Management Education’s Role in the SDGs isn’t limited to providing quality education (SDG4). It is broader and more important than that.

When I discuss the Sustainable Development Goals with business school representatives, and ask what kind of initiatives they are working on in relation to these Goals, the answer is often the same: “We educate, therefore our focus is on SDG 4: Quality Education”.

But focusing solely on, and stopping at SDG 4 is a mistake, and a missed opportunity for the institutions in question and society at large. The role that business schools play is much broader and more important than that. The wider community engaged in the SDGs most often fails to recognise the crucial role that business schools can and are playing in the SDGs but they aren’t the only ones; business schools themselves generally fail to recognise the extent of their own role.

The Sustainable Development Goals are unique in that they are a globally recognised set of goals that outline where we need to go as a planet and where all stakeholders should direct their attention. It is a common language that unites us, that allows for partnerships to grow across sectors, industries, disciplines, all through this shared platform. It is a key for schools to connect into these discussions, to participate in them and to influence them all for the benefit of the school, its faculty and students.

  1. Ensure everyone on campus knows what the goals are and why they are important: Sobey School of Business in Canada organised a faculty session on the SDGs with a focus on how faculty can better embed discussion of the Goals into their courses. Faculty were asked to commit in writing how they planned to do this in their 2016/17 courses through the use of cases, assignments, additional readings etc.
  2. Identify which SDGs are most material to your institution: Hanken School of Economics in Finland identified which SDGS were most material to them in order to prioritize first steps. They are now working to understand where they stand on each of them and are exploring how to move forward.
  3. Embedding the SDGs into the curriculum: Slipper Rock University of Pennsylvania and La Trobe Business School have both been working to benchmark the coverage of sustainability topics within the business curriculum by mapping coverage of the SDGs taught in the courses offered in the core curriculum and whether it is part of the text, a module, part of an assignment or discussions.
  4. Embedding the SDGs into class assignments/discussions: Students at University of Colorado Denver in the US are tasked with developing an implementation plan for a company of their choice to address specific sustainable development goals and identify how the business could make progress against the specific targets associated with the goals. Students also need to consider actions that the United Nations could take to encourage more businesses to address the SDGs.
  5. Explore possible solutions: Students at Hult International Business School in the US were challenged to create a company-led “system” to solve a specific Sustainable Development Goal. Proposals ranged from training FARC rebels to meet employment needs while helping them to re-integrate into Columbian society; to challenging companies to get rid of boxes by collaborating with retailers to create new distribution systems for cereals.
  6. Facilitate interdisciplinary and multi stakeholder discussions to move the goals forward: Kemmy Business School’s Accountability Research Cluster hosted an international seminar on Tax and Poverty as part of their series Architects of a Better World. The event, which brought together a range of stakeholders focused around Goal 1 of the SDGs: No Poverty, the first time that the role of tax in delivering on the SDGs has been specifically addressed in Ireland.
  7. Work on the goals within your own institution: ISAE/FGV in Brazil reports on what they are doing on campus to reach the SDGS within their own operations including through waste management, water consumption, ethics and corruption on campus, gender equality and access to education.
  8. Use the SDGs to guide research priorities and impact: The University of Wollongong in Australia reports on what percentage of their research relates to the different SDGs and Manchester Met Business School is aligning their research closely with the SDGs.
  9. Developing partnerships to advance the goals: Faculty at Nottingham University Business School in the UK are collaborating with an international group of scholars to develop an innovative framework for assessing the impacts of Multinational Corporations on issues relating to the SDGs, in particular SDG 16 Peace Justice and Strong Institutions. The toolkit is being testing through close collaboration with partners from a range of industries as well as research organisations and civil society.
  10. Report on your efforts and impact in relation to the SDGs: University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur has organised their reporting around the SDGS with a particular emphasis on which SDGs they have a direct, indirect or collateral impact on.

Every one of the SDGs impact, and are impacted by management education, the research that you do, the decisions that your graduates make and how, as a network of schools, we create value. Each of the goals requires businesses and other organisations to work together on the challenges and developing and implementing the solutions. The upcoming 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education – 10 Years of PRME in New York City on the 18-19 and of July will focus on sharing best practices in relation to making the Global Goals local business and how to bring the SDGs into every classroom.

