Impact Investing at Business Schools – 7 Impact Investing Competitions for Students

Last week, as part of this month’s special series on impact investing, we looked at ten ways business schools are engaging their students in impact investing on campus. An eleventh way is through a range of mostly new impact investing competitions open to business students globally. These competitions, mostly based at US schools, offer students the opportunity to not only learn about impact investing but to apply this knowledge to real cases that often impact actual businesses. Here is a selection of seven such impact investing competitions either run by or with participants from PRME Signatories.

 

  • The IESE Impact Investing Competition is an all day session that simulates an investment process including entrepreneurial pitches, due diligence, term sheet preparation and investment committee meetings, followed by intense negotiations with the entrepreneur of their choice. The event happens annually as part of the Doing Good Doing Well Competition at IESE’s campus in Spain. Participants this year included CEIBS, Cranfield School of Management and IE Business School.

 

  • UBC Sauder School of Business hosted the National Strategy Consulting and Conference event that brought students from across Canada and the United States to compete on an impact investing case based on Brighter Investment, a social venture supported by the Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing. Competitors were judged based on their strategy recommendations, as well asthe potential social impact their recommendations would yield. Students across different disciplines were challenged to integrate their financial, marketing and impact measurement skills into a coherent strategy for a social enterprise.

 

 

  • Duke University was one of the schools that recently participated in the Invest for Impact Competition, hosted by UNC Kenan-Flagler in the US. The invitation-only Competition is an experience that includes a wide variety of challenges that bring together top MBA students, sustainable entrepreneurs and successful impact investors, who have an opportunity to learn from and network with each other. Student teams from around the world play the role of impact investors and review business plans of three companies and select the ones they would invest in based off of both financial viability and their social and environmental impact.

 

  • INSEAD in France and Schulich School of Business at York University in Canada both take part in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT). MIINT is an experiential lab designed to give business students knowledge and skills around impact investing. MBA students create teams at the start of the academic year and identify an impact company that they will focus on during the programme. They then present recommendations to a judging committee composed of industry leaders for a potential investment of up to $50,000 in the companies that they chose to represent during the process.

 

  • Cornell University was one of the finalists in the first Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Competition hosted by the University of Miami School of Business Administrations in the US. The Competition focuses on investments made in commercial real estate projects with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside an appropriate financial return. The competition takes place yearly in the US and is open to teams of business schools globally.

 

  • Lagos Business School in Nigeria organised its Impact Investing Competition in 2016 as part of the Lagos Business School MBA Entrepreneurship Investors Forum. The Forum is a new initiative introduced by students as part of their entrepreneurship course and coordinated by Dr Henrietta Onsuegbuzie, Impact Investing Project Director at the school. During the event, students present business ideas that bridge the gap between economic growth and lagging social development through profitable businesses that solve social problems. Judges are post MBA students who are currently working in this field or have developed businesses that have a social impact.

Impact Investing Series – 10 Ways Schools are Bringing Impact Investing to Campus

Tsinghua University Net Impact event on Impact Investing

This month PRiMEtime is focusing in on the important and increasingly popular topic of impact investing. So far we have looked at what impact investing is and summed up a range of resources on the topic and have looked in depth at the Social Finance Academy, a new programme coming from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Canada.

There are a number of ways that business schools are bringing impact investing to campus. Here we look at ten ways that business schools are specifically engaging students in impact investing on campus.

1. Events that bring impact investing actors onto campus to discuss the state of the industry: The University of St. Gallen in Switzerland organises an Impact Investing and Social Finance Conference. For its first three years the event was held in Sao Paulo and focused on Latin America, but has since moved to the St. Gallen campus in Switzerland. The event brings together impact investing practitioners to meet and discuss with students. The business school also offers students the course Impact Investing 2.0: Building the Impact Economy, a course focused on the fundamental context for impact investing and its requirements, that aims to train students to be able to spot impact investing opportunities.

2. Student engagement through clubs: The Net Impact Club at Tsinghua University in China organised a special session on impact investing for students, inviting experts and practitioners to campus to share their knowledge with students. The University has also recently partnered with UNDP and other leading universities to develop a research agenda around impact investing that will better leverage private investment to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes undertaking research to improve the analytical frameworks, evidence, and policy environment that encourage and guide commercial capital flows in support of the SDGs.

