Hanken School of Economics celebrated 10 years of responsible management education in 2018. A PRME Champion, they were the first university in Finland to sign the principles in 2008 and have, since then, been a leader and inspiration to many others in the PRME network. In their report, which was recently given Recognition for Excellence in Reporting at the PRME Virtual Global Forum, highlights the landmark events of this journey. It presents an overview of what Hanken has done, but also focuses in on what they are currently doing around not just PRME and responsible management but the SDGs as well concrete future goals. I spoke with Sanchi Maheshwari from Hanken’s PRME/social responsibility office about their experiences.
How do you put your report together? What is the process and who is involved for example?
Hanken’s PRME/social responsibility office is responsible for the PRME report. The office employs a social responsibility coordinator who is responsible for all the planning, data collection, writing, designing, publication and dissemination of the report. The social responsibility coordinator reports to a faculty member who oversees the whole process. People across different administrative units support the process including Library services, communications & marketing and the Rectors’ Office.
The process starts with analysing the previous report as well as reports of other schools, and then formulating the structure based on the feedback and things we would like to improve. The report from start to finish takes around 4-5 months with around 5-10 work hours each week. As part of the data collection, we have been conducting leadership, staff, faculty and student interviews and surveys. This is an integral part of our report writing process as it serves a dual purpose of engaging people across Hanken and at the same time collecting data.
This report is also a celebration of your 10+ years as a Signatory to PRME. What have been some of your highlights over the past 10 years? How do you feel RME/sustainability has changed at Hanken?
A lot has happened! For one, sustainability and social responsibility has been institutionalised and is now a founding pillar of our strategy, sub-strategies, action plan and key performance indicators. This has further enabled and empowered some of the other landmark changes within curriculum development and research. At Hanken we now have a mandatory 3 ECTS capstone course at master’s level in sustainability and SDGs called Global Competence: Social responsibility across business studies. We have a well-established corporate responsibility module and minor that currently consists of 45 courses in total offered across both our locations in Helsinki and Vaasa. The module is open as a 25ECTS bundle free of charge to around 40 external participants each year. The cohort represents a diverse mix of professional backgrounds: corporate, civil society, public sector, active students etc. The minor is available to all degree students at Hanken. We also launched our two MOOCs: Organising for the Sustainable Development Goals and Introduction to Humanitarian Logistics on Future Learn in 2020. Both the courses combined have around 6000 people enrolled to them.
What about in terms of Research?
Within research, we have now five well established research institutes working on topics related to sustainability: Centre for Corporate Sustainability (CCR), Gender, Organisation, Diversity, Equality, and Social Sustainability in Transnational Times (GODESS), Humanitarian Logistics Institute (HUMLOG), Hanken Centre for Corporate Governance (HCCG), Intellectual Property Rights University Centre (IPR Centre). A couple of years back, Hanken also introduced a new Areas of Strength in Research Policy. Defining Areas of Strength (AoS) is a way to show which areas of research are particularly strong for Hanken. Three of the four AoSs at Hanken for the period 2019-2023 are closely related to the field of sustainability, ethics, responsibility and SDGs: Responsible Organising, Leading People for growth and Well-being, Financial Management, Accounting and Governance.
And what about in terms of Partnerships and Dialogue?
In terms of dialogue and partnerships, we have been part of the PRME Champions group since its pilot programme in 2015 and have, as part of the group, been active in some flagship projects such as the SDG Blueprint. We have been part of the CR3+ Network along with La Trobe Business School (Australia), Audencia Business School (France) and ISAE/FGV (Brazil). The CR3+ network has been organising the CR3+ conference since 2010 and is now in its 8thiteration which will be hosted by ISAE/FGV with the theme ‘Innovation shaping a sustainable. We also collaborated with the CR3+ network members for a PRME Champions project on creating open access and creative commons educational videos on SDGs. This project also formed as a groundwork for our MOOC on SDGs on future learn. As an extension to this project, we are also in the current Champions Cycle working on a project with different institutions including INCAE (Costa Rica), Copenhagen Business School (Denmark), TA Pai Management Institute (India) to create educational modules on SDGs, although our starting point this time around will be sustainability challenges in different local contexts and then linking them to different SDGs. At Hanken we also have a flagship annual sustainability conference that has been running yearly since 2017. It has gathered 100+ experts with around 1200+ audience representing wide variety of societal stakeholders, discussing almost 20+ topics related to SDGs and sustainability.
Do you find the SIP to be a useful exercise? Why or why not?
Yes definitely! We do not see SIP reporting as just a mere reporting process. It is really an exercise carried out every two years to engage more with staff, students and faculty in what we do. Additionally, we also feel that there is a lot of value in understanding the status of the implementation/integration as ‘’what you don’t measure, you cannot manage’’ really holds true here. We feel it is quite important to not make PRME reporting a mere box-ticking exercise, rather a process to bring about real change.
Is there a part of the report that you are most proud of?
Our highlights at the beginning and SDG reporting! The highlights provide an overview to the reader of our progress in implementing social responsibility and sustainability, without going in-depth. Rather than reporting on SDGs toward the end which we did in the previous report, we now have a section in each PRME principle and each impact area (education, research, partnerships…) which deals with SDG implementation. We also put a big emphasis on layout and graphic design to ensure that we could get our messages across clearly. A big shout out to our graphic designer, Heikki Sallinen. I also encourage you to take a look at the progress tables on each of the PRME principles throughout the report as well as the section on Organisational Sustainability (p. 58-59)
What do you find most challenging about the SIP and how do you tackle that at Hanken?
We often finding it challenging to find a balance between spending too much time on reporting versus carrying out the actual sustainability and engagement related work. We tackle it by not treating it as a mere reporting exercise as elaborated above. The report itself is used in leadership group meetings and shared widely internally and externally. It is also kept at various places around the campus and displayed during certain events. However, we feel that the report could be used more as a basis for continuous and consistent improvement, which has not happened so efficiently so far due to limited dissemination, lack of accountability and responsibility in key persons and a proper work structure around implementing sustainability at Hanken across different units and departments.
We have now been thinking to make a concise version of the report for internal stakeholders with some key action points and to disseminate it to different unit and department head to be discussed in their unit/department strategy meetings. Various mediums of communication that are being explored are a summary report, regular blog posts, videos, newsletters etc.
In order to improve our work structures related to implementation of sustainability and social responsibility at Hanken, one of the ideas being explored currently is to give one of the vice-deans the ultimate responsibility and then have a proper hierarchical line that works with him/her covering different aspects of sustainability implementation. This will also mean merging the current Hanken Social responsibility team into the new arrangement. The overall aim is to have a clear chain of responsibility and a proper system for follow-ups and actual implementation of our goals related to sustainability and social responsibility.
How is your work around the SIP (or beyond) changing given the current situation? For the better?
Our next SIP has certainly been delayed by a couple of months to better capture the situation of the last 5-6 months. However, resource-wise, luckily, we have not been affected. I think COVID-19 has instilled a new energy into the whole sustainability dialogue around the world and business schools are a part of that certainly including ours. We have found that many people have now started to realise that being sustainable and responsible is not something we can take for granted anymore.
Any advice for other schools working on their SIP?
We understand that not all schools have the resources to put a lot of time and energy to SIP and we certainly know that one-size- fits-all approach does not work here. But figuring out the ‘why’ your school must do an honest reporting and the benefits you can get out of it might be a useful exercise to conduct. If it fits with what you are trying to accomplish as a school, this will then help justify but also inspire you to put time and resources it.
We are currently working on a Podcast on Sustainability capturing viewpoints from different disciplines on the topic. The episodes will be released in late November/early December. Stay tuned!