Creating Students Passionate about Social Responsibility – Lomonosov Moscow State University (Part 2)

stud_zhizn1-235One of the main requirements for putting in place successful programmes that really engage students in sustainability is a passionate team of enthusiastic individuals. Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School in Moscow, Russia definitely has that. The result has been a range of different programmes that aim to involve students in a number of social projects throughout their undergraduate degrees.

I spoke with Natalia Bukhshtaber, Associate Dean for Academic Programmes and International Affairs, Natalia Sharabarina, Director of Social Education and Nina Koryakina, Supervisor of Social Education Programmes about their initiatives, in particular the Diary for Social Responsibility, and the impact this has had on their students.

What is the Diary of Social Responsibility?

Diary of Social Responsibility is an initiative we started a year ago and it has grown into a more comprehensive project. We realised that there was a need to address social responsibility issues earlier in the programme, during the first and the second years of study, since our Business Ethics and CSR courses are introduced during the third year. Two years ago we started a volunteering project for first year students and the Social Responsibility Diary for second year students.

The Diary of Social Responsibility course focuses on individual social responsibility, the importance of individual values, and corporate philanthropy, aspects that we consider prerequisite to our Business Ethics and CSR courses. Within this initiative, the students learn from and meet with a variety of charity foundations. They complete a number of Small Action projects with these groups to gain experience on implementing social projects. They are then prompted to reflect and discuss the experience in small group and one-on-one setting and to write about them in a Diary.

How did the course come about?

In our initial talks with the students, we encountered a number of stereotypes we wanted to challenge. These included:

  • Social responsibility is for ‘special people’ like social workers, religious workers, etc. I am not one of these; therefore, why should I be involved?
  • Volunteering is for people who have plenty of spare time. I am not one of these; therefore, why should I be involved?
  • Philanthropy is for rich people or celebrities who have plenty of spare money. I am not one of these; therefore, why should I be involved?
  • Social projects mean a personal encounter with dying children or deformed elderly or someone like this. It will clearly be a traumatic experience, and I don’t welcome it.

Most of these stereotypes were due to the fact that, despite media coverage of social initiatives, many of our students had not had any exposure of social projects. We realised that the exposure had to be limited so we came up with Small Actions strategy, providing small groups of students with clear, realistic, measurable tasks, so they would see that, once you become socially responsible (or, you become aware of social responsibility), you can always find ways to practice social responsibility, and even small deeds can make a big difference.

What do the students put in their diary?

The original idea was for them to reflect on every event they participated in. This proved a bit difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, journaling in general is not common in Russia. This year, in planning our new course (which is now required), we decided to ask the students to make presentations based on their reflections.

Personal discussions proved to be more informative than writing in diaries, either one-on-one or in small groups. During these, we discussed how their perspective on socially meaningful projects, volunteering, philanthropy, and NGOs was changing. We saw that some of their former assumptions were challenged and revisited.

What have been some insights from this initiative?

One of the interesting discoveries was that the students’ attitude toward social responsibility did not correlate with their academic achievement and education background. Some of our students who were not doing well academically became our ‘heroes’ and we saw a totally different side of them. Some of the people who had discipline issues took their Small Actions very seriously.

The biggest outcome of the project, perhaps, was the students’ initiative to do something bigger and on our own. Once they got engaged in Small Actions, the main question they had was “Can we do something bigger?” We ended up organising our very first Charity Gala to benefit one of the foundations we were cooperating with in the project. The second year students who were the core team and they really took charge of the event. At the end of the Gala, we raised over 330,000 RUB (nearly 5,500 Euros) for an elderly home in the Tambov Region. At the end of the year, when we asked for students’ feedback about the academic year (our regular practice), quite a few responses were, “We are incredibly proud that we were part of the Charity Gala and we hope the work will continue.”

What advice do you have for other schools interested in putting in place something similar?

You have to believe in social responsibility and practice it yourself rather than try to reproduce something that worked somewhere else. Every student body is unique and you need to find something that will truly resonate with your student community. However, do not be afraid to try something that is totally new. When we were starting, the core team got together and we said, “We may make all the possible mistakes we can make here but we are going to learn from that and make it better next year.”

Secondly, we saw the benefits of the Small Actions approach. In a situation where students had never participated in anything of the sort, most of them felt insecure and hesitant to try. The point is not to scare them off but suggest something that looks like fun and something they would be willing to try.