3. Funds for students to invest: The Haas Social Impact Fund at Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley is the largest of the student-managed socially-responsible investments funds with more than USD$2.5m of assets under management. Student fund managers are chosen yearly from the business programmes to evaluate investment opportunities by analysing traditional indicators of business quality and valuation metrics along with environmental, social, and governance policies and practices. Students that participate also have the opportunity to receive a certificate in Social Investing upon graduation.

4. Selecting MBA students to be Impact Investing Fellows: SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University’s Environmental Finance and Impact Investing Fellows Programme aims to train students for emerging opportunities at the intersection of sustainability and finance, including project finance that addresses climate change, ecosystem services, and poverty alleviation. Through a series of courses, coupled with applied projects, Fellows learn how to invest in, manage, or regulate businesses or projects seeking financial, environmental and social goals.

5. Engaging students in consulting projects with business: Duke Fuqua School of Business’s CASE i3 Fellows are selected second year MBA students who complete coursework in impact investing, support the centre’s research and operations, and complete a consulting project and apprenticeship. The fellows work with a broader set of CASE i3 Associates, often first year students, in teams for their Consulting Programme which pairs students with leading organisations on impact investing projects, including developing impact due diligence guidelines for investors, doing market analysis, and investment landscaping.

6. A selection of elective courses focused on impact investing: Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Canada offers a course on Impact Investing: Social Finance in the 21st This course provides an introduction to the impact investment sector. It describes the evolution of impact investment, the growth of new asset classes, and the opportunities and challenges faced
by investors seeking meaningful impact investment vehicles. Through a combination of readings, discussions, guest lectures, research, a pitch competition and a portfolio allocation project, students will gain deep insight into the different perspectives brought by the impact investor who is concerned with stimulating social and environmental impact while generating financial return.

7. Providing a regional focus: The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town offers a course on impact investing in Africa aimed at wealth managers, consultants, funders, lawyers and other financial intermediaries looking to gain an understanding of the field. The workshop is (next sentence addresses them) led by a diverse group of leading experts in the field. They have also collaborated with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford to create twelve teaching case studies on impact investment in Africa.

8. Creating MOOCs on impact investing: ESSEC offers a MOOC (‘Massive Open Online Course’ – a type of free online course) about impact investment available in French. The course explores what impact investing is, which companies are involved and what are they investing in, what kinds of solutions are proposed and the ingredients necessary to create a favourable impact investing ecosystem in the north and the south. The latest offering of the course started on September 25th, 2017.

9. Creating new courses aimed at an executive audience: The Fundamentals on Venture Philanthropy and Impact Investing  at ESADE Business & Law School is a new executive education programme aimed at providing managers with effective tools for a high-engagement approach to social investing and grant making across a range of industries. The course combines online learning materials with two days of face-to-face interaction at ESADE’s campus in Barcelona with leading lecturers and practitioners. The programme is taught jointly with the European Venture Philanthropy Association, a network of 2010 investment firms, banks, business schools and other organisations committed to creating positive societal impact.

10. Pushing Impact Investing forward through Research: The Impact Investing Lab at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy focuses on scalable business models that can create economic and social value through innovation in products, services, and processes. The lab acts as a platform and point of reference at a national and international level to support the development of impact investing as a new asset class able to attract public and private capital. It generates research, organises seminars and workshops, and contributes to the spread of a culture and a knowledge of impact investing.

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 2 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

This is the second part of a two part interview with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report. Click here to read part 1.

What impact does this kind of experience have on the students involved?

The experience was challenging and meaningful. The best way I can describe the reporting process in the first year is driving a car down the road while also building it. At least four of the members of the team now work in industries related to sustainability, and I’m confident that all of the graduates are now working in roles where they have to perform research, synthesize and communicate information, or develop buy-in from colleagues, consumers or business partners—these are all skills team members were able to develop by participating in this project.