Engaging Employees with Intellectual Disability – Antwerp Management School

idwork-pagina-18ID@Work at Antwerp Management School in Belgium is a unique research project aimed at supporting organisations in attracting, developing and retaining employees with an intellectual disability. The project identifies the levers that can help facilitate the employment of disabled people, as well as the potential challenges and obstacles related to this type of employment effort. Intellectual disabilities are part of most of the Sustainable Development Goals including Goal 8 (unemployment rate and average hour earnings of persons with disabilities) and Goal 16 (increasing the proposition of positions for persons with disabilities in different organisations including in decision making positions).

I recently spoke with Professor Bart Cambré, associate dean research from Antwerp Management School about this innovative initiative.


How did ID@Work come about?

In the margin of the 2014 Special Olympics European Summer Games, Antwerp Management School conducted a study on the employment of people with intellectual disability (ID). The research was done by an inclusive team existing of two athletes participating in the Special Olympics European Summer Games and a senior researcher without ID. Their study focused mainly on employment in sheltered workshops and social economy. A first white paper was published.
The positive experience Antwerp Management School had by working with the researchers with ID, their added value during interviews, and the obvious need of more information and data on employment of people with ID in the regular economy, motivated AMS to develop a new project: ID@Work was born.
What is ID@Work?

ID@Work is a unique scientific project on the inclusion of workers with intellectual disability in the regular economy. ID@Work, stands for intellectual disability@work and has 6 goals:

  • hire the researchers with ID who volunteered in the previous study
  • conduct a study on the employment of workers with ID in the regular economy
  • write a white paper on this study (at this moment only available in Dutch and French)
  • develop a free scan for employers
  • develop a coaching programme for employers wishing to hire workers with intellectual disability
  • organise HR Master classes to train HR personal to hire workers with intellectual disability. This will be an exclusive AMS product.

The first 4 goals have already been achieved. The most recent one was launched November, 2016 and is a scan enabling employers to check how ready a company is to hire workers with intellectual disability. After having taken the test, every participant receives instant feedback and can ask for a full report and profile including advice and links with further resources to engage employees with intellectual disability. Both the tool and the report are free of charges.

What were some of the results of the study you conducted?

For the study mentioned previously, the inclusive team visited 26 companies and interviewed over 60 people all involved in inclusive work with people with ID.
The team extracted 6 pillars on which working with people with ID is or should be based. It is obvious that if one of the pillars is lacking or not equally balanced compared to the other ones, the risk of failure or a less positive experience with working with an employee with ID rises.
Those 6 pillars are:
1. Knowledge & Expertise need to be present before starting. If the company lacks knowledge, call in the help of experts.

  1. Strategy – refers to the reason for inclusion. What are the motives of an employer to hire people with ID? Is there an economic inspired strategy or rather social responsibility?
  2. Job matching – refers to the processes to match a candidate with the tasks needed to be done. Job design is a key element.
  3. Work culture – refers to the values and norms of an organisation when it comes to diversity, performance, organisational practices and policy. Integration and respect are key.
  4. Experience & Support – how much experience does the organisation have in managing diversity and to what extend is there support to facilitate the inclusive policy?
  5. Empowerment – refers to the level of autonomy and self-reliance of the worker with ID. Both need to be stimulated and can be endangered when the employer/organisation has a (too) protective attitude towards the worker with ID.

What have been some of the challenges and successes?
Working with two researchers with ID has been eye-opening. It has become clear that they have another view on the world compared to researchers without ID and that their vision leads towards other types of questions and unexpected answers from the interviewees. It was definitely an added value to the study.

Also, by walking the talk, Antwerp Management School became its own case study. Experiencing real live that things go wrong when the job doesn’t match, that getting professional accompaniment and the right financial incentives as an employer, and other types of help is a complicated adventure in Belgium.

We’ve proven the need of a project like ID@Work to facilitate the employment of workers with ID and to make employers reflect on the possibility and the benefits of hiring people with ID. The fact that not only placement agencies and care organisations, but also the associations of entrepreneurs back the project and promote the test, is a key element for making this project transcend the purely scientific level and enable the tools to actually make a real difference for people with ID in the regular economy.