Thirdly, keep praising your students. Find ways to let your student body know of the special things that were done by their fellow students and even letting the parents know.

Fourthly, you need to find dedicated people among your faculty and staff who would really take this to heart. Do not ‘assign’ it to someone who does not really grasp the essence of what you are doing or is reluctant to be involved. See who of those supervising the project will be in charge of the ‘PR part’ of it. Proper and effective communication with the student body, other faculty and staff, and the third parties involved is crucial. You don’t want to alienate people or confront them (even if you want to challenge some of their assumptions), you want understanding and cooperation. Find the person on the team who is a good (great would be better) motivational speaker.

What are some initiatives happening at Lomonosov that you are particularly proud of in the area of PRME/Sustainability/Responsible Management?

The Ostafyevo Volunteering Initiative. Ostafyevo is a museum housed in a historical mansion in the suburbs of Moscow. Due to lack of media attention and effective PR practices, the museum had very low visibility, it was known mostly to the people of the local community. Our school started a volunteering project where, once a month, students go to the museum to help with a range of tasks (cleaning, sweeping the park, etc.) and to learn more about the museum. The students organise a special event to promote the museum (a concert, a photo contest, etc.) and at the end of the year student teams present business ideas that would help increase the museum’s visibility and attract sponsors, while not compromising the museum’s values and the mansion’s environment.


For more on Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School’s approach to sustainability and responsible management click here.

Sustainability in the Russian Business and Education Communities – Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School (Part 1)

lomonosovLomonosov Moscow State University Business School is one of the oldest business schools in Russia, founded in 1989. After being impressed by their latest Sharing Information on Progress Report, I spoke with Natalia Bukhshtaber, Associate Dean for Academic Programmes and International Affairs, Natalia Sharabarina, Director of Social Education, and Nina Koryakina, Supervisor of Social Education Programmes about some of their initiatives.

In this two-part post we will look firstly at sustainability in Russia more generally. In the second post we will look specifically at how the business school is creating a more socially responsible leaders in their innovative Diary of a Social Responsibility course.

How is sustainability/responsible management viewed within the business community in Moscow? Russia in general?

While the Russian society at large still seems to be rather poorly informed of the CSR and sustainability efforts of Russian companies (a recent survey found that 62% of respondents claimed there were no socially responsible companies in Russia), the same is not true of the Russian business community. Within the last decade or so, CSR in general and sustainability in particular have become one of the pertinent issues on the agenda. In an article on the background and the current situation with CSR in Russia, Russian-based Economic Strategies Journal provided a rating of the most responsible businesses in the country. The rating was dominated by large corporations or mid-size companies, mostly from the field of resource extraction and processing.

What have been some trends you have seen in this area?

Within the last decade we have witnessed a growing number of initiatives that could be called grassroots business initiatives, where socially responsible businesses and entrepreneurs group together to share ideas and collaborate. Among these is Social Responsibility of Business, a main information hub for news, events, and resources on CSR, sustainability, and corporate philanthropy, as well as the creation of Donors Forum, a non-profit partnership of grant-providing businesses.

The Crisis Barometer is a project that monitors the current situation with CSR and corporate philanthropy/volunteering by polling representatives of about thirty large businesses. Their most recent survey was about corporate volunteering and found that only 2 of the 22 companies surveyed stated that volunteering is not part of their corporate agenda. This is a big change, as compared to some ten or even five years ago. Surveys conducted by the Crisis Barometer also found that, even under the current financial crisis, most companies did not cut their corporate philanthropy and some even doubled their expense budgets, and nearly half of the respondents see corporate volunteering and philanthropy as an ‘anti-crisis’ measure that should ‘secure stability of social investment’.

Briefly describe Lomonosov’s approach to sustainability/responsible management?

MSUBS mission is to be an agent of social change. We do this by educating our students in the values and ethics of business, by challenging unethical practices, enforcing sustainability practices, and introducing our student bodies to a range of real life examples and cases of effective business done responsibly. We were the first among Russian business schools to introduce the courses on business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and counteracting corruption.

We encourage student and faculty initiatives and involvement in academic and practical projects aimed at creating a better, safer environment, offering new services to the community, or prompting further discussion of responsibility and sustainability. In 2013, for example, a team of our students reached the semi-finals in Challenge:Future contest on The Future of Work presenting their idea of Eco Evolution for Eastern Europe. A team of our MBA alumni developed an application for allergy-affected people. Several of our faculty attended the 21st CEEMAN International Conference and presented its concept of educating socially responsible and ethically-minded business leaders.