One of the most valuable lessons that came from this process wasn’t necessarily the data gathered, but rather the conversations that arose throughout the research process. Many students were frustrated that key metrics like the amount of waste generated or carbon footprint did not yet exist. However, by meeting with campus officials, discussing their purpose in creating a sustainability report, and posing questions related to sustainability, students were able to begin to educate campus staff and faculty and empower employees to begin considering social and environmental impacts. Those initial conversations helped build a foundation for the development of systems to capture improved sustainability data.

What were some of the successes?

Three years later the college continues to produce an annual sustainability report and our efforts have inspired Boise State University’s College of Health Sciences and the Student Union Building to publish their first sustainability reports. The reports have driven sustainability achievements such as more sustainable procurement policies, the installation of solar panels, the college’s strategy for inclusive excellence and a taskforce focused on increased inclusion, and increased awareness of environmental and social issues across campus. And of course we were thrilled to receive recognition from the PRME for our work!

The final piece of the report presents sustainability recommendations for the Dean and Associate Deans to consider. After COBE’s leadership deliberates and discusses strategies with student reporters, many of the recommendations are implemented over time. This part is especially meaningful because it’s where the research and analysis performed by students becomes actionable and translates to social and environmental impact—that’s the best part in my opinion.

Why should schools engage their students in the reporting process?

According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, 87 percent of millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people— both of which are data points in COBE’s sustainability reports. More than 60% of millennials believe businesses achieve long-term success by putting employees first, and developing a solid foundation of trust and integrity. Finally, millennials choose employers whose values reflect their own— 56 percent of Millennials have “ruled out ever working for an organisation because of its values or standard of conduct.”

Projects like the sustainability report are the secret sauce to motivating, developing, and retaining millennial employees. By producing a sustainability report COBE achieved all of the following:

  1. Creating a healthy culture that exists to achieve more than financial results
  2. Identifying the values of students and providing an opportunity to practice those values in their profession
  3. Providing hands-on opportunities for millennials to take on leadership roles and gain critical thinking skills that will make them more competitive in the job market and equip them with the skills needed to effect real change

What advice do you have for other schools looking to engage students in the reporting process?

Do it. If schools think that tomorrow’s leaders should understand the social and environmental impact of their business decisions, and take responsibility for them, then students must learn these skills and have the opportunity to practice them.

Create a safe space for students to fail—if they do, coach them through the steps needed to get back on track. When they’re faced with a similar scenario in upon graduation they’ll know how to succeed.

What’s next? Any plans for the next report? Things you will be doing differently?

This fall, students of Boise State University’s College of Business and Economics (COBE) will publish the College’s third sustainability report measuring the social, environmental and economic impacts of the College (we produce reports annually). Student reporters continue to implement recommendations made in the College’s first two reports, and continue to develop new targets based on the feedback of internal and external stakeholders. In line with COBE’s sustainability initiatives, student reporters have transitioned to an interactive online format, rather than a printed report. We have a collective aspiration to produce a university-wide sustainability report in the near future.

 

A few highlights of the report:

  • A summary of percentage of responsible business faculty research organised by department (p. 26)
  • An overview of the new College of Business and Economics Building, built in 2012, designed to have minimal environmental impact and maximum environmental efficiency (p.42).
  • An overview of how they assessed materiality and what their material issues are, organised by stakeholder group (page 49)
  • A detailed timeline and process map for the sustainability report (p. 50)

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 1 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

I recently spoke with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report.

What was the driver behind the Sustainability Report?

In 2014, COBE underwent a strategic planning process to establish the collective values that ground the work done at the College. These values—relevance, respect, and responsibility—are not truly lived if we don’t measure, analyse and publicly report the results. A sustainability report, which covers issues such as climate change, health & wellness, community engagement, and transparency, helps us live those values rather than simply posting them on a webpage. The annual report serves as a thermometer for how the college is doing in terms of living its values and creating a healthy culture for students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

COBE firmly believes that sustainability reporting is a best practice, so before engaging its business community partners to pursue this type of analysis, the College needed to get some skin in the game and develop its own expertise. Producing the COBE report allowed the College to gain empathy and discover the challenges and opportunities that arise from this practice.

Why involve students in the reporting process?

