New Approaches to Business Ethics – University of South Australia

Many schools have been teaching business ethics classes for years, some as electives, some as part of the core. The question is no longer whether or not business ethics should be taught, but how to best teach it. One school that has been testing out a new approach is the University of South Australia Business School. Here they have created a course that is not only part of the core, but is not textbook based. I spoke with Thomas Maak from the University of South Australia Business School about their new approach.

Introduce your new course on business ethics.

“Business ethics” is a new course for all post-graduate management students. Previously an elective offering, we decided to make an introductory course on the ethical challenges for businesses compulsory, demonstrating a long-standing commitment of School and faculty to research and teaching in the area of ethics, sustainability and corporate integrity. The course design is novel in that it focuses on the ‘grand challenges’ for businesses and their leaders rather than a textbook-driven approach. It is built on the understanding that in order to succeed in an environment of contested values managers at all levels need to understand the real challenges, develop skills, relational and ethical abilities, as well as moral imagination, and demonstrate responsible leadership.

How does the course work?

“Business ethics” follows a 10-week schedule (30 hours in total) and a highly interactive format. That is, following a short introduction into the topic students are then engaged in classroom discussion, short cases and some group work. The first session provides the context and identifies some of the key challenges and is entitled ‘Business in an environment of contested values’. Week 2 forces student to rethink their assumptions about the purpose of business and engages them in a discussion on purpose beyond profit, including social performance and hybrid organizations. In week 3 we review the history and significance of CSR and how its meaning has shifted over the decades. Subsequent sessions include social innovation and the advancement of human dignity; stakeholder management and resolution of stakeholder conflicts; how to deal with daily temptations and the weakness of will; and ethics and the (mis)-use of power in organizations. The last session of the course outlines the pathways to responsible leadership and a roadmap for students on how to become a responsible leader.

Hence, the last three sessions expose the students to the challenges of moral and financial corruption, the corrosive nature of power, and the intricate relationship of toxic leadership and institutional pressures. For example, we discuss the omnipresent practice of gift-giving and how it may lead to the corrosion of character – stressing the virtues of transparency and integrity; we explore the dangers of groupthink and organizational pressure and what leaders must do to ensure and enhance respect, dignity and well-being at work. While these themes are timeless the discussions with students from different cultural backgrounds and the discussions of current cases ensure an intriguing contemporary business ethics landscape.

What is unique about the approach you are taking?

The course is driven by the ‘grand challenges’ that business faces and the responsibilities that emerge from it. Literature and textbooks are used as reference and background only, not as a foundation. Instead, the course seeks to develop critical insights and reflective abilities, and guiding practical knowledge, such that students are equipped to master future ethical challenges in informed ways – through integrative thinking. To support that learning process guest speakers make the course and respective challenges tangible, up-to date cases illustrate the topics at hand and a weekly reflective journaling exercise helps to capture the key takeaways. In addition, students work in groups on a CSR character analysis, choosing a company and investigating its CSR performance and authenticity. They also present and discuss their findings in class.

What do you mean by ‘grand challenges’

By ‘grand challenges’ I refer to the challenges in a ‘vuca’-world and the aspirational objectives captured in the SDGs, in particular the ones focused on the environment, poverty, inclusion, equity, peace and dignity. The acronym “vuca” has gained traction in recent years because it captures the experience of many business leaders that the world in which they operate has become quite volatile and uncertain, that it is increasingly complex and that they have to make decisions under conditions of ambiguity, especially across cultures. Moreover, not only are businesses under more scrutiny than ever but stakeholders at home and abroad expect more: they want business to play an active role in addressing climate change; it is argued that business must do more to fight poverty and increasingly, we witness a call for businesses to accept their political responsibility as a company and contribute in conducive ways to peace, human dignity and above all, to the affirmation of human rights wherever a company or its subsidiaries operate. What this means in detail, and how companies should go about it, is of course contested territory and reflects the ambiguity of both, the shifting expectations of stakeholders and the changing nature of the role and purpose of the corporations in the 21st Century.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The challenges are perhaps the most common ones for an Australian university. Many international students are exposed to business, ethics, and sustainability for the first time. Our practical as well as reflective approach – in light of the grand challenges – helps them a lot. Like in most places our course could be better integrated with the rest of the traditional curriculum, especially finance, economics and other ‘hard’ topics.

