Sustainability in the Russian Business and Education Communities – Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School (Part 1)

lomonosovLomonosov Moscow State University Business School is one of the oldest business schools in Russia, founded in 1989. After being impressed by their latest Sharing Information on Progress Report, I spoke with Natalia Bukhshtaber, Associate Dean for Academic Programmes and International Affairs, Natalia Sharabarina, Director of Social Education, and Nina Koryakina, Supervisor of Social Education Programmes about some of their initiatives.

In this two-part post we will look firstly at sustainability in Russia more generally. In the second post we will look specifically at how the business school is creating a more socially responsible leaders in their innovative Diary of a Social Responsibility course.

How is sustainability/responsible management viewed within the business community in Moscow? Russia in general?

While the Russian society at large still seems to be rather poorly informed of the CSR and sustainability efforts of Russian companies (a recent survey found that 62% of respondents claimed there were no socially responsible companies in Russia), the same is not true of the Russian business community. Within the last decade or so, CSR in general and sustainability in particular have become one of the pertinent issues on the agenda. In an article on the background and the current situation with CSR in Russia, Russian-based Economic Strategies Journal provided a rating of the most responsible businesses in the country. The rating was dominated by large corporations or mid-size companies, mostly from the field of resource extraction and processing.

What have been some trends you have seen in this area?

Within the last decade we have witnessed a growing number of initiatives that could be called grassroots business initiatives, where socially responsible businesses and entrepreneurs group together to share ideas and collaborate. Among these is Social Responsibility of Business, a main information hub for news, events, and resources on CSR, sustainability, and corporate philanthropy, as well as the creation of Donors Forum, a non-profit partnership of grant-providing businesses.

The Crisis Barometer is a project that monitors the current situation with CSR and corporate philanthropy/volunteering by polling representatives of about thirty large businesses. Their most recent survey was about corporate volunteering and found that only 2 of the 22 companies surveyed stated that volunteering is not part of their corporate agenda. This is a big change, as compared to some ten or even five years ago. Surveys conducted by the Crisis Barometer also found that, even under the current financial crisis, most companies did not cut their corporate philanthropy and some even doubled their expense budgets, and nearly half of the respondents see corporate volunteering and philanthropy as an ‘anti-crisis’ measure that should ‘secure stability of social investment’.

Briefly describe Lomonosov’s approach to sustainability/responsible management?

MSUBS mission is to be an agent of social change. We do this by educating our students in the values and ethics of business, by challenging unethical practices, enforcing sustainability practices, and introducing our student bodies to a range of real life examples and cases of effective business done responsibly. We were the first among Russian business schools to introduce the courses on business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and counteracting corruption.

We encourage student and faculty initiatives and involvement in academic and practical projects aimed at creating a better, safer environment, offering new services to the community, or prompting further discussion of responsibility and sustainability. In 2013, for example, a team of our students reached the semi-finals in Challenge:Future contest on The Future of Work presenting their idea of Eco Evolution for Eastern Europe. A team of our MBA alumni developed an application for allergy-affected people. Several of our faculty attended the 21st CEEMAN International Conference and presented its concept of educating socially responsible and ethically-minded business leaders.

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