What does a school – or any other employer for that matter – needs to know before hiring a person with ID?
The most important thing is to gain knowledge on intellectual disability and to know what kind of tasks you would this person like to execute and what basic skills he/she needs to have able to do this. For example, would you like to hire a person with ID to help in administration, then list the tasks involved and the required skills. Does the job include sending emails, look up things on the Internet or use spread sheets to make listings, then be aware of the fact that the worker needs to know how to use a computer, write emails in a proper way, etc. Do not expect these skills to be granted. Reflect on the question if your company/organisation is willing to invest time and money into extra IT training for the worker with ID. Also determine if the tasks you would like to be executed by a person with ID are sustainable or limited in time. If so, you might need to foresee other matching tasks for the worker with ID later on or make him/her aware of the fact that the job is only temporary.

Second is communication. Make sure that the whole company or organisation carries the initiative. Everybody needs to know why a person with ID is being hired and what the benefits are.
Third, set boundaries. In a people and socially oriented environment such as a school, the danger of ‘over’-caring is real. Being too protective is not stimulating the empowerment of the worker and will consolidate the innate helplessness the majority of people with ID are locked into. On the other hand, too much care will weigh on the co-workers of the person with ID. Because of the innate helplessness and the fact that the borders between private life and work are not always clear to the worker with ID, they keep asking for all kinds of help if co-workers do not set clear boundaries. The danger for workers to become after-hour caregivers for their colleague with ID is real.

What’s next?

With another 6 months of the project left, we’re now working on the last two goals of the project: a coaching program for employers and HR Master Classes. The first one will be developed with agencies already active in placement and job coaching for workers with a distance to the labor market. The HR Master Classes will be an exclusive program by Antwerp Management School.

Parallel to this development we will be analysing the data harvested with the ID@Work scan and use the results to consult experts and authorities in improving policies regarding inclusive work.
We secretly hope to be able to install a chair on the subject later on.

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United for Refugees – JAMK University of Applied Sciences

image003Support for the continuing education of newcomers is quite broad in Finland, and as a university there is always the consideration for exactly how to support educational needs of asylum seekers and other newcomers at a university level, many of whom arrive with extensive professional experience and are highly educated. In response to this, students and staff at the School of Business at JAMK University of Applied Sciences organized the JAMK United for Refugees project in September 2015. The project is based in a cross-cultural management course where teachers and students develop their own approaches and solutions to supporting the present and future multicultural Finnish society. In response to this, Steven Crawford, a senior lecturer at the School of Business, decided to integrate asylum seekers into the classroom through the Open University system as credit earning students to share their stories and contribute to the course, and to connect students and staff directly to the refugee crisis. I spoke with Steven about this successful and scalable project.

What is United for Refugees?

The JAMK United for Refugees project began at the start of the fall semester of 2015 at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä, Finland. The refugee crisis was quite prominent in the media then, as it still is, and I initially thought we might “pack a van” with personal sorts of supplies and head to Greece, where refugees were landing in large numbers on beaches. However, when we examined the idea more closely the reality set in that we were too far away from Greece. So my colleague Ronan Browne and I brought the idea of a refugee support project into a cross-cultural management course as a “local response” to the crisis, and offered it to the students as a potential project. They universally embraced the project idea and the development process started from there and is now (fall 2016) in its third semester.

How does it work?

A key feature of the project is that it forms a framework for the cross-cultural management course in which the underlying pedagogical approaches include experiential learning, meaning-centred education, and transformative adult learning. We activated students by giving them a stakeholder role, organized them into distinct task-oriented groups, and gave them the power to make their own decisions about what sorts of activities they would develop and execute. For the initial fall 2015 project semester, the students designed and executed a campus-wide awareness campaign that included and engaged numerous other stakeholders in our community, including asylum seekers. In spring 2016 the project continued in a more directed way so that we could develop a more tangible response to the crisis in the form of an educational game. Now the first version of that game is complete and we are moving into a phase in which we promote the product across Finland and support users, while also training students to facilitate game play.

What have been some of the interesting experiences so far?

At this point over two-hundred students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders have participated in our project. Many of them have been affected in some significant positive way through their contributions and participation. Two of our asylum seeking students from the spring 2016 semester are now Open University track master’s students, thus proving that education as a path to integration is a primary means through which both newcomers and hosts benefit. Presently, in this fall 2016 semester, among our nine registered asylum-seeking students I believe that most if not all of them have had their residency applications rejected by the Finnish state. And still they press forward their desire to reside in Finland permanently. Our project of course is not involved in the political processes that produce these decisions, which presently lean toward residency application rejection. And so during each phase of our project there are very compelling personal and social situations both above and below the surface. I am concerned at the moment about one Iraqi lawyer from our 2016 spring semester. She lost the immediate male members of her family and brought her eight children to Finland. All children of asylum seekers in Finland attend school, and her children did also. But I have lost track of her now, so I wonder what her status is and how things will turn out for her and her children. This woman brought discussion into our course about the situation and roles of women in Iraqi society, and the resulting dialogue was compelling and constructive for all of our students.

What have been some of the challenges? 

In my view biggest opportunity is to positively affect the attitudes of Finnish people, those who comprise the dominant group that is the “host,” and who control the processes and outcomes of the asylum seeking system. As is the case in most European nations a sizable part of our host population feels threatened by the refugee crisis and its potential for changing things at home. On the other hand, many Finnish citizens see the very positive potential that diversity brings to societies in the global age. There is tension between these two perspectives, and so we seek to learn about and address the needs and concerns of all Finnish inhabitants about their future together.

In our project course the working language is English, and so all of the course students must have at least a conversational level of English. Thus there have been a few prospective refugee students who were not able to join the course but were able to find some kind of education opportunity elsewhere in our city that they could participate in. There is also the question of student assessment, and in this case I chose to employ the option of either a pass/fail grade or a numeric grade. If a student participates fully in classroom, groupwork and development activities I am comfortable in giving them a “pass” grade. If he or she also completes the “academic” requirements, which includes for example reflective essay-based assessments, I have the option of giving them a numeric grade. Sometimes our expectations, norms and “rules” must bend a bit to fit the urgency of a given situation. At least it is my view that educators have a distinct social responsibility to engage and work with these newcomers, and this may require us to change our practices.

Successes? 

All of our asylum-seeking students who participate fully earn university credits at a Finnish university. Perhaps this is not the first idea that comes to one’s mind when thinking about asyslum seekers. Two of our spring 2016 asylum seeking students received permanent residency status and are now taking Open University master’s-level courses. That is enough in my view to conclude that the project is successful. Beyond that, I sense that we have a positive impact across our community in terms of helping Finland to manage its part of the global refugee crisis and to provide unique and particularly socially relevant educational opportunities to the school’s more “traditional” sorts of students such as our Finnish and international degree students, and also our international exchange students. From a pedagogical perspective, the project has provided us with an excellent framework for a course that sets out to help student learn how to manage through cultures, including the approaches needed to activate experiential learning, meaning-centred education, and transformative adult learning. Overall, taking a community-wide stakeholder approach has allowed us to engage a wide range of participants while moving from a local to a national response to the crisis.

 

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

There are many criteria that need to be addressed for a project such as JAMK United for Refugees to form and progress. First, the organizing teachers need support from the highest levels of the school. Our project also has a strong management team which now includes three teachers and quite purposefully includes students, some of whom are earning thesis, internship and project studies credits through their management level particpation. In this way multiple educational agendas converge to form and drive the project.

Bringing the project into a course may support both specfic course and curricular program-level intended learning outcomes. I suggest that a stakeholder analysis be conducted at the start in order to identify those who may be served and those who might help. After that, the students should be empowered through ownership to make the project happen. Engaging outside partners and stakeholders in the project is also essential.

I would conclude this section by pointing out that at JAMK University of Applied Sciences there is a distinct emphasis on projects and practical “hands-on” learning. And so this particular project fits quite nicely for us and also makes the project realizable based on our limited resources.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are presently rolling out our base training product, diversophy® New Horizons, across Finland to teachers and trainers, and our fall semester students are creating additional game content that focuses more specifically on certain topics, such as youth culture, sports, and employability & entrepreneurship. As part of the cross-cultural management course we are training our students how to facilitate our game in multicultural contexts. We are interested in youth culture because we know that Finnish law requires that all children, including newcomers, go to school. And so we know that there is a lot of interaction every day between dissimilar others in schools. We are interested in sports because, I suppose, Finland is a very healthy and sports conscious society. And we are interested in improving the receptivity of Finnish employers to newcomers, and to help newcomers acquire the insider’s perspectives needed to advance their career and business goals as contributors to Finland’s society. There is plenty left to do!

For information about the project visit the JAMK United for Refugees Facebook page.

For information about the the game, visit diversophy® New Horizons.