Partnerships for Sustainability – BIMTECH

DSC_9497Business schools around the world are choosing to enter into partnerships with businesses and other organisations as a way to, as the 5th Principle of PRME states, extend their knowledge of the challenges in meeting social and environmental responsibilities and to explore jointly effective approaches to meeting these challenges.

In India, the Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) has chosen to partner with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry by becoming the assessor for the annual Businessworld FICCI CSR Awards. I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Vineeta Dutta Roy, Associate Professor and Head of CSR at BIMTECH about their experiences with this partnership.

1.     What is happening in the field of CSR in India?

There is a newfound urgency with respect to CSR in India, which is being felt throughout the corporate sector. The Indian Parliament is currently in the process of passing a bill that will make it compulsory for companies of a certain size (revenue greater than USD 200 million or profits of USD 1 million) to spend 2% of their profits towards CSR activities. Companies will also have to designate a three-member CSR committee. India is the first county in the world to mandate this kind of expenditure across the board. The scene involving companies’ design and implementation of CSR initiatives is changing fast.

2.     Briefly describe the partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry around CSR.

BIMTECH has partnered with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to provide an assessment of Indian companies’ CSR strategies in order to determine the finalists for the Business World FICCI CSR awards. These awards have been organised for more than a decade now to recognise efforts of companies engaged in CSR in a strategic and systematic manner. The Award is open to all companies registered in India. The applications for the award are received under three main categories 1) CSR Award for Companies with turnover up to and above Rs. 1000 crore per annum, 2) CSR Award for Small and Medium Enterprises, and 3) Award for Innovation in CSR.

The assessment is a three-staged process. The first phase of the assessment is carried out by Grant Thornton India, a reputed International Accounting and Auditing firm, the second by BIMTECH; the third phase of assessment is done by a panel of independent jurors that evaluates each shortlisted entry presented to them for consideration of the award.

3.     What is BIMTECH’s involvement in the awards?

BIMTECH is the onsite assessment partner for the Awards. To carry out this role, FICCI provides us the shortlisted applications and we conduct onsite assessments of the nominated companies. The visits give us the opportunity to double check the information provided by the company about their CSR activities. While onsite, we meet with the CEO, CFO, VP of HR, Chief of CSR, and sometimes Operations and Plant head of the company. Next, we examine the company’s CSR initiatives . We conduct focus group interviews with the beneficiaries of the company’s CSR programmes, the team handling the projects, local heads of community organisations, and other important opinion leaders. The manufacturing plant or the company head office is also consulted to better understand the company’s core operations, its products and services, and its sustainability programmes.

4.     What are some of the companies that have done well in the Awards?

This year, three companies –ITC, Deepak Nitrate, and SRF – were awarded for their outstanding CSR initiatives. In the past, companies like Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Tea, Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Nevyelie Lignite Corporation, HINDALCO, Gujarat Ambuja Cement, Kinetic Engineering, Canara Bank, and Titan Industries, among others have been recognised for their work in the CSR domain.

5.     How important is it for BIMTECH to enter into such partnerships?

The benefits of the partnership are shared by all parties involved. For instance, the corporate sector finds a neutral assessor in an academic institution that is eager to learn. The institution has an excellent opportunity to take experiential learning to the classroom, as well as to the larger public through research. It is also an excellent opportunity for the companies and institution to explore placement opportunities for the students. Affiliation with a prestigious body like FICCI lends credibility to the institution, and in return the companies find a willing partner to augment their research, documentation, and training. Moving forward, we have plans to expand our areas of collaboration to joint research, training, and other related activities.

Ethics and Service Learning at European Business School in Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACreating a generation of responsible leaders is not just about teaching topics such as ethics and CSR, it is about providing students with the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice and make a difference in their communities.

At the EBS University of Business and Law in Weisbaden, students have the choice of two service learning experiences that aim to provide students at both the undergraduate and graduate level with the opportunity to learn about these topics, while also having an impact on their local community. I recently had the chance to speak with Marcus Kreikebaum at the European Business School in Germany about the “Do It” and “Educare” courses.

1.    What is EBS’s approach to teaching ethics to students?

When it comes to educating business administration students in ethics two things need to be considered; first, how can ethics be taught and second what kind of ethics should be taught?