The course is now in its second year and its success comes in form of excellent student feedback making it one of the most highly ranked courses. Student applaud the fact that it is current, tangible, practical and in some cases, revolutionary. “This course changed the way I think about business”; “I wish all courses were as relevant as this one”; “The course opened a new world to me (…) I will choose the organization I work for more carefully…”, are typical statements we receive. The PRME initiative is now overseen centrally which may open up opportunities to foster more SDG-focused projects across the curriculum.

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

Follow an approach that is relevant, entertaining, and speaks to the current generation of students. Don’t become a victim of other people’s thinking, develop a customized approach toward teaching ethics and sustainability.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

We developed short, customized video cases in collaboration with an award-winning film maker portraying local SDG champions such as Haigh’s chocolates and the cosmetics company Jurlique. These video cases will be available for faculty to be used in internal and external teaching as soon as the final edits are done. For example, the Haigh’s video captures the company’s history and values, its focus on environmental stewardship and the challenges and rewards of being true to one’s beliefs in steering a 100-year old icon into the future. It will be available on the Centre’s website from April 2018 for people to see.

We are also quite proud of the Responsible Leadership course developed by Professor Nicola Pless for the MBA program. The course integrates the latest knowledge and tools on how to become an effective responsible leader with customized 360-feedback and the introduction to, and practise of, mindfulness to strengthen self-leadership. In other words, it provides participants with the tools to become a resonant and responsible leader.

A Focus on Australia/New Zealand

This past December the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, officially transitioned from an Emerging to an Established Chapter, cementing their commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. Although they only just became an Established Chapter, the region has always had a very active PRME Signatory base, a group of schools that are not only active within the PRME network, but also actively engaged in pushing the agenda forward with a range of innovative approaches. Because of this, schools from this region are regularly featured on PRiMEtime.

The month of February will be focused on sharing examples of good practices around embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education from schools across Australia and New Zealand. To kick things off, I spoke with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Chapter as well as the coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about both the challenges and opportunities for the region as a whole.

Tell us a bit more about the Australia/New Zealand Chapter.

Schools in this region have been active in PRME since 2008. Currently 53% of universities in Australia and 75% in NZ are PRME signatories with a growth rate of approximately 2-3 signatories per year. Amidst vast land distances between signatories (there is a five hour time difference between our Schools), PRME members communicate on bi-monthly conference calls, virtual state based gatherings and via more formal annual forums and regular emails.

The work and in particular the courses that schools in this region offer have an important impact both here and abroad because education is Australia’s largest service export and New Zealand’s second largest. Recent statistics reveal that of all Australian higher education courses completed in 2016, the field of management and commerce accounts for 19% for domestic students and 55% for our international students. New Zealand has similar high statistics with 27% of students studying management and commerce courses. Of that 1 in 5 are international students. These large numbers and percentage of diverse cultures offers us rich exploration for teaching and learning but also numerous challenges in the way to tackle all 17 SDGs in the curriculum, research and partnerships.

You officially became an Established Chapter at your most recent Regional Meeting. Tell us a bit about it.

The 5th PRME Chapter Australia & New Zealand Forum took place at Deakin University, a PRME Champion School, in Melbourne early in December 2017. The theme of the meeting was ‘Inspire, Motivate, Engage, Act’ in regards to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the day we went through the different elements of the theme. We started by celebrating and sharing the growth we have had as a region over the past 10 years, congratulating Latrobe Business School and Griffith Business School in Australia and University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand who were among the first to sign as PRME Signatories.  We also signed the MOU with the PRME Secretariat, officially becoming an Established Chapter. Each school had a chance to present their achievements from 2017 and hopes for 2018 and to share key resources and opportunities. We also had a number individuals join us for parts of the day including Alice Cope, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Australia, Anne Swear who is the Head of Corporate Sustainability at ANZ, Sue Noble the CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Giselle Weybrecht who is a Special Advisor to the PRME Secretariat, Sarah Goulding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Soyuma Gupta, a current student at Deakin. The discussions were focused on how Australia is moving forward with the SDGs and how the schools that form the chapter can be part of those discussions and actions moving forward. For a full summary of the meeting click here.