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Collaborating across borders – The CR3+ Network

La Trobe Business School in Australia has been a PRME signatory since 2008 and an active PRME Champion. They joined forces with several other PRME Signatories to create CR3+ Network. Together the network provides a supportive platform to build international collaboration and enables the participant business schools to work with the PRME and build international and national capacity in Responsible Management Education. I spoke with Associate Professor Suzanne Young, Head of Department and Dr Swati Nagpal, Department of Management and Marketing, from La Trobe Business School, about their participation in this network.

What is the CR3+ Network and how did it come about?

La Trobe Business School has been working with ISAE (Brazil), Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland) since 2008 in an effort to exchange ideas, pedagogy, curriculum and research in the area of corporate responsibility. Head of LBS, Professor Paul Mather wrote: “With the support of the Principles for Responsible Executive Education, the CR3+ network’s objective is to promote a debate, inspire changes and propose solutions for challenges related to sustainability and governance, interacting and reaching what UNESCO calls ‘The 5th Pillar of Education: Learning to change and to change society.’”

What are the key features of the programme?

A key outcome of the partnership has been the hosting of an annual CR3+ conference, which has been held at each of the member institutions. Past themes have included governance and sustainability; CSR: expanding horizons, and the power of responsibility. The aim of the CR3+ conferences is to strengthen the partnership and dialogue around sustainability and responsibility, and provide a forum where ideas, developments and concerns in regards to these issues and the work of the PRME can be brought forward.

How is CR3+ different than other similar networks you are part of? How did you meet these specific schools and decide to create a network? 

It involves four schools that are strongly committed to PRME, and which later became PRME Champions, so PRME is very much at the core of CR3+. The network has been driven by the will to learn from each other, bearing in mind that the four schools are from very different and distant parts of the world (Australia, Brazil, Finland and France). From a very early point the core idea was to create a platform for these learning possibilities by organizing a conference involving all 3 (later 4) schools.

What have been some of the challenges? 

The schools are different and distant, not only in geographical terms but also in cultural and institutional terms. Creating special exchanges for students, for example, has faced a number of practical challenges related to differences in terms of tuition fees, types of study programmes, periods of studies, accreditations, etc. Different expectations about the conference have also caused some challenges but overall the learning opportunities and outcomes have far outweighed the challenges.

Successes? 

We have now done one full round of CR3+ conferences (in all 4 schools) and are about to start a second cycle. The mobilization from the different schools has been on the rise – for example, ISAE/FGV researchers have sent many abstracts to the CR3+ conference to be organized in Helsinki – and there has been growing integration between CR3+ events and PRME chapters – the conference in Helsinki will also be tied to a doctoral course organized by the PRME Chapter Nordic (more specifically Hanken, Stockholm School of Economics, BI Norwegian School of Management and CBS).

The CR3+ network has also enabled joint research projects and resulting publications as well as student and staff exchanges.

In autumn 2011, LBS hosted a masters-level exchange student from Hanken to work on a community development project.  Similar student exchanges are currently being planned for LBS students to have the opportunity to extend PRME –related projects at the other CR3+ partner universities.

In 2015, a collaboration between LBS and ISAE tested a new approach to ‘Promoting internationalisation and cross-cultural competency through online collaboration’, which provided opportunities for LBS MBA students to engage in an academic cross-cultural experience with Masters students from ISAE.  The students replicated real-world global communication, by collaborating virtually with people from a different cultural background in real time and jointly solving a series of management problems using online software.

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

The network’s success is due to the relationships between key academic staff in each of the business schools and is also based in their common belief in and focus on the goals of the PRME mission. Members of the network were all early adopters of the PRME and champions of change in their respective institutions. Each School brings to the network their own expertise and demonstrates the national differences in Responsibility and Sustainability initiatives that are seen in academia, industry and government.

Each of the business schools have supported the CR3+ network as they acknowledge that working collaboratively provides greater opportunities for staff and students than working alone. Benefits in research, teaching, partnerships and dialogue have been demonstrated and the parties remain excited about opportunities that are coming from working with others in the new SDG project

What’s next for the initiative?

A pilot project is currently being led by LBS with support from the CR3+ network focused on facilitating a series of national workshops in each country between PRME higher education business schools and members of the UN Global Compact Network to present and interact on the theme of the SDGs. The outcomes of the workshops will be improved dialogue and networks between universities and other sectors, and the initiating of joint projects on the SDGs.

