5 Key Messages from Businesses to Business Schools Around Sustainability

PRME Global ForumAt the recent PRME Global Forum in New York City, business representatives from the Global Compact LEAD and PRME Champions groups met to discuss how they could work together to move the sustainability agenda forwards for their respective organisations and beyond. The discussion covered a range of different possible projects and collaborations but, in particular, focused on the need to develop employees and graduates with the relevant competencies and skills that businesses of the 21st century need.

The representatives from the Global Compact companies provided a number of interesting insights during this meeting that are relevant to PRME Signatories. Six key messages came out of the discussion, including:

  1. Business doesn’t need sustainability professionals, but rather professionals that are capable of making sustainable decisions in any role.

Many of the business representatives present suggested that a sustainability course/degree/certificate may miss the point. While basic knowledge of sustainability is of course necessary, more important is that graduates have an understanding of how to apply it in the business context in which they are working and the function that they are filling. They need all of them employees to have this knowledge and not just a few specialized individuals.

  1. Business needs better managers/leaders/team members to move sustainability forward.

Business need graduates that have the reflexes to ask the right questions and to find answers when it comes to sustainability. They should be able to ask “Will the decision I am making today stand the test of time, and if it doesn’t, what decision should I make?” Graduates need to be able to drive and influence change, build consensus, and shift the conversation.

  1. Business can see that graduates are increasingly interested in the topic of sustainability and are seeing some benefits….

Businesses in the room at the PRME-LEAD meeting stated that they receive a significantly higher number of applicants, and higher quality applicants, for all jobs because of their reputation as a sustainability leader. This is particularly true when sustainability is mentioned in the job application. Businesses are noticing the work that academic institutions are doing in this area and are encouraged by the changes they are already seeing in graduates.

  1. …but also recognise that there is more business could do to help in this regard.

As sustainability becomes core to how modern companies operate, it will increasingly be part of all jobs and therefore job descriptions and selection criteria. However, business representatives agreed that this isn’t always the case and these skills, which they admit they want/need, are often not integrated into the recruiting process. Incorporating sustainability into the recruiting process would sent a strong message to students about the importance of being knowledgeable about sustainability topics to increase their changes of being hired.

  1. Business is interested in engaging with business schools, but partnerships need to be mutually beneficial

Business schools want/need business to engage with them in order to move their sustainability agendas forward, while businesses often prefer to engage with schools that they see are already advanced in this area. For this reason business schools need to give businesses a clear reason to want to work with them. Do you have students who are knowledgeable about these topics and can use that knowledge to help a company further their efforts? Does your school have a research focus that coincides with that of a local company engaged in sustainability? There needs to be something in it for all parties involved.

  1. Business schools should become knowledgeable in what business needs are in the area of sustainability today, and prepare for what they may be in the future.

Representatives working in the field of sustainability within leading businesses are busy people with limited time and resources. They do not necessarily have the time to tell business schools what they need and want, it is up to the schools themselves to uncover these needs and tailor programmes and projects accordingly. They can do this by staying connected and up to date with sustainability issues, attending local, country, and regional Global Compact events or organising and bringing together groups of professionals working in this field from their city.


For more on the outcomes of both meetings, view the outcomes documents from the PRME Global Forum and the Global Compact +15. ‘The State of Sustainability in Management Education’ was launched at this meeting and provides a summary of some of the challenges that management education are facing in embedding these topics into their curriculum as well as some of the opportunities for business and academic institutions to work together moving forward.

The Post-2015 Process – Bringing together the Sustainable Development Goals

resource_preview_441In 2000, world leaders put in place the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), a set of eight goals which have focused global attention on a limited set of concrete human development goals and provided targets for national and international development priorities. Specific progress on the 21 targets and 60 indicators associated with the goals can be found in the MDG 2013 report and progress reports by country can be found through the United Nations Statistics Division.

The MDGs, set to expire in 2015, will be replaced by a new set of goals and targets, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Currently the international community is exploring what these goals could be. An Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals has been put in place to prepare a report containing a proposal for the set of SDGs. This working group has 30 seats shared by a group of 70 Member State representatives. Inputs are also being coordinated by a High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, made up of representatives from civil society, private sector, academia, and local and national governments, along with a UN System Tasks Force made up of more than 60 UN agencies and international organisations.

While the MDGs were established and agreed on by 189 governments following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, the creation of the SDG goals are to be a collaborative effort involving not just governments and the UN, but civil society more extensively. This is being done through a range of local, national, and global consultations, both online and offline, led by different specialised UN agencies, around eleven thematic areas: Inequalities, Governance, Health, Sustainability, Population, WaterEmployment,  ConflictFoodEducation,  and Energy.