The College recognised that if it identified sustainability reporting as a best practice, COBE graduates should not only be familiar with sustainability reporting, but have firsthand experience in creating one. COBE is one of only a handful of colleges and universities globally to integrate students fully into the management, research, writing and publication of its sustainability report. The students that participated on the reporting team did so as a volunteers.

How was the report produced?

The reporting process was broken up into five phases:

  • Focus: In the first phase of the project the team of student reporters engaged three stakeholder groups (students, college faculty/administrators, and community business leaders) to define the college’s material issues.
  • Coordinate: Next, the topics found to be material in the Focus phase were assigned to student reporters. I purposefully matched topics with students’ interests or area of study. For example, equal remuneration was assigned to a student studying human resources.
  • Research: Team members then gathered quantitative and qualitative research across departments through a series of interviews and collaboration with faculty and staff to gather data.
  • Synthesize & Write: In this phase of the project, students synthesized and analyzed collected data and collectively outlined a rough draft of the report. A majority of the writing and revising was done by a few individuals to maintain style and tone throughout the report.
  • Review & Publish: In the final phase of the project students worked with relevant stakeholders such as sources and key administrators to revise and finalise the report. In addition, the college’s first report was audited by a team of graduate students studying accounting. Finally, the team’s leadership worked with an external firm to design and publish the report.

What were some of the challenges? 

Finding answers to all of our research questions was our main challenge. We found that the systems for collecting much of the data we were seeking did not yet exist (i.e. waste metrics). Another challenge was developing buy-in from data sources—some of our sources found it challenging to make time to fulfill our data requests, or didn’t understand the concept of sustainability reporting.

This was a volunteer project that many students took on in addition to part-time jobs, rigorous coursework, and other demanding activities. Given these circumstances, there were times when responsibilities such as enforcing deadlines and motivating team members was difficult. However, the lessons learned during production of the first report helped facilitate smoother operations in year two.

How was your experience using the GRI framework (especially since it isn’t specifically geared towards education?). Any tips for others looking at using these in their report?

Using the GRI G4 guidelines helped build our team’s awareness and understanding of the concept of materiality, along with a variety of social, environmental and economic metrics. GRI isn’t geared towards educational institutions, however its focus on materiality helped inform our process. The team performed several stakeholder engagement sessions to pinpoint material issues, such as rising tuitions costs and sustainability curriculum—topics that may not have been identified in the GRI framework. It also served as a useful source to cross check that our stakeholders weren’t forgetting any fundamental issues.

GRI also helped the team identify leaders in nonfinancial disclosure—seeing these examples helped us better understand nonfinancial reporting and frame expectations. Although the framework wasn’t a perfect fit for our industry, it was useful for students to gain experience using this framework, especially as it continues to be recognised as one of the highest standards of nonfinancial disclosure.

 

(Part 2 will be posted on Thursday)

 

A Students Initiated Consortium Engaging Refugees – Leeds School of Business

In 2015, 2,250 refugees and refugee eligible populations were resettled in Colorado with the majority coming from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia and Iraq. Colorado saw an additional 3,000 refugees arrive in 2016. This, as well as the Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariats call to action to business schools and management-related Higher Education Institutions in response to the refugee crisis, prompted Colorado based Leeds School of Business in the USA to engage.

As we continue on with our special theme month focused on Diversity and Equality in Management Education, this week I spoke with Mark Meaney, Executive Director of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility at Leeds School of Business (and also a lead of the PRME North American Chapter) about their work in this area.

Why did Leeds answer the call?

At the Center for Education on Social Responsibility, we feel it is important that business schools assist in the integration of refugees into local economies. This makes sense both from the point of view of economic development and because it is the right thing to do. As to the former, studies have shown the extent to which refugees are entrepreneurial. As such, they contribute to economic development in local communities. As to the latter, Denver and Boulder are sanctuary cities with a commitment to maintaining an infrastructure that helps refugees in the integration into local communities.

How did Leeds respond?

Leeds answered the call because a group of students (CESR Fellows) wished to do something to address the global refugee crisis, to take action to try to diminish the suffering of people forced to flee conflict, and to work toward solutions for the widespread disruption.