What are some of the challenges that schools in this part of the world are facing and some issues that are particularly relevant in relation to the SDG?

While our research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to economic, social and demographic challenges facing our nations we need to work closer with industry and government to support SDGs realisation. Our textbook and classroom cases can be routine in using global examples, which are informative, but the challenge is to bring an understanding of the SDGs back to illustrations from our countries, enabling our students and academics to understand just how global these goals are.

An example of this in particular pertains to human rights. In the latest Amnesty International 2016-2017 report, Australia’s commitment to human rights fails when it comes to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children abuse and deaths in custody (SDG 10.2, 16.2). Asylum seeking processes and procedures (SDG 1.4, 10.7), disability rights (SDG 1.2, 10.2) and counter-terror measures (SDG 10.3), all of which put us on the Human Rights Watch List for the third successive year in 2016. New Zealand has similar Indigenous Maori challenges along with high rates of violence against women and girls (SDG 5.1, 5.2) and children poverty rates (SDG 1.2). Ensuring these issues are communicated and mapped across all disciplines in the management and commerce field requires raising awareness, conducting audit type processes alongside developing a mechanism for resource sharing.

What’s planned for the chapter moving forward?

The SDGs provide us with a framework for industry, civil society and government collaboration. In Australia, the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress is underway with the report due mid-2018. It is essential that the higher education sector and in particular PRME AUSNZ contribute to this report and continue to build relationships for future research.

As an Established Chapter, we are forming a steering committee that will focus on the priority areas of student engagement activities and embedding SDGs in the curriculum, building communities of practices within Faculty and across university/universities, mapping SDGs across curriculum and research and research and cross sector collaboration.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

The United Nations proclaimed 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in recognition of the tremendous potential of the tourism industry, which accounts for some 10% of the world’s economic activity. This is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution of sustainable tourism towards development among public and private sector decision-makers and the public while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change. The year aims to promote tourism’s role in the areas of

  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
  • Cultural values, diversity and heritage, and
  • Mutual understanding, peace and security

Many business schools around the world have programmes focused on the topic of sustainable tourism.

Ted Rogers School of Management in Canada has a course on sustainable tourism called ‘The Golden Goose’. The course examines social responsibility and sustainability issues at both the micro and macro levels of the industry and examines the impact and solutions to both local and global issues. Case study analysis is an integral component of the course and the major focus will be to discuss and debate solutions and strategies for ethically optimizing business while minimizing adverse effects. They also have an Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Research that further explores these topics.

Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism in Australia is actively contributing to the International Year through its research projects including its Tourism and Economics programme, Tourism Business in the Asia Pacific programme, Sustainable Tourism and Climate Change programme, Visitor Experience programme and Sustainable Tourism for Regional Growth Training programmes. The Institute has also designed a Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard that tracks global progress towards sustainable tourism development.

Corvinus University of Budapest  and the Municipality of Budapest established a joint agreement with the Department of Tourism to promote research and development goals in regarding the complex cultural development of the Ferencváros district. The first project aimed at re-designing a special dining and cultural street of the district with an aim to increase sustainable tourism. The student research project involved over 60 students, working with four professors. 700 Hungarian and 300 international visitors were surveyed over the three months of the project.

Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK is working with Positive Impact, a not-for-profit organisation that provides education for the sustainable events industry, to produce an industry report that outlines a number of key sustainable areas and points of action for the event industry. This includes an estimate of the global carbon footprint and global food waste of the events industry as well as an investigatory piece about the power of behaviour change that events have including social impacts. The report is being presented as part of the ‘Year of Sustainable Tourism Development’.