In my mind, the answer to the first question is: It cannot. Ethical reflection is possible if experiences that move and shake are made. The second question is more complex. There are many ethical approaches. The most prominent approach is utilitarian one, usually understood as “CSR” or “Triple-Win” and the like. That’s okay, but it’s only less than half of the coin. Other ethical theories on discourse, virtues, justice, or relationships are equally important. This is why we offer an academic oriented service learning and personal oriented service learning programme: “Do It” and “Educare” courses.

2.    Briefly describe the “Do It” and “Educare” courses?

Students have a choice of two courses. The first, Do It, allows students to choose a welfare institution to work with. The second, “Educare,” gives students the opportunity to create their own project. In both, they have the chance to employ already acquired skills in order to contribute to a more sustainable economy and a more inclusive society.

We piloted these programmes as voluntary courses, but because of positive feedback received from students, we have now integrated these into our Bachelor and Masters curricula. Both programmes require a minimum of 40 hours of service and 50 hours of reflection. All students are encouraged to reflect about their experiences and are required to hand in learning diaries, essays, and presentations. About 60 students per semester take these courses.

Some of the projects have included a survey among clients of a local soup kitchen, mentoring children, and working with an NGO from Uganda. Some of the students’ own projects have included finding ecological and social innovations in logistics that contribute to a more sustainable world and developing and analysing options for making EBS’s foods and operations more sustainable

3. What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The outcomes are also very diverse and depend on the service or project taken. There is, however, one common key element, which I would call the cognitive dimension, All students should be enabled to experience their own ignorance by loosing their self certainty regarding the possession of something, may that be food, shelter, health, or wealth. This is the root for reflection. We use this reflection to “polish” experience, like you polish a jewel.

Participants of these courses have already provided over 6,520 hours of community service. Since the average economic value of one hour of volunteer work may be estimated at fifteen euros, the programmes correspond to an economic added value of close to one hundred thousand euros.

The biggest challenge for me is, of course, to finance this work. I do this by organising a business ethics roundtable, which meets twice a year and whose members support our programmes.

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

My advice for other schools would be to provide the teachers, students, and the communities more space to discover how to develop more self-efficacy for themselves and others. Everything else will follow.

5.    What’s next?

In the upcoming academic year, the “Educare” team will be launching various projects worldwide in collaboration with the CSR departments of various international and Germany companies and NGOs. Students are also taking on larger and larger projects, for example establishing foundations for underprivileged children or organising supporter networks for international NGOs.

Research Collaborations around Sustainability – Canada, US, France, UK and Denmark

To advance sustainability and the related themes being explored at Rio+20 in June 2012 and beyond, there needs to be an increase in research around the topics of sustainability and responsible leadership. Below are some examples from Canada, the US, France, the UK and Denmark.

  • The David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business has launched a Sustainability Scholars Program. Researchers from around the world are invited to visit for two to eight weeks and are encouraged to collaborate with faculty at the business school on research around sustainability and responsible leadership.
  • Villanova School of Business (VSB) has formed a Strategic Initiative Groups (SIGs) to enable diverse, multidisciplinary groups of faculty to collaborate around shared research and pedagogical interests. One such VSB group is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) SIG, which serves as a hub of ethics-related scholarship and teaching at the school.
  • Euromed Management is a member of the international academic network SEABUS (International Research Network on Social and Environmental Aspects in Business and Management). This network, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, brings together ten research institutions from across the globe to foster research in the area of social and environmental aspects of business and management.
  • Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences (ASB) provides seed money to stimulate interdisciplinary research collaborations within sustainability through a programme called Virtual Communities on Sustainability. If an ASB researcher has an idea for a research theme that requires expertise from more than one department at ASB, other research units at Aarhus or other universities, an organisational framework is now in place to support such initiatives.
  • Cranfield School of Management has set up a Small Grant fund, whereby applicants from across the School can apply for funding to support research that intersects with responsible and sustainable management.

An Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, which includes more great examples of how schools are engaging faculty and addressing other common questions/concerns related to embedding sustainability, will be launched at PRME’s 3rd Global Forum at Rio+20 in June.

Getting Faculty on Board with Sustainability

Business Schools are increasingly looking at how to embed sustainability into their curricula and in particular core courses. How to get faculty on board is one of the most common questions/concerns relayed by schools as they work in this area. Here are a handful of examples from Denmark, France, Turkey, Germany and the US showing how schools are bringing their faculty together to look at these issues.

