Developing Case Studies on Sustainable Production and Consumption for the Business Community – Universiti Sains Malaysia

MalaysiaThe Universiti Sains Malaysia in Malaysia has been actively engaged over the past two decades in incorporating sustainability into their curriculum and offerings, and also their research. They currently coordinate an innovative partnership between five different leading universities in Malaysia and a number of international organisations and national associations, with the aim of raising awareness and capacity around sustainable production and consumption in Malaysia. I spoke with Associate Professor Sofri Yahya, Dean of the Graduate School of Business about this project.

Introduce the project

The Universiti Sains Malaysia was a partner in the ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on Sustainable Production and Consumption, an annual event organised by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies that took place in Malaysia and aims to enhance awareness on sustainable production and consumption (SPC) issues for government and private sector decision makers.

To support the aims of this event, Universiti Sains Malaysia started a project in mid-2012 to develop learning materials and methodological support. This project began from recognising that there was a need to present real-life cases to decision makers, which demonstrate a change process from a business-as-usual scenario to one that effectuates, or has the potential to change behaviour and systems—i.e. cases that influence, or have the potential to influence, policy making and change practices geared towards SPC.

To showcase these production and consumption related challenges (and issues related to the green economy, good practices, policy choices, and other diverse topics in different regions), we developed learning cases as resource materials, to be used for capacity development programmes for policy makers, and gathered in a publication for use in teaching and training of policy makers, equiping them with the necessary knowledge, skills and tools for integrating sustainable thinking and practice, and developing strategies for sustainable development. The SPC resources included cases on cleaner production and resource efficiency, supply chain management, stakeholder engagement, procurement practices and sustainable consumption, financing of sustainability and development projects, education and capacity development for sustainability, and sustainable regional development. 

What other partners were involved in the project and how did you facilitate working together?

The project was funded by the United Nations University, and under the coordination of Graduate School of Business at Universiti Sains Malaysia, obtained participation and contributions from five other institutions: Prince of Songkla University, TERI University, University of the Philippines, Yonsei University and Universiti Sains Malaysia. Each institution contributed at least one learning case with relevant teaching notes and slide presentations. Other partner organisations—the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines, and the Regional Centre of Expertise Greater Phnom Penh, Cambodia—also provided support to the project by contributing similar required outputs, the development of which was done using their own resources.

The Graduate School of Business coordinated the project and provided consulting services in the form of: 1) administrative coordination and 2) editorial expertise—both in content editing throughout the development of the cases, as well as copy editing at the intermediate and final stages of refinement of cases.

What kinds of cases did the project produce?

The cases showcase good SPC practices and diverse SPC issues of different regions. The specific cases taken up by the contributors reflect the priorities of countries in the region, including those under these SPC priority areas:

  • Effective collaboration among multiple stakeholders (includes topics related to sustainable cities; lifestyle in sustainable consumption; and cross-sectoral and cross-departmental collaboration for coherent SPC actions)
  • Sustainable procurement
  • SPC service delivery (includes topics related to sustainable production, product and resource management)
  • Sustainable and community entrepreneurship
  • Monitoring and disclosure (includes topics related to indicators for SPC, measuring outcomes of SPC projects and processes)
  • Financial instruments for SPC projects
  • Building SPC into educational systems
  • Innovation and development (at different, including regional, levels)

In total, 11 cases were completed.

How are the cases being used? Are they being used in the university with students? With the partner organisations?

The expected outcomes were not only to provide resource materials for the ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on SPC, but also for other capacity-building initiatives of United Nations University and partners on SPC and related fields. Ultimately, the aim in the long run is to initiate a platform for sharing more useful cases in the region and beyond.

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

Pursuing any potential similar project requires committed and knowledgeable writers as well as good policy-based advisors for development of educational case-based studies on sustainability topics. Sufficient funding and full cooperation from the organisations for cases to study is also essential.

What’s next for this project?

Our future plans for this project include development of a case-based sustainability leadership publication to be used for educational leadership retreats with companies.

What are three other projects at GSB in the area of PRME/responsible management/ sustainability that you are particularly proud of and would like others to know about?

Some of other responsible management and sustainability-related projects that we have either completed or are in process of organising include community outreach programmes that are planned and implemented by our MBA students as part of the “Business Issues and Sustainable Development” course. Two of the projects our students implemented in 2015 include cleaning up the a beach and national park in Penang Island, and organising a community awareness programme on recycling and environmental preservation called “Zero Waste Penang” (#zerowastepg), which was considerably attended by members of the community.

GSB is also proud to plan organising the “International Sustainability Business Week” in October 2015, which is a five-day programme focusing on the Green economy for sustainable business, especially in the context of multiple stakeholders living together within an ecosystem that functions not only to provide for society’s basic needs and human development, but also to reduce environmental degradation.

To learn more about the activities of the Graduate School of Business at the Universiti Sains Malaysia read their first Sharing Information on Progress report here

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