The International Centre of Studies on Tourism Economics (CISET) at CA’Foscari University of Venice in Italy supports and promotes tourism as an engine of economic growth and social development, capable of producing material and cultural wealth for local, national and international businesses and destinations. The approach of the centre is a blend of academic expertise and business know-how, based on a strong synergy between research studies and consultancy services. CISET provide the tourist industry, local administrations and future tourism operators with the tools to approach the market in innovative ways.

JAMK’s Tourism and Hospitality department in Finland organised the 12th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations last June. They also played a major role in establishing, and is now coordinating, the International Centre for Responsible Tourism Finland. In the summer of 2016 they organised an international summer school called ‘For Seasons in Responsible Tourism’ and are launching a new course in 2017 on Responsible Tourism.

A faculty member at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has developed a course called Managing Visitor Impact designed to deepen students’ understanding of sustainable tourism development by exposing students to the complexities, realities and tensions commonly observed in developing countries. A key part of the course is a group role-play scenario where students take a virtual field trip based on a real Fijian island.

The Teaching Agrotourism course at University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur in Switzerland focuses on the interface of agriculture and tourism by combining aspects of sustainable agriculture and ecological tourism. The focus is on the interaction between tourism and a sustainable family-farming project. As compared to any kind of mass tourism, this specific form of tourism is directly supporting this regional livelihood. Chur faculty also do research focused on entrepreneurial tourism development in Georgia.

EADA in Spain is doing research on sustainability in the tourism and hospitality industry focused on how the industry can use sustainability not just as a way of absorbing societal costs and changes in the business environment, but to create value and transform those costs into higher revenue.

The Degree in Tourism Management at the Universidad de Occidente in Mexico aims to train experts in the management of tourism organisations and projects with the ability to make ethical, social and environmental decisions. It looks at innovation within this industry and how it impacts society. One of the three focus areas of the programme is centred on Tourism and Sustainable Development

The official website for the year provides a range of resources and links to events happening all over the world around this topic. It also has links to publications that cover the topic of sustainability from a business perspective that can be used in the classroom. The Global Compact also has some resources on the Tourism industry including a webinar on Good Practices to Address Human Trafficking in Travel and Tourism.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

 

2016 Good Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1)

It is once again it’s time for PRiMEtime’s year-end review. 2016 was another exciting year with a lot of innovative new initiatives and approaches at business schools around the world embedding responsible leadership and sustainability into their programmes. PRiMEtime provides an extensive and growing database of examples from schools around the world on how to embed sustainability, ethics and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education as well as tips on how to move forward.

This year, 60 new articles were posted featuring over 143 examples from more than 65 schools in 38 countries. In this 2-part year-end post we review the examples featured this year, organized roughly around the SDGs, and what we have to look forward to next year. (Click on the links to read the full article).

SDG1SDG2SDG3The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has developed an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Business School and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, call the Wellness Clinic. It provides preventive care programmes designed, promoted, administered and implemented by students. IEDC-Bled School of Management partnered with members of the UN Global Compact Local Slovenia to organize workshops around the theme of “Health promotion in the workplace as part of the corporate social responsibility and sustainable business development’.

For one week in March, EADA Business School’s campus transforms into a model refugee course where students taking the Managing Humanitarian Emergencies elective learn about the main components required to respond to humanitarian emergencies and extreme situations in general.

 

SDG4

La Trobe Business School (Australia), ISAE (Brazil), Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland) founded CR3+ Network, a new program that provides a supportive platform to build international collaboration and enables the four schools to work together to build capacity in responsible management education. In the USA, Western Michigan University (USA) partnered with Christ University in Bagalore in India to create an experiential experience to engage students in sustainability discussions in India. Reutlingen University in Germany shared their experiences with the Ethikum Certificate awarded to students who complete a number of special experiences and courses during their time at university. Hult International Business School shared their experiences integrating the SDGs into the core Business and Global Society course. Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School also shared their experiences integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into their PRME Sharing Information on Progress Report. The University of St. Gallen and oikos work together to offer the PhD Fellowship Programme, a unique opportunity to support international PhD students writing their thesis on sustainability in economics or management.

