to many and so there is a job to be done in explaining what it is and how it relates to the interests and expertise of some colleagues and stakeholders. However, the aim of transforming business practice and management education so that they become part of the solution to contemporary and future global challenges quickly becomes appealing to those who learn about PRME and the Global Compact. Once again,we have found a process of continuous dialogue to be the most effective way to improve understanding of PRME among staff, students, and other stakeholders, so that they are able to consider how it relates to their work and how best they can contribute to it. It soon becomes clear that anyone with an interest in sustainable development, equalities issues, or globalisation – let alone business and management issues – can contribute to PRME and the transformation in thinking to which it ultimately aspires. Within GCU, we have tried to enhance this process of familiarisation by establishing a PRME Leadership Team, which promotes awareness of PRME and which shares information on how the Principles relate to teaching, curriculum development, and research.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn more about GCU’s first SIP report. To read GCU’s SIP report click here.
– What were your experiences putting together your SIP report? Share them in the comments below. –