The 5th CR3+ conference will be held at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki on 28-29 April 2017. The theme of the conference is ‘Making Corporate Responsibility Useful’, where the dominant logic of the ‘business case’ argument for CSR, and the legitimising effect this has on business engagement in CSR, will be brought into question.

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Universities Bringing the Business Community Together – Examples from Denmark, Iceland, Argentina, and USA

Business schools are creating and facilitating spaces where the business community and the academic community can come together to discuss current issues as well as potential solutions to these issues. These collaborative spaces, whether they explore sustainability and the SDGs more broadly or focus in on specific industries or topics, bring benefits not just to the university and its students and researchers, but to the business community as well.

Here are a few examples of collaborative projects from Denmark, Iceland, Argentina and the USA.

Denmark: The Public-Private platform at Copenhagen Business School takes place yearly. Through a combination of interdisciplinary research, teaching and public engagement the platform aims to help mobilise, foster and develop society wide solutions to pressing matters of public concern. The goal of the platform is to initiate dialogue across the traditional divides between public and private, thus facilitating the creation of novel forms of diagnosis and intervention. Business leaders, politicians, managers and academics come together to exchange views and discuss approaches to specific problems with the aim of initiating collaborative programmes and discreet projects to explore novel solutions to these issues. The platform is engaged in several strategic partnerships, including with the Danish Ministry of the Environment.

Argentina: IAE’s Institutional Development Department invited companies from industrial sectors in Argentina to come to their School to share experiences and reflect on how to improve these sectors, without a specific research agenda. This approach expanded the range of companies and institutions contacted, opening the School doors to those that were not necessarily interested in participating in a specific research plan. The result was a new concept of “collaborative forums”, where companies and institutions gather at the School to discuss different topics and share experiences, slowly nurturing their relationships and exploring collaboration paths.

USA: Glasgow Caledonian University New York’s Fair Fashion Centre focuses on the business case for sustainability in the fashion industry in particular and building collaborations with, and between, key players in this industry. Part of their work has a been a series of ‘Town Hall’ events called Fashion Sharing Progress. These events gather leaders from various industries and organisations to offer different perspectives on sustainable development and help identify new solutions for the fashion and retail industry and beyond. This brings together academics, professionals and industry experts to facilitate new learning, which combines profitability with ethical environmental and social considerations. Leading names in the industry have participating in these events including representatives from Nike, Patagonia, the International Labour Organization, and eco-luxe labels. Through these events, companies are sharing the work that they are doing in sustainability with a wider community. For example, Warby Parker is transforming the lives of people around the world unable to afford glasses with their buy-a-pair, give-a-pair model. Levi Stauss & Co disccuss their work around water efficiency and their Water<Less collection, a collection of jeans that use up to 96% less water to create.

Iceland: Some universities host collaborative centres. For example Festa, the Icelandic Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded by six Icelandic companies in 2011 is hosted by Reykjavik University. The mission of Festa is to be a knowledge center for CSR and promote the discussion on CSR in Iceland. In addition it supports companies in implementing CSR strategies and provides a network of companies who want to implement CSR, as well as cooperating with universities by promoting research and teaching of CSR. Founding companies are Rio Tinto Alcan, Íslandsbanki, Landsbankinn, Landsvirkjun, Síminn and Össur. New members include, ÁTVR, Ölgerðin brewery, Capacent, Arion Bank, Innovation Center Iceland, Reykjagarður, ISS Iceland, 112 Iceland and CCP games.

 

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Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Hong Kong, Kenya, and Canada

img_4721As 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, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Jessica Vaghi, E4Impact Foundation, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society, Italy (examples from Kenya)

Continental Renewable Energy (Corec) is a Kenyan based company that recycles waste plastic into eco-friendly building material and sell the hardware to developers whose problem is high material cost by providing affordable and durable construction products. It prevented 700 tons of waste from landfills, made 26,000 posts and signed orders over 10.000 roofing tiles by customers across Kenya in 2 years of operations.

Stamp Investment is a Kenyan enterprise that distributes briquettes and multitasking fuel efficient stoves, which enables schools and households to have access to safe drinking water with a reduction of 75 % in water borne diseases. The business won the Grand Challenges Africa “pitching your innovation” competition in 2016 and has been national winner of the most innovative business idea during Enablis Chase bank, ILO business launch pad competition in 2011.

NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises is a sustainable market-driven system of coffee farmer organisations empowered to increase their household incomes through enhanced entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 districts of Uganda. NUCAFE Contributed in influencing the development of a National Coffee Policy and to improve gender relations among coffee farming households and was nominated by AGRA best Africa farmer organisation of 2013 in income diversity category.

Click here for more information about E4Impact Foundation and their work in Kenya.

Pamsy Hui, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Business, Hong Kong

It is often a misconception that interesting work in the field of sustainability can only be done by companies with a lot of resources.  In Hong Kong, many small and medium enterprises are doing very interesting things with limited resources.  For instance, Diving Adventure Ltd., a company providing training services and products related to scuba diving, has always put the environment in the forefront of its business decisions.  They regularly collaborate with NGOs, the government, and other organisations on environment protection initiatives (e.g., underwater cleansing activities, reef check).  What is impressive is that for such a small operation, they go far beyond just caring about environmental sustainability.  They are also committed to create employment opportunities to minority groups, released prisoners, and reformed drug users, to help integrate them into the society.  On the service side, they regularly provide training to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of inclusiveness for people who are often overlooked, if not discriminated, by the society.

Another example is Baby-Kingdom.com, a parental online forum for parents to share information and experiences related to bringing up children.  In addition to donating to NGOs, they help NGOs advertise on their forum, bringing awareness among their large number of users. They set up the Baby Kingdom Environmental Protection Education Fund in 2008 to support programmes in primary schools to educate school children on concepts such as greenhouse gas reduction and green diet.  Consistent with its family-friendly image, Baby-Kingdom.com started family-friendly practices well before they became a trend in large corporations.  The well-being of children is central to its human resource practices, and the company is often recognised for being a socially responsible employer.

A third example of a company doing interesting things related to sustainability is 4M Industrial Development Limited, a toy design company specialising in educational toys.  In designing their products, 4M consciously favors sustainable materials and supply chains with lower carbon footprints.  In addition, 4M partners with NGOs in multiple ways.  With the Spastics Association of Hong Kong, they adapt part of their manufacturing process to support the disabled.  It also works with different NGOs to promote their causes.  Many of 4M’s products have a green message behind them (e.g., Paper Recycling Kit, Trash Robot Kit).  For each box of the Clean Water Science Kit, for example, 4M donates a portion of its profits to NGOs to fund water-purifying projects in the third world.  Meanwhile, children buying the kit would get a message about the project in the box.

Click here to read about the Interdisciplinary Wellness Clinic at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Deborah De Lange, Ryerson University, Canada

Our Horizon is a national not-for-profit organization led by Robert Shirkey that works with governments to require climate change labels on gas pumps. The idea is a low-cost, globally scalable intervention to communicate the hidden costs of fossil fuels to end users and drive change upstream.

ZooShare is a biogas plant led by Daniel Bida that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from grocery stores into fertilizer and renwable power for the Ontario grid. The process aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tonnes of C02 each year. The biogas plant is starting construction now and will be operational in the summer of 2017.

Purpose Capital is an impact advisory firm that mobilises all forms of capital – financial, physical, human and social – to accelerate social progress. Alex Kjorven is the Director of Corporate Development and is a graduate student in the EnSciMan programme at Ryerson.

Click here to learn more about the interdisciplinary EnSciMan programme at Ryerson University.

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How the Social Impact Festival at University of Western Australia Supports Global and Local Progress

img_7254-smlThe Sustainable Development Goals help us consider everything – from one person, to the university, to our cities – in a global context. They provide a robust yet accessible framework for learning about global progress. This is the focus of the work being done at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia. Among their many programmes is their annual Social Impact Festival, an opportunity to bring together individuals and organisations who are deeply committed to making Western Australia a better place.

I spoke with Claire Stokes from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia about this increasingly successful event.

What is the Social Impact Festival?

The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (UWA) hosted the first Social Impact Festival in May 2015 – we call this ‘prototype 1’. It saw over 1,000 people attending events on the UWA Crawley campus focused on furthering social impact. When 2016 began, the team at the Centre for Social Impact UWA decided to take the festival into ‘prototype 2’ in July 2016. Katie Stubley (the other co-director) and myself started with a purpose and designed the event to fulfill that purpose. This included three primary aims: share and diffuse cutting-edge knowledge; strengthen and connect social impact networks; and increase our capacity to make WA better for all. We also identified many people, ideas, organisations and networks that have been deeply committed to making WA a more just, vibrant and better place for all. So a key element of the festival was bringing stories of social impact in WA to the surface to be celebrated and amplified.