PRiMEtime also explored a range of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic. A series of posts provided an overview of the MOOCs available in the Spring (Part 1 and Part 2) and summer (Part 1 and Part 2).

 

SDG5

The American University of Beirut’s University for Senior Programme aims to redefine the role of older people in society by providing them opportunities to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected through a range of lectures, study groups, educational travel programmes, campus life and intergenerational activities. The American University of Beirut also paired up with Citi to provide crucial support and mentoring for female entrepreneurs in Lebanon and the MENA region with the goal of increasing their numbers significantly. Altis Postgraduate School of Business and Society in Italy introduced us to E4Impact, a special programme aimed at training a new class of African leaders who will be able to create jobs in the sustainability sector in their country.

 

SDG6SDG7

Ryerson University (Canada) designed a unique interdisciplinary programme that brings together faculty from all of the university’s six department called the Environmental Applied Science and Management (EnSciMan) with a focus on environmental management. In Italy, the University of Bologna’s Launch Pad aims to leverage the know-how of the hundreds of PhDs and post-docs studying at the university to facilitate its transformation into valuable products and services, many focused on social and environmental topics. PRiMEtime also looked at a range of global student networks engaged in sustainability that are active within and across business schools.

 

SDG8

Antwerp Management School’s ID@Work research programme aims to support organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience at the University of Wollongong is an educational programme that supports Indigenous students through high school and into university, employment or further education. Also in Australia, Deakin University has been exploring how to encourage and train more Indigenous Australians to become accountants (currently of the more than 180,000 Australian professional accounting body members, only 30 identify as Indigenous). The Northwest Aboriginal Canadians Entrepreneurs Programme at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business is a partnership between several organisations including regional and provision government to offer first class entrepreneurial learning to the Indigenous people of Northwest British Columbia with the aim to enhance the self sufficiency and full economic participation of Indigenous people

Developing Future Public Sector Leaders – International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 10.32.18

August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, a day to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous populations. This is particularly relevant this year as the theme for 2016 is “Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education”.

In June we featured examples from schools across Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the work that they are doing to engage Indigenous students and promote Indigenous businesses including an Aboriginal EMBA at Beedie School of Business; a programme to support Indigenous Entrepreneurs at Gustavson School of Business; the Indigenous Programmes Unit at University of New South Wales; contextualizing the MBA with an Indigenous focus at the University of Waikato; promoting accounting as a career choice with Indigenous students at Deaken University; and mentoring a new generation of Indigenous leaders at University of Wollongong.

Here we introduce another innovative programme focused on developing future Indigenous business leaders, La Trobe Business School in Australia’s partnership to develop future leaders in the Public sector. I spoke with Dr Suzanne Young, Head of the Department of Management and Marketing and Dr Geraldine Kennett, Professor of Practice, Department of Management & Marketing about their new programme.

What is the programme for public servants (provide an overview)

La Trobe Business School developed a new Graduate Certificate in Management (Public Sector) in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Australia (IPAA), and in consultation with the IPAA Indigenous Advisory Committee. Initially enrolling 32 Indigenous public servants, the course has now expanded to be a combination of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous public sector professionals learning together. The course takes 1.5 years full-time or 2 years part time.

This innovative course uses a partnership approach; the participants study leadership, entrepreneurial business planning, financial management and accounting with the University and public policy making with the Institute of Public Administration of Australia. The students develop a plan for an entrepreneurial business or policy idea in their first subject and then build on this plan in subsequent subjects, cumulating in ‘A Pitch’ to senior public sector leaders. This practical form of assessment builds their confidence to get strategic buy-in for their business and/or policy ideas. Many of the students have used their new learning and skills to achieve higher level positions in the public sector. Four students are also continuing their studies with the La Trobe University MBA programme in 2016.