I worked with the Fellows to assemble a consortium of stakeholders around the topic of refugee issues, including local, state and federal government officials, NGOs, business leaders from the Boulder/Denver business community, and regional business schools. Members of the consortium began to meet monthly in October of 2015. Over the course of several months, we reached consensus that the focus of our efforts in addressing refugee issues would be twofold: (1) to make connections among the various stakeholders in government, NGOs, businesses, and business schools in order to effect synergies in becoming more effective; and (2) to influence business schools in developing programming to meet the needs of refugees in assisting them in their integration into local economies. To these ends, we resolved to begin the process with a Regional Summit on Refugee Issues. We then continued to meet in planning the Summit.

What were the results of the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues?

On October 26th, experts from local, state and the federal government, NGOs, business leaders, and universities gathered at the University of Colorado at Boulder for the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues, to discuss the role of businesses and business  schools in integrating refugees into communities and local economies. By all accounts, the Summit was a smashing success.

The Summit succeeded in confirming the positive narrative that refugees do contribute to local economies. According to government officials and NGOs, studies demonstrate that refugees are much more likely to start new businesses that create wealth, employ local residents, and stimulate investment. Following upon this discussion, speakers and panelists also related that refugees also pay back their loans at higher rates than other disadvantaged populations.

CESR Fellows wanted to use the Summit to generate ideas about how stakeholders could work together to assist Colorado b-schools in assessing and meeting refugee higher education needs. We then reached consensus on how all stakeholders can partner with b-schools in mitigating the constraints that prevent refugees from integrating into local economies. We also accomplished precisely what we intended in joining federal, state and local government officials, leading NGOs, business leaders from the Denver/Boulder business community to work together with Colorado business schools.

What have been some of the challenges of engaging on these topics at Leeds? Successes?

As a result of the Summit, students and some faculty are now fully engaged in understanding the root causes of the refugee crisis. The challenge has been in engaging the administration and some faculty in embracing the HEI needs of refuges, and then in approving the development of programming to meet those needs.

Assembling the consortium is clearly one such success. Members have committed to continuing to work together to assist refugees in their integration into local economies. Another success is shown in relation to students from various regional b-schools who have fully committed to raising awareness of the plight of refugees among their peers. Effecting synergies among stakeholders who participated in the Summit must also count as a success. NGOs were able to place refugees as employees with employers who have a commitment to hire refugees, such as L&R Pallet and Knotty Tie. NGOs were also able to network with banks with a commitment to micro-finance and then help to secure loans for some of their refugee clients. Employers with an explicit policy to hire refugee are left feeling much more of a part of a larger community. They felt supported by other stakeholders. Finally, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver has developed a program to assist refugees in learning the culinary skills needed to work in restaurants and hotels.

How can business schools help on refugee issues?

Do not try to do this on your own. Take the time to cultivate relationships in the community in building a consortium of relevant stakeholders who can support one another in a variety of ways. Business schools can help in three ways: (1) develop    programing to meet the education needs of refugees, particularly in area of entrepreneurship; (2) support research among faculty that focuses on the truth about the root causes of the refugee crisis and on the ways in which refugees contribute to economic growth in local economies; and (3) encourage service work that brings faculty and students together with refugee populations so that they can learn about the plight of refugees.

What’s next?

To build on the success of the pilot at the University of Denver in demonstrating how programming that addresses the HEI needs of refugee populations can be cost effective for other business schools in the region. To continue to galvanize support on the CU Boulder campus among administrators, faculty and students in support of refugees. The CESR Fellows have continued to build on the momentum of the Summit in reaching out across the CU campus in support of various refugee student groups to demonstrate solidarity.

For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). 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

Sustainability Study Abroad Programme – Haworth College of Business

michiganThe Haworth College of Business is the first college at Western Michigan University to require all students to have a course in sustainability. Through the school’s sustainability faculty learning community, faculty share best practices and pedagogical techniques to faculty who don’t teach sustainability to ensure that all students are learning about these important topics.