The nine major stakeholder groups, identified for consultation during the first Earth Summit, are also providing significant inputs into this process. The groups are Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Women, Local Authorities, NGOs, Workers and Trade Unions, and the Scientific and Technological Community. Each represents the voice of their respective constituencies within UN meetings and the post-2015 process, and each has their own process for gathering and submitting contributions and inputs into the SDG development process.

Three business-related platforms are providing input into the process: the Sustainable Solutions Network of think tanks, the World Economic Forum, and the UN Global Compact. The UN Global Compact has put in place LEAD, a consortium of 50 large-scale, globally oriented corporations to collect contributions and recommendations. The findings of this consultation process were compiled in June 2013 in a report to the UN Secretary General. The Global Compact also contributed another document to the UN process, Post-2015 Business Engagement Architecture, which illustrates the main building blocks necessary to enhance corporate sustainability as an effective contribution to sustainable development. Companies are also engaging via the Global Compact’s range of issue specific platforms such as the CEO Water Mandate, Business for Peace, and the Food and Agriculture Business Principles.

This process of creating the SDGs will culminate in a high level summit in September 2015. For a full list of meetings leading up to this, visit the interactive time line and for more information and resources about the SDGs, visit http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

Five ways to get engaged in the Post-2015 process

  1. Contribute to the consultation process on different themes: Follow and contribute to the consultations happening online around the different thematic areas and stakeholder groups. A second round of consultations is currently happening online at www.worldwewant2015.org and is an opportunity not just to share your thoughts but also your best practices, research, and to provide inputs on joint position papers.
  2. Share your thoughts on what should be included: Several online platforms provide a space for individuals to have their say on which issues are most important to them and their family including www.myworld2015.org or post2015.org. Sustainable Development Goals e-Inventory is crowdsourcing proposals for post-2015 to feed into the intergovernmental process for SDGs.
  3. Contribute to the consultations of the business sector: The UN Global Compact is conducting consultations among its Local Networks, around two key themes: how elements of the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda apply to specific national settings and how business can best support priorities likely to be found in the Sustainable Development Goals. See Engaging with the Private Sector. You can also engage through the work being done via the different issues specific platforms of the UN Global Compact.
  4. Get your school engaged: Introduce your students to the MDGs and Post-2015 agenda, and have discussion around how business can and should contribute. Explore ways to incorporate the SDGs into your research, courses, events on campus and, once established, participate in making them happen in your community and country.
  5. Stay up to date about the issues being discussed at http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org and follow discussions on social media at #post2015, and on Facebook and Youtube.


International Volunteer Day and Business Schools (Part 2 of 2)

logo_eng_circles2013December 5th was International Volunteer Day, an opportunity for individual volunteers, communities and organisations to promote their contributions to development at the local, national and international level.  It is a unique chance for people and volunteer-involving organisations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia and the private sector.

In Part 1, we took a look at a range of examples of how business schools students and staff are volunteering in their communities, in particular through student run organisations that coordinate volunteer activities as well as through pro bono consulting projects in the local community or abroad.

Several schools go beyond just providing student volunteer opportunities to incorporating volunteering into their various academic programmes. The undergraduate business programme at Singapore Management University has, since its inception in 2000, required students to complete twelve weeks of internship, two of which must involve community service with a voluntary welfare organisation. All undergraduate students at Sabanci University’s School of Business in Turkey take a course called “Civic Involvement Project,” where they participate in real life projects that make a difference to peoples’ lives. In Spain, EADA has a Millennium Development Goals Project course, which aims to develop the participant’s leadership and social responsible capabilities through service learning and putting in place social projects.

At Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor in Canada, all students take a course called Managed and Organizational Life, where they are required to complete a project where they design and implement a fundraising event for a local charity. Over the past eight years, they have raised over $400,000 Canadian dollars to support local charities. Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany introduced Social Credit Points in 2009. For every 30 hours of extracurricular spare time is counted as one social credit. The Social Credit Point Awarding Committee that decides which activity is worth how many credits is made up of individuals from a Learning Advisory, Relationship Management, Programme Development and Student Council. The Social Credit Points are published in the Transcript of Extracurricular Accomplishments.