As academics, we have gained knowledge about Indigenous culture and how to integrate social identity into learning styles which has enabled us to develop supportive pedagogy for teaching. Our course ensures that the learning outcomes support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the capacity to straddle their leadership obligations in the workplace as well as in the Indigenous community.

How did it come about?

In 2010 the Australian government highlighted the social, political and economic gap between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the community. The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2012) argues that improving higher education outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will contribute to nation-building and reduce Indigenous disadvantage.

The need for a postgraduate qualification for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public servants was seen as important in a study that IPAA Victoria commissioned with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The study highlighted the barriers to, and enablers of, career advancement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders employed in the public sector, including the need for professional development opportunities. Indigenous public servants experience a higher turnover rate than their non-indigenous peers. The 2012-13 Australian Public Service found that 20.5% of indigenous employees left the APS after less than one year —almost four times the rate of non-indigenous employees (5.9%). This is another challenge the programme aims to tackle.

IPAA approached La Trobe Business School to develop and conduct a postgraduate course due to its expertise in providing higher education for Aboriginal people, its status as the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champion Business school in Australia and the ability for regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public servants to continue their higher education at La Trobe University’s regional campuses. 

What have been some of the successes?

From the feedback loop it is clear that the project produces measurable impact for Indigenous peoples (including students and community), La Trobe University (including staff), IPAA, and the higher education sector.

Achievements to date include:

  • Initial enrolment of 32 students into the course
  • Strong retention rate with 22 students continuing into their 3rd subject
  • Employers contributing to student fees
  • Orientation programme and guidelines for delivery of Indigenous education
  • Second cohort of programme began in late 2015 consisting of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students
  • Students’ management skills enhanced in entrepreneurship and innovation, accounting and leadership
  • Students’ leadership skills enhanced in communication and team work
  • Peer and collaborative learning enhancing cross-cultural learning between students and staff and in the future between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students.
  • Four students progressing through to enrolment in the MBA

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students it provides an educational experience and improved educational outcomes and opportunities for employment and career advancement. A specific Indigenous course enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to bring their culture and identity into the learning experience, thereby making the teaching relevant for their needs. Also for Indigenous communities, it supports economic development, assists in closing the gap and provides mechanisms for breaking the cycle of Indigenous disadvantage.

Advice for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

It is important to develop and work in partnerships with those organisations and people in the community who are legitimately recognised with expertise by Indigenous peoples. It is also important to have orientation programs for teaching staff in Indigenous culture and nurturing this in the teaching environment. Flexibility of approach, and assessments that are meaningful and authentic to the Indigenous students are also important.

Next Steps for La Trobe in this area?

The course is now open for non-indigenous students as well to provide a culturally safe learning environment for students to be able to learn together. This enhances the learning of non-indigenous students who are all practising public servant professionals and so builds their knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the importance of culturally safe practices. This also provides an environment where cross cultural knowledge is exchanged and others’ perspectives are more fully understood

Indigenous Business Examples from New Zealand and Australia

Gilimbaa: “Our History. Our Story. Our Future” Reconciliation Australia Animation from Gilimbaa.

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, and continuing with June’s focus on Indigenous programmes, I asked a handful of faculty members about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that were started by Indigenous entrepreneurs as well as companies working with Indigenous communities. To finish off our month focusing on Indigenous business, here are some examples from Australia and New Zealand.

Rebecca Harcourt, Programme Manager, Indigenous Business Education, University of New South Wales Business School, Australia

Gilimbaa fuses many of the riches and celebrations embedded within Indigenous knowledge-storytelling within contemporary cultural practices- with exemplary graphic design and communications to bring all this to the global stage, such as exemplified in Queensland in 2014 when world international leaders, including President Barak Obama, gathered here for the G20.

Inside Policy is a group of exceptional and experienced female entrepreneurs who create innovative approaches to provide solutions to complex problems.