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

The concept of ‘social impact’ is so broad that we knew a regular conference format would not work. To see real change, we knew we had to reach audiences beyond those who had previously engaged with the Centre and in a variety of settings. The format was based roughly on a ‘fringe festival’: a diverse range of small, low-cost, and engaging events in a variety of venues so attendees could ‘create their own adventure’.

We turned to our postgraduate course – the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – for a framework which gave us the following themes for the four key days of the festival:

  • Creating social impact: entrepreneurship, innovation & design
  • Demonstrating social impact: research, measurement & evaluation
  • Funding social impact: investment, philanthropy & ethical consumerism
  • Leading social impact: organisation, collaboration & systems

As a whole, the festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth. Individual event prices ranged from $0 to $30 and 15 events were free. More than 150 people and organisations contributed to the festival programme (including speakers, workshop facilitators, co-working space hosts, artists, performers, open house venues, and market stall-holders). Through the interactive ‘Stories from the Field’ events (21, 22, 26 & 27 July), 68 individual stories of social impact were shared. Twenty local ethical businesses featured in the Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show (23 July), and 10 spaces and organisations featured on Social Impact Open House day (25 July).

What are/were your favourite parts of the festival?

Pitching events are always interesting, as they provide opportunities for real people and organisations to take action, as well as the chance to learn about investing and the local landscape. The Impact Seed Pitch Night on 26 July was no exception. Run by a new Perth-based organisation, Impact Seed, the event saw five investable social businesses pitch for investment to a packed auditorium of 120 people. It also featured a highly engaging keynote address from Bessi Graham (The Difference Incubator, Melbourne). Graham also sat on the judging panel with Paul Flatau (Centre for Social Impact UWA), Derek Gerrard (Innovation Bay), and Paul Bide (School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Two other standout events were the Festival Opening and Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show. The Opening was a directed performance, mixing inspiring speech from Michael Chaney, Cassandra Goldie and Noel Nannup together with music, poetry, song and dance. The Marketplace & Ethical Fashion show held an atmostphere that was absolutely perfect for what we were trying to achieve. There was a modest amount of stalls – 20 in total – but every single person involved demonstrated deep passion and commitment to their cause. This also extended to an excitement in celebrating and helping each other on the day. Businesses represented included social enterprises, fair trade homewares, organic kombucha and tea, eco-garden services, ethical fashion, Aboriginal enterprises, and more. An estimated 300+ people attended the event and all stallholders reported they sold more than expected.

Although not an event, the ongoing co-working and collaboration space was another highlight. This provided ample opportunity for attendees of events throughout the festival to come early or stay afterwards to simply work, or meet other like-minded people and make new connections. The hosts of this space, Perth-based social innovators enkel, also ensured users of the space made the most of it by engaging with interesting activities such as mindfulness, story-telling, and more.

What impact does the festival aim to have/ already have?

We have already observed and heard about the immediate impact of the Festival. For instance, as one of the key aims was connecting people across sectors we were delighted to hear that almost 70% of attendees said they made new connections they intend to follow up with (or already have). That does not even take into account the connections made across the 150 contributors. We have also heard of some changes, or actions taken based on transformative experiences. For example, 26% of attendees to seek out formal education or training in fields linked to social impact. One person reported they have already chaired a board meeting and presented information from the Festival, leading the Board to review the organisation’s mission, objectives, strategies and how we can better measure our social impact.

Anecdotally, we have heard of many new connections and collaborations around Perth that resulted from the Festival, while other connections have strengthened or formalised. This is exactly the kind of impact we intended to create.

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

Design with a purpose. That was the single-most important aspect of the festival and it resulted in an event that was not only successful in terms of numbers and engagement, but in the immediate impact it had, leaving everyone involved with the optimism and drive to create positive change.

What’s next?

We are synthesizing the huge amount of information that was drawn out during the festival – in the form of stories, ideas, presentations and feedback. Many of the resources presented or created throughout the festival can be found here: http://www.socialimpactfestival.org/resources/

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