In keeping with the theme for this year’s International Volunteer Day, many business schools have volunteer programmemes aimed at engaging and empowering young people. The George Washington University School of Business’s 2+2 programme involves matching mentor teams of two (one GWSB student and one GWSB alumn) with mentee teams comprised of two high school students from Anacostia High School in Washington, DC The teams participate in a series of workshops that provide training on leadership, financial literacy, and social entrepreneurship to prepare them for summer internships and future careers. Invest ‘N Kids is an on-campus tutoring and mentoring programme run by Boston College (BC) MBA students for disadvantaged Brookline middle school students. BC MBA tutors meet one-on-one with their students for 8-10 sessions per semester to work on a variety of academic subjects. Tutors split their session time between homework assistance and a stock market game, where the students learn about investing and about starting a small business through the Biz World programme. At Fundaçao Dom Cabral (FDC) in Brazil, São Judas Tadeu nursery School in Nova Lima, MBA students, along with the local community, build a new wing with six classrooms, which made it possible to host a further 300 children and to create a space destined for teaching trades and crafts. Sogang Business School in Korea provides students with two week long internships in rural villages in Indonesia to teach English and math skills to young school children in the community.

If you would like to take part in the International Volunteer Day, take a look at their website as well as the website for UN Volunteers, a UN agency that advocates for volunteerism, integrates volunteerism into development planning, and mobilises volunteers. UN Volunteers also has an online portal where you can share your skills, knowledge, and ideas from a computer anywhere in the world. You choose a task that matches your skills and interest, a development topic, and a region of the world and the system will give you a selection of volunteer opportunities.

– What are you doing for International Volunteer Day? Post your projects in the comments section below or tweet #PRME #IVD2013 –

International Volunteer Day and Business Schools (Part 1 of 2)

logo_eng_circles2013December 5th is International Volunteer Day, an opportunity for individual volunteers, communities, and organisations to promote their contributions to development at the local, national, and international level. It is a unique chance for people and volunteer-involving organisations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia, and the private sector.

Through the years, the International Volunteer Day (IVD) has focused on volunteers’ contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The theme for 2013 is celebration of young people acting as the agents of change in their communities. Business school students are very active contributors to their communities, and many schools have programmemes in place to coordinate volunteering opportunities on campus or projects for students and staff to take part in.

In recognition of IVD, this week Primetime will focus on just a selection of examples of volunteer programmemes at business schools around the world.

Many schools provide a student run organisation or club that focuses on volunteer activities in the community. Founded in 1991, Graduates Involved in Voluntary Efforts (GIVE) is focused on graduate students from Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver giving back to their community. At Clark University Graduate School of Management, students interested in volunteering have access to the Community Engagement and Volunteering Centers as well as 20 student groups that are community service based, including Brothers and Sisters. Ivey Connects at Ivey Business School at Western University in Canada is a student-led organisation working to inspire Ivey students to contribute to the societies in which they operate by providing them with the opportunity to give their time through volunteerism. At CEIBS in China, it is the Community Outreach and Inclusion Network club that gives students opportunities to volunteer with local charities. Comunidade Nova at Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal is a volunteering programme in partnership with 30 local institutions. Volunteers must participate at least 1.5 hours per week and receive a Merit Certificate at graduation.

At some business schools, students have the chance to be volunteers through consulting projects with social businesses and community organisations. At Thunderbird School of Management, Thunderbird Cares connects students with opportunities to help communities and charitable organisations meet their goals. At Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Australia, MBA students provide management consulting services pro bono to a variety of not for profit organisations. At Kogod School of Business at American University, students participate in K-lab, a lab that allows business students to experiment with valuable professional skills in real work settings. They participate in skill-based volunteer projects, such as developing a business plan for Sunflower Bakery, a non-profit that trains and hires individuals with disabilities. Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business Fair Trade and Microfinance Consulting Project sends a group of students every year to developing countries to work with local artisan groups. In additional to consulting services, the students also buy products from the artisans that they bring back to sell, with proceeds being reinvested into the projects.

In additional to various student clubs and organisations, business school students and staff take part in some very specific, ongoing volunteering projects that aim to strengthen the local community. Some schools have volunteer activities done in partnership with other organisations. Jointly with the Secretariat of Social Development of Nuevo León in Mexico, EGADE Graduate School of Business Administration and Leadership runs courses free of charge for regional Civil Society Organisations, aiming at their professionalisation and development. EGADE faculty members contribute with free teaching hours. In cooperation with corporations such as P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle and PIT (Petroleum), Thammasat Business School implemented “Let’s Share,” a project to support community development in disadvantaged areas of Thailand. At the University of Portsmouth Business School in the United Kingdom, students and staff take part in Give & Gain Day, the UK’s national day of employee volunteering, where their latest project was helping Charles Dickens Junior School students who were taught the importance of recycling. At BIMTECH in India, students work with the United Nations Online Volunteer Programme administered by the United National Development Program and Goodness and Mercy Missions. At Hong Kong Baptist University School of Business, students participated in the “Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme” organised by Home Affairs Department of Hong Kong SAR Government to provide consultancy service free of charge to several social enterprises in Hong Kong, with the aim of improving the efficiency, business strategies, and market development of social enterprises in Hong Kong. At the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, the Smith School Social Venture Consulting Program partnered with Grassroots.org, a national organisation providing free online services to over 1,000 non-profits in the US, to harness the social entrepreneur expertise and enthusiasm of Smith students to benefit non-profit organisations. In the Social Venture Consulting Programme, the Smith School engages with selected non-profits to provide MBA and undergraduate students with practical consulting experience and an opportunity to give back to their community. Projects are designed for 60-80 hours over 3 months