The team at 33 Creative delivers media communications and various associated projects with excellence, vibrancy and self-determination. Their approach helps drive transformation to empower & improve many of the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Read more about Indigenous engagement at the University of New South Wales.

Barry Coates, Sustainability Programme Development, University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand

Ngai Tahu Holdings is an intergenerational and Aotearoa New Zealand-focused investor that operates as an investor, asset owner and active manager of enterprises. At its heart, Ngai Tahu is a values-based business that relies on its people and its partners to generate long-term returns while respecting its traditions and the principle of kaitiakitanga – stewardship of natural resources.

Miraka is a Māori-owned dairy company that reflects the cultural beliefs of its owners in the operations of its business. Miraka uses geothermal and sustainable energy to process milk from its local suppliers, with active programmes for composting and soil management, waste minimisation and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Luisa Lombardi, Senior Lecturer Accounting, and Barry Cooper, Associate Dean Industry Engagement and Partnership, Deakin University , Australia

First Nations Foundation is the only national Indigenous charity in Australia with a focus on financial wellbeing. Established in 2006 by a group of respected First Australian leaders, the Foundation focuses on assisting First Australians with money management, acting as a bridge between Indigenous people’s needs and the financial service industry as well as identifying and quantifying the financial needs and trends of First Nations people through research.

AIME (The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) is a dynamic educational program that is proven to support Indigenous students through high school and into university, employment or further education at the same rate as all Australian students.

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative provides Aboriginal families living or in transit in Wathaurong’s traditional boundaries with assistance, increased and improved access to a range of culturally appropriate health, housing, education, employment and cultural services; contributes to improvements in community wellbeing; and builds the capacity of the community to control its own affairs and achieve self-determination.

Read more about about how Deakin is promoting accounting as a career choice with Indigenous students.

Debbie Roberts, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Stunnuz Clothing is a youthful streetwear fashion brand that is influenced by New Zealand culture. The business successes have been driven by passion for design, culture and youth. The journey of the business has opened many opportunities, national and internationally, and has a greater goal to further develop globally.

The Te Rau Aroha Omaio development project is a community owned and led enterprise that will bring to life the guiding principles of sustainable economic, environmental, social and cultural development through the systematic migration of 150 hectares of low-value maize growing into a truly sustainable enterprise linked to elite high-value food markets of the world.

The enterprise will aggregate together Maori owned traditional lands to create scale and use the world’s-best knowledge (including traditional knowledge), science and technology to integrate organic practices into the value chain and create more than 100 new full-time local jobs over five years.

Read more about University of Waikato’s work to contextualise the MBA with an Indigenous focus.

Contextualising the MBA with an Indigenous Focus – University of Waikato New Zealand

Waikato graduation

The Waikato-Tainui MBA from the University of Waikato Management School, delivered in partnership with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development, aims to foster Māori values and Indigenous ways of doing business. Unlike other MBAs, the Waikato-Tainui MBA has been contextualised with an Indigenous focus within a supportive Māori environment at the College’s premises in Hopuhopu. It allows participants to explore real world business challenges that involve and are relevant to Indigenous business and industry. I spoke with Ed Weymes, Pro Vice Chancellor International of the University, about its innovative and award winning programme.

What role do Indigenous students/leaders/business currently play at Waikato?

The University of Waikato stands out from other universities because it embraces its strong Māori identity and heritage as key features of its distinctiveness. The Māori student and staff communities on campus are vibrant and welcoming, and there are many university programmes and activities that are dedicated to Māori student achievement and success. This is set to remain a high priority through the years ahead.

What is the Waikato-Tainui MBA and why did it come about?

Since 2011, we have delivered the Waikato-Tainui MBA in partnership with the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development. The driver for the development of this programme has been the aspiration for a greater number of Māori leaders well prepared to grapple with the challenges of global business. These future Māori leaders (participants) come from various iwi (tribal) organisations engaged in major commercial programmes as well as Māori-operated education, health and social service facilities in addition to small to medium sized businesses. The Waikato-Tainui MBA is based on the traditional campus-based Waikato MBA, delivered from the College’s Hopuhopu premises, and has been enhanced for relevance to Indigenous Māori. It has Māori teaching faculty, contextualised Māori content and primarily uses Māori case studies.

