Contests for Students in Business and Sustainability – Environmental and Social Issues

There are various ways to embed sustainability into the curriculum and to get students engaged in sustainability issues. One such method is to invite students to get involved in the growing number of global competitions and contests, which are often organised in partnership with the business sector. These competitions provide a valuable opportunity to explore solutions to existing business and sustainability challenges. These contests sometimes offer winners fame, other times cash prizes; in any case, they are an important opportunity for students to help move these issues forward.

In this section, I will regularly share with you different contests that could be used to generate enthusiasm around the topic of sustainability. Here we look at challenges relating to Environmental and Social Issues.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 10.16.30

The Showcase of Solutions for Planetary Sustainability is an initiative by Sustainable Silicon Valley and NASA Research Center. This event showcases students’ creative solutions to advancing global sustainability. Finalists will have the chance to meet investors and qualify for a range of awards. Finalists will be announced in March.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 10.16.53

Challengefuture is a yearly global youth competition looking at innovation and environmental and social issues. The theme for the 2013 contest is around youth employment. How can youth fight youth unemployment and what can companies from Eastern Europe do to escape the bind between the more productive West and the more cost efficient East. The contest is organized by CEEMAN in partnership with AT Kearney.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 10.17.14

The International Impact Investing Challenge provides graduate students from around the world the opportunity to create high-performance, high-reward investment strategies that deliver social and environmental impact. Founded by Kellogg, the I3C is a pitch competition that asks students to propose and defend a sustainable impact investment strategy that uses finance and investment tools to create an innovative solution to an environmental or social challenge. To participate, teams of students must submit a 2-page prospectus outlining their investment strategy and the issues that it addresses by March 14, 2013. The finals will take place at the World Bank in Washington D.C. with Calvert Foundation serving as the host partner.


UNEP World Environment Day takes place annually on the 5th of June. UNEP provides the opportunity for students to submit essays about the featured topic and read essays from other students around the world. Winning essays are featured on the UNEP website and promoted internationally . Themes change yearly; 2013 is Greening the Blue.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 17.36.25The Nespresso’s AAA Sustainability Quality MBA Global Challenge invites MBA students from around the world to think about and come up with innovative ideas related to sustainable quality coffee sourcing from hundreds and thousands of smallholder coffee farmers in Latin American and other parts of the world. Three finalists will be invited to present to a group of leading business experts. The winners will be invited to contribute to the development of Nespresso’s strategy.

Online and connected: Engaging students in sustainability projects

In the second installment of our series about how universities are using the internet to engage students in sustainability, we look at a growing range of online platforms where students can work together to come up with solutions to real problems and challenges around the world.

IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia co-founded the Challenge:Future global student competition, which has engaged nearly 15000 students ages 18 to 30 from 90 countries to address global sustainability challenges through the means of open collaborative innovation. With six sustainability challenges explored in the 2009-2010 competition year (communication, transportation, media, health, youth in society, and prosperity), Challenge:Future has ignited interest across universities and created a vibrant online youth community dedicated to these issues. Young people can submit solutions to the challenges and/or vote on the submissions already posted online.

Several universities, including Boston University School of Management, are becoming active on an online platform called JustMeans, a social networking and corporate news site devoted to issues in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. Here, users can participate in forums and contests, read editorials, listen to podcasts, post news releases, look for jobs, network with leading companies in the CSR space, and follow the professional activities of others in their networks.

Dominican University is using the power of microlending to flight global poverty by working with Kiva, an online platform that lets individuals lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs around the world. Lenders receive updates and, as the borrower repays the loan, the money becomes available in the lenders account again. Dominican University’s Kiva Lending Team, founded in June 2009, surpassed its first-year goal of making $5,000 in loans. The team has provided over US $17000 in loans to date, which places the school in the Top 25 “Colleges/Universities” supporting Kiva.

Another interesting example is OpenIDEO, an online platform that involves the global community to solve big challenges for social good. Although not associated with any specific business school (IDEO, a design and innovation firm, developed OpenIDEO as a way to include a broader range of people in the design process), it is a place where students can participate in coming up with solutions to real problems around the world.  Challenges are posted on the website and go through three phases – inspiration, conception and evaluation. The community is then invited to contribute through photos, sketches, and/or business models, which might provide new information, sometimes building off another person’s work.

Ashoka Changemakers is a global online community that supports everyone’s ability to be a changemaker by inspiring, mentoring, and collaborating with other members of the community. The website hosts online competitions posted and sponsored by NGOs, foundations and businesses around the world. Individuals and groups can submit solutions to the challenges and collaborate to refine, enrich and implement them. Many of the challenges have cash prizes.

Have you created or do you use any online platforms to involve and exposure students to sustainability and responsible leadership issues? Please share them in the comments area below.

%d bloggers like this: