Advice for Signatories – Looking Forwards with the 2018-2019 PRME Champions

Now that 2019 is past us, lets focus on 2020. To start off the year I asked the 2018-2019 PRME Champions 5 questions in relation to PRME and will be posting their answers throughout the week. The first post explored new initiatives, the second recommended resources. Third, I asked them what advice they had for PRME signatories that are just starting or struggling to engage in the SDGs within their institutions or want to take it further in 2020.

Paul Palmer, Cass Business School, United Kingdom

It’s all about relating what they are already doing to the SDGs. Don’t make it an “external” project. Most importantly, relate it to the student experience and what they are already (or should be) thinking about. What will their future workplace look like and where are the opportunities for growth and innovation? Talk to your undergraduates about their lives and prospects.

Alec Wersun, Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom

I would suggest three things. First get in touch with a PRME Champion School in your region and the chair of your regional network (if there is one) for support and guidance, and arrange a meeting or video call with them. Second, visit the PRME website and download the SIP reports with examples of how schools have engaged with the SDGs in curriculum, research and partnerships. Third, gain inspiration from the PRME’s sister initiative, the UN Global Compact, and how companies are integrating the SDGs in to operations.

Jill Bogie – Hayley Pearson – Morris Mthombeni, Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa

Be careful of already very demanding work schedules, teaching and research commitments. Not everyone has the capacity to support – but they may still be willing to help – so support them until they are ready and able to participate. Work where the energy is and build from there. Work with what is already working well and build from there.

Acknowledge/recognise work already being done in research (or teaching) that may not have an ‘SDG label” – the research is important if it relates to an SDG, even if the SDG is not claimed by the author. For example: Research on women’s entrepreneurship is still important and relevant even if the researcher does not claim SDG 5, SDG 8 or 9. But in reporting, or other communications, the connections can be recognised. Do not push faculty to frame their research or teaching under the SDG banner.

Evgenia Pashkevich, IBS-Moscow, Russian Federation

Start with small steps.  Focus first on one area – teaching or research of service to community.  It is difficult to start in all directions at once.  Get some faculty members aboard.   It is difficult to engage many faculty members at the very beginning but a few SDG ambassadors can do a lot to inspire other faculty members. Get students as involved as you can.  They can be a real driver behind SDG integration.

Suzanne Young, La Trobe Business School, Australia

The PRME Champions group is working on an SDG Blueprint that all PRME Signatories will be able to access. The Blueprint lays out guidelines for implementing the SDGs in Curriculum, Research and Partnerships. We believe this will be very good starting point for new and existing signatories who are looking for examples and best practice in embedding the SDGs in their business schools

Sanchi Maheshwari, Hanken School of Economics, Finland

Every school is different and so is, and will be, their PRME integration journey. However, as a general guideline, in order to ensure longevity of goals in relation to PRME and their actual implementation, it will be wise to integrate goals related to sustainability, SDGs and PRME into the strategy of the school. This will ensure that the goal related to sustainability will outlive the people behind it! Also, measuring progress is extremely important as they say what you cannot measure you cannot manage! In this respect, conducting regular bi-annual reporting on PRME progress is a very relevant exercise, which should not be treated merely as a reporting exercise, rather a way to engage more people and to raise awareness, e.g. by conducing interviews internally for the report. At Hanken, we have been conducting bi-annual interviews with rectors, faculty and admin staff since 2010.

Nothing works well if it is autocratically imposed on people, so a lot of internal regular communication channels should be set up to spread the message about sustainability, SDGs and to inspire people to act whether it is through their teaching, research or admin work. Some examples of this could be newsletters, blogs, podcasts, video series, workshops.Last but not the least, it is pertinent to walk the talk! If you say you are a responsible business school, then that responsibility should transpire into your own operations.

Christian Hauser, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons, Switzerland

Connect and engage with the PRME regional chapters. Most regions now either have a chapter or are discussing the formation of a chapter. If not, connect with other schools in your country. Also look at business associations, like the UN Global Compact local networks, to join forces and get inspired.

Gustavo Fructuozo Loiloa, ISAE/FGV, Brazil

I believe that the success for engagement with the SDGs is in raising awareness about it. People have to understand themselves as part of the 2030 Agenda, part of the solution and therefore part of the problem. We have been working since 2015 to bring different ISAE stakeholders together and talk about the SDGs, what they are and why they are important. We also focus on how each person can contribute within the activities they perform in daily life, and finally move on to action. Of course, top management engagement is required, but today, the SDGs are a common language that connects academia, business, governments and society, so it is easier to link the strategic potential of working with the 2030 Agenda.

Alex Hope, Newcastle Business School, United Kingdom

Establish a baseline to understand where you are now and then set modest targets and goals in the early days so that you may demonstrate progress and build momentum. Also don’t be shy – Reach out to other institutions involved in PRME or the PRME Champions. The power of PRME is the network!

Sheila Killian, Kemmy Business School, Ireland

I think the GRLI saying of Think big, start small, act now is perfect advice. Whether in reporting or in taking on a new initiative, I think having a big vision, but when starting, starting in a way that’s small enough not to be destabilized by the other pressure of academic life is a more sustainable way to go about things. So looking initially at what’s already there is good. In our School, for instance, we have an innate strength in the area of precarious work, so that gives us an easy lead-in to SDG8. We have an Athena Swan award for gender equality, so that is a solid basis for more work on SDG5. Starting from your own strengths, and working outwards is a good idea.

Kutlwano Ramaboa, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa

There is a lot that you institution is probably doing without necessarily categorizing/labelling the work as SDGs. Find an individual to lead the project. The SIP report to some extent gives you a platform to ‘blow your own trumpet’. The rest of the school will eventually understand what it is that you are doing and the significance of the work.

Rumina Dhalla, Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, University of Guelph, Canada

During my time in industry, I found that success breeds success. I try to use the same strategy in my academic life. As a new signatory, I would start by highlighting successes in research and teaching as well as student activities within the organization. Then, focus on finding ways of celebrating and rewarding these successes publicly. Use your SIP Report as a way to highlight activities and develop strategy for the future. Distribute it widely for example, to alumni, potential students, donors, and community leaders. Increase buy-in by forming a formal or informal coalition within the business school. Conduct a best practices audit and solicit suggestions from faculty, students and administrative staff. Find ways to collaborate with other PRME signatories – for example, consider co-developing/teaching courses and joint conference presentations. Get actively involved by attending meetings, participating in PRME webinars, and getting engaged at the chapter level will also help establish yourself as a participating, engaged PRME School.

Carole Parkes, Winchester Business School, United Kingdom

Establish a base line of understanding what is actually happening across the institution (at all levels). Find out where the genuine internal ‘champions’ for the SDGs. Hold lunchtime events (and provide lunch!). Be inclusive and encourage participation and sharing of interests for potential collaboration and engagement. Involve students – they are key allies and often passionate advocates.                                                                         

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