This programme prepares future Māori leaders to lead in an environment of complexity while preserving their unique culture and values. It has several key objectives:

  • To develop inspirational Māori leaders for the private and public sectors who are able to lead value creation and sustainable practices within their organisations;
  • To foster Indigenous ways of doing business that focus on collective benefit rather than individual benefit;
  • To facilitate a waananga (living and learning) environment that fosters cultural values;
  • To facilitate participants working collaboratively with each other and with Māori businesses; and
  • To meet the academic and professional requirements of the Waikato MBA.

What makes this programme unique?

The uniqueness of this programme is its mode of delivery. It is delivered in ‘waananga,’ or residential mode, from the College’s premises in a rich cultural environment that provides a holistic and collaborative atmosphere for participants, which is conducive to the way Māori learn. Participants meet every second weekendon Friday afternoons and Saturdays, similar to many other MBA programmes. However, in addition, whaanau (family) of the participants are invited to attend a number of events during the programme, allowing friendly and collective whaanau interaction.

A feature of this MBA is the International MBA Study Tour. Past international MBA study tours have seen participants travel to North America to nurture Waikato-Tainui tribal links with other Indigenous nations (e.g., Native American tribes) as well as to Asia to nurture closer ties with their Indigenous businesses and global economic communities. The study tour provides participants with global insights into doing business offshore within an Indigenous context.

Our faculty members are complemented by prominent guest speakers who provide the Indigenous context. Participants are also supported by a strong network of Māori MBA alumni, who are mentors for the programme, ensuring the distinctive Indigenous perspective is reinforced. All participants have access to a network of mentors who are MBA alumnus, ensuring the distinctive Māori/Indigenous perspective of this programme is aligned to the outcomes of the Waikato-Tainui MBA.

What have been some of the challenges? 

Contextualising the programme has been an evolutionary process. Initially, contextualisation within the Waikato-Tainui MBA was limited to the waananga style learning with guest presenters. Contextualisation was provided by using Māori case studies and guest presenters provided real life examples of how the various functions of management worked from a Māori World View, but it was more of an overlay, rather than embedded from the outside in. We were upfront about this with the initial cohort of participants, as we believed contextualisation was something that would evolve through delivery over subsequent intakes. We now have a number of papers that have been designed specifically for this programme, like, International Indigenous Business and Governance, Sustainability and Indigenous Business Development, for example. The aim is to have a programme that is fully contextualised with Māori and Indigenous frameworks and approaches embedded throughout delivery and curriculum.

Another challenge has been working through the funding of the waananga style of learning. It is more expensive than the traditional delivery mode, so how this is funded has been an ongoing challenge. We have also had challenges finding enough Māori academics to deliver the programme and have had to recruit academics and practitioners who can bring a Māori or Indigenous perspective from across New Zealand and Internationally.

What about successes? 

Many Waikato-Tainui MBA alumni are in highly powerful Indigenous, corporate and government roles. Promoted either during or after completing their qualification, they act as positive role models for Māori generally and lift the credibility of the brand of Māori business.

In 2011, the Waikato-Tainui MBA won the inaugural Association of MBA Innovation Award for developing a programme with a vision to bring Māori people, New Zealand, and the world together in order to support and advance Māori and Indigenous aspirations at local, national and international levels

How can business schools integrate Māori business topics and issues into their programmes? Why should they?

The relationships between the Māori and Pakeha (New Zealand European settlers) is now one with both cultures residing in harmony. However, the Pakeha culture is very “western,” vested in our Greek forefathers, while the Māori culture is more “Eastern,” with similarities to Confucianism and Dao. Both cultures respect the other and it is important that business achools and educational institutions ensure that their curriculum provides participants with an understanding of the differences.

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