The school also offers additional experiential experiences to engage students in these discussions, in particular focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. One example is their Sustainability Study Abroad Programme in partnership with Christ University in Bangalore India. I spoke with Timothy B. Palmer, Professor of Strategic Management and Director Center for Sustainable Business Practices at Western Michigan University about this initiative.

What is the Sustainability Study Abroad Programme?

One of my deepest convictions is that business should be used to make society and communities better. I have therefore designed this study abroad to show students the great potential they have to use their professional skills to solve both business and social challenges. The two-week trip is interdisciplinary. We integrate social work students with business students because both disciplines study sustainability’s social pillar, however they do this from different vantage points. Social work students have keen insights into social challenges while business students understand scalable business models that might be leveraged to address these challenges. Indeed, India’s recent “CSR Mandate” essentially requires cooperation between business and social work professionals. By bringing both groups of students together in India, the trip’s rich context provides opportunities for significant student development.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The aim of this study abroad is to expose students to opportunities firms have to not only achieve lower costs of business in India, but to improve peoples’ lives while there. India has two very different sides: unbridled growth and prosperity alongside poverty. Our trip exposes students to both these sides. We visit firms such as Dell, Infosys, Toyota, Himalaya Drug Company, and the ITC Gardenia Hotel, Asia’s only LEED platinum hotel. Through these visits we hear about their sustainability initiatives including CSR programs. We also visit NGOs and women’s self-help groups; those organizations providing direct services to many of India’s most marginalized populations.

What impact has the program had on the students? The community?

The study abroad provides students an opportunity to experience the cultural delights of India. Students work with culinary arts students and make a five course meal. They take a yoga class. They tour temples and botanical gardens. However, they also obtain first-hand experiences with struggles faced by India’s poor. While it’s hard to know the long term impacts of these experiences, we collect data one year following the trip. Students report that their experiences in India have had a significant impact on “having conversations with colleagues about business’ role in addressing social issues,” “defending populations that have far less than others,” and “taking on a work responsibility related to a social issue that I might otherwise not have done.” It’s certain that sitting with a women’s self-help group hearing about members’ hopes for their children, or meeting with an NGO working to ensure the safety of children who are vulnerable to trafficking, impacts how students think about both their citizenship responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of leading firms.

What have been some of the challenges? 

The primary challenge with a study abroad of this nature is ensuring you recruit students who are open to the experience. We’re not studying Shakespeare in England. Students are exposed to really tough challenges and it’s not for everyone. However, effective recruiting and doing your best to provide a realistic preview of the trip helps ensure students who are energized by a trip like this and are therefore most likely to get the most out of the unique experience.

Successes?

When recruiting students, I always talk in depth about our visit to a rural Indian village. Organizing a tour of India isn’t terribly difficult. However, getting access to residents of small villages just couldn’t happen without being part of the connections through a study abroad.

I vividly remember one meeting in a cinderblock community center. Twenty of my students were sitting on rugs eating lunch with eight women in the village’s self-help group. The conversation meandered from community investments made by the women to the mechanics of running such a group. However, at one point questioning moved to more personal matters. A student asked, “What are your hopes for your children?” One by one, the women talked about career aspirations for their kids. Several wanted their children to become engineers. Others hoped their kids would become medical doctors. Others, teachers. Sadly, none hoped they’d become a professor! However, I could see the lightbulbs go off in my students’ heads. While we are worlds away, figuratively and literally, parents worldwide have very similar aspirations for the next generation.

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

I personally believe that having a partnership institution in the location of the study abroad is extremely helpful. One option is putting the trip together entirely on your own. However, the partnership I have with Christ University is indispensable. They organize all our site visits, line up transportation, identify restaurants, provide our housing, and organize cultural activities. I give them plenty of input on what has worked from previous trips and what has been less effective. Having them do the legwork frees me up to focus on my students’ learning.

What’s next for the initiative?

The first trip in 2014 integrated business students from Western Michigan University with social service-human development students from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Future trips will cross-list the class at WMU as both a business class and a social work class co-led by faculty from each. Both disciples study CSR but from their own unique perspectives. Bringing students from both disciplines affords an opportunity to leverage learning for our students because they can learn from each other.

 

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