International Business School Suzhou (IBSS) at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University is one of 20 schools in China that are part of the growing PRME network there. A growing number of business schools in China are exploring responsible management in their curriculum and research and operations. Given the diversity that exists across China, each school has the potential to contribute in very different way and have a unique voice in ensuring that the country reaches the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I spoke with the IBSS’s PRME team, including Xuanwei Cao, Xiaxia Xu, and Alexander Mackrell, with further support from their Dean, Professor Hossam Ismail about how responsible management education is approached in China and the role they are playing (click here for part 1 of this series focused on their most recent Sharing Information on Progress report)
How do you define Responsible Management Education (RME)?
At IBSS we focus on ERS (ethics, responsibility and sustainability. We define it as the continuous pursuit of harmony/balance with our environment and those that live in it.
How do you see ERS progressing in business schools in China?
We see universities in China taking a bottom-up approach to ERS, starting at the grassroots level and creating benefit for their local communities. This is an excellent approach to begin with as China is so diverse in aspects such as language and subcultures, environmental challenges, and level of economic development. We expect this initial benefit will come largely in the form of research output and service in the form of local initiatives and events. The next step will be to create learning opportunities by communicating our challenges and achievements in ERS to both PRME and each other, whether this is through forums, online communities, or training workshops.
We also see closer cooperation with local government and NGOs as a key driving force for positive change in the coming years, particularly with our central government’s commitment to creating a more sustainable China.
Are there some of the key issues that Chinese business schools are looking at when it comes to ERS?
There are three key areas that we are looking at:
- How to integrate sustainability into China’s One Belt One Road initiative.
- Environmental concerns and green energy adoption in China.
- Sustainable responses to China’s changing demographical landscape with issues such as its ageing population and shrinking workforce.
How are you working with other business schools in China on these topics?
IBSS initiated our “PRME China Business Schools Sustainability Management Education Roundtable Forum” in 2016, inviting business schools from across China to attend discussions on topics such as “Raising awareness of the UN’s 17 SDGs” and “Responsibility and Influence”. These roundtables are now organized every year. As a result of last year’s roundtable, earlier this year we received a visit from the Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai (北京理工大学珠海学院), with the sole purpose of discussing how best to create a strategy for PRME. We also took the opportunity to introduce our work on PRME to Zhejiang University of Technology’s School of Management (浙江工业大学管理学院), during their recent visit to IBSS to discuss business school accreditation. We hope to consult more Chinese universities on PRME in the future, and have plans to host a larger PRME conference within the next two years to raise further awareness of PRME in China.
What impact do you feel Chinese business schools can have in the SDGs in China?
Chinese business schools can have a significant impact on the SDGs through their research, teaching and service. Through our research we are able to support the government policy creation vital to achieving each SDG, with a particular focus on reaching China’s goal of No Poverty in 2020. Through our teaching, both in content and effectiveness, we can ensure our students graduate with an awareness of ERS and the SDGs that they can communicate to their future employers or as entrepreneurs. This will be increasingly important as China continues its shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China”. Through service activities, such as staff and student led projects, we can raise awareness beyond IBSS and create impact in our local communities.
As mentioned above, the diversity of China does mean that each university will have a different set of strengths and contributions in terms of the SDGs. Suzhou for example is home to an incredible number of Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) eager to reduce waste and become more sustainable in their production and management practices. SDGs Responsible Production and Consumption (12) and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (9) are therefore particularly suitable focus for us, and through our in-company research projects and executive education programmes we work with SMEs to achieve these two goals.
How are you embedding the SDGs?
We have been very lucky to develop partnerships with three key organisations over the last year; the Suzhou Red Cap Volunteer Association, Ladies who Tech, and Green Light Year. Through these organisations we have access to initiatives and research opportunities that cover all SDGs, with upcoming student-centred projects in areas such as sustainable entrepreneurship, ageing communities, and female empowerment.
Our 2019 report was a good start in measuring our faculty’s research goals in terms of the SDGs, showing a clear focus in areas such as Quality Education, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and Responsible Production and Consumption. Over the next two years we plan to build a better picture of our research contribution to each SDG, while looking to identify ways to expand our focus to other SDGs, through interdisciplinary research for example. We also aim to make our 2021 SIP report far more SDG focused.
What do you think Chinese business schools need to do more of moving forward?
We hope that more Chinese schools can become PRME signatories, as we have found that the process of creating a PRME report alone can generate significant opportunities for positive change. There are also no Chinese PRME Champions. We hope to change this, both by aiming for champion status ourselves and encouraging other business schools to excel in ERS. With regards to initiatives we would like to see more communication on RME across business schools in China, we would be highly interested in learning what other business schools are working on and find ways to partner on new initiatives. Lastly we would like to see more storytelling! PRME is a fantastic opportunity to motivate and drive change through the celebration of the hard work of our staff and students. We hope to continue to build this positive attitude into our organizational culture at IBSS and continue celebrating as we go!