For more volunteer examples, stay tuned to Part 2.

– What are you doing for International Volunteer Day? Post your projects in the comments section below or tweet #PRME #IVD2013 –

Online and connected: Creating a Sustainable Campus using Apps (Part 3) – Business Schools

Online learningIn this series of blogs focusing on using apps to help make the campus more sustainable, we have looked at a range of resources from increasing efficiency to making your travel plans more sustainable. In this last part we look specifically at the Business School and how it could benefit from exploring the potential of apps and their use in creating more sustainable campuses and more responsible leaders.

Many of the apps currently available for MBA students are aimed at helping them be better students. There are countless apps like this. AlarmClock helps them get up in time for class. GroupMe helps study groups organize a time and a place to get together to work. ITranslate has voice conversion and dictionaries for a range of languages to help students get through their language classes or speak with fellow classmates. LinkedIn app helps students network.

There are also a handful of business schools, such as Columbia Business School, who are producing new aps that help prospective students go through the application process. Other schools have apps that help students understand the range of services on campus. INSEAD has developed three apps, Life@Insead enables staff and students to find and rate information on life around the campus, INSEAD Institutional app provides information about what is happening on campus in real time and Mobile Connect is an app specifically for INSEAD Alumni.

The next step is for business schools to look at developing a range of apps that focus on enabling their particular campus to move forward in sustainability.

  • Apps that help to embed sustainability into teaching by providing a range of links, videos, papers or discussion board to start or continue discussions based on the topic.
  • Apps that brings together the range of different sustainability projects, programmes, courses, events on campus with a calendar that allows students to schedule which ones they want to take part in and make suggestions.
  • Companies such as SAP are looking at how employees can see the ecological footprint that they have at work, compare it with others at work and find ways to reduce it. Why not create something similar for students and staff on campus?
  • Apps for students to know what is happening on campus in terms of sustainability, what they can do to take part and give them the chance to provide inputs and rank sustainability initiatives.
  • Apps to share results of sustainable related research or surveys undertaken by the university in order to make them accessible to a larger audience.
  • Business schools can also look at organizing their own “hackathons” to develop apps. These are events where computer programmers and graphic designers come today for a day or a weekend to create new apps.

What apps do you use in your business school? Have you developed any apps to help drive your sustainability efforts? Share your experiences in the discussion board.

Management Education and Rio + 20 (Part 1)

This June will see representatives from governments, the UN, major groups, business and a range of international organisations come together in Rio e Janeiro, Brazil for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as the Rio+20 Earth Summit. The management education and business communities will be playing an active part in this historic event. In preparation for this summit, here are 10 things you need to know.

1. The first Earth Summit, the Conference on Environment and Development, took place in Brazil in 1992. The 10th anniversary World Summit on Sustainable Development, took place in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The 20th anniversary Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 will take place June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is envisaged as a conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government, and will result in a focused political document.

2. The aim of Rio+20 is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.  The conference will focus on two main themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development. For more information about the summit and why it is being convened, read the Rio+20 Brochure-The Future We Want.

3. The Rio+20 conference will address seven critical issues: jobs (trade, green jobs and social inclusion), energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters. To learn more about these critical issues and other themes, you can read the issue briefs prepared for the event.

4. At the first Earth Summit in 1992, there was a realization that sustainable development could not become a reality without the active participation of stakeholders. Agenda 21 formalized nine groups that include Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Local Authorities, NGOs, Scientific and Technological Community, Women and Workers and Trade Unions. Each has been contributing to the process, and their position papers can be accessed online.

5. The private sector plays a crucial role in moving sustainable development forward. Over 2,000 participants from business are expected to attend the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum: Innovation and Collaboration for the Future We Want, which will take place on 15-18 June 2012 in Rio. This event will inform the proceedings and outcomes of the Rio+20 high-level meetings. For more information on the business contribution, read their input to the preparatory process, Corporate Sustainability Leadership: A Framework for Action at Rio+20 and Beyond.

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