  • Euromed Management has created CSR faculty officers who are mandated to provide a link between Euromed Management’s CSR Department and their own departments, with at least on representative from each area. Their role is to transmit and disseminate the CSR strategy to their departments, but also to bring ideas and information that may affect the school’s strategy to the attention of management. The CSR Officers have become vectors of Sustainable Development throughout the school. Last year, their commitment resulted in the creation of a student well-being project and working groups on dematerialisation and responsible purchasing.
  • Istanbul Bilgi University Department of Business Administration formed a working team consisting of four faculty members from Operations Management, Statistics, Economics and Marketing to look at sustainability. The multi-disciplinary taskforce held various in-depth interviews with faculty members from all the subject areas of the Business Department. During these interviews, they explained the main principles of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and PRME. Afterwards, the faculty were encouraged to integrate these concepts into their courses.
  • At the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, faculty created “primers” for each academic department to assist faculty with identifying ways to incorporate responsible leadership concepts (e.g. using case studies and readings) into academic frameworks and courses. They also conduct workshops for faculty to learn and discuss this very issue, present leading ideas and promising practices from other institution and firms, and share what others at Smith are already doing.
  • For several years now, HHL- Leipzig Graduate School of Management has been gradually expanding its institutional co-teaching (i.e. the joint teaching of courses by faculty from different areas of expertise). Students are very interested in understanding interfaces between different disciplines, such as the interaction between Ethics and Financial Management, Marketing Management, Strategic Management, Accounting, or Logistics Management. Examples include the incorporation of a session on ethical approaches in a marketing management module and the discussion of financial theory from a business ethics point of view.

An Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, which includes more great examples of how schools are engaging faculty and addressing other common questions/concerns related to embedding sustainability, will be launched at PRME’s 3rd Global Forum at Rio+20 in June.

Responsible Leadership in China: 5 questions for Eric Seidner, MBA 2010, and Director of the Being Globally Responsible Conference, CEIBS, China

What is the Being Globally Responsible Conference, and why do you feel it is important?

The Being Globally Responsible Conference is an annual, 2-day event organised by students at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, China. The event was started in 2006 by students and was such a big success that it became an annual event.  2011 marked the 6th year this event has been taking place and it is now the largest MBA student-led CSR conference in Asia-Pacific. The event aims to raise awareness about CSR among MBA students, help students learn about career options in this area, and provide networking platform between students and corporations.

Generally speaking, these conferences help to sustain an important dialogue about ethics and responsible business practices among members of the business community. It is with MBA students, however, and particularly with those studying in environments where there is a rapid acceleration of growth like we see in China, that I believe they have particular importance. MBAs are not green behind the ears; they have business experience, but they are still impressionable. To have conferences of this type at this stage in their career demonstrates that it need not always be “business as usual,” and that the responsibility to affect change really does rest in their hands.  In many cases, they also help to demonstrate that sustainable/responsible practices are not mutually exclusive from profitable ones.

2.     How is sustainability viewed in China by students? The business sector?

China’s growth and development over the last few decades has been astounding. But this rapid development comes at a cost: the depletion and pollution of resources.  For China, sustainability is not a buzzword or a utopian concept, it is necessary for survival.  China is heading towards many choke points in resources (e.g. fresh water supplies) and a potential crisis in health costs from rampant pollution.  The seriousness of these issues has been reflected in the country’s latest five-year plan, which enumerated very ambitious sustainability goals.  In the business community, there is often a sharp focus on short-term profit but a rather myopic view of long-term consequences. Surrounded by this, Chinese MBAs need to hear alternative views so that they can question and challenge the business status quo.

Because China is newly wealthy, there is a tendency to enjoy “having” after so long of “having not”.  Chinese have many new options, opportunities and life styles to explore and are eager to do so. A lot of emphasis is placed on earning money and enjoying the material world that did not exist a decade ago in China. Sustainability is often back-seated to business concepts (e.g. finance) that demonstrate a clearer path to wealth.  It is therefore critical to demonstrate that sustainable practices have real results for bottom lines if implemented properly. Fortunately, there are a growing number of Chinese businesses looking at these issues.

3.     How many students attended the last event? Did they feel it was a success?

The conference is very successful, and every year more students attend.  Students came from over 19 business schools across China and a long list of international schools, as well as representatives from business, not-for-profit organisations and academia. We had speakers from multiple countries, business fields and with very differing perspectives and insights on the topic.  Furthermore, we had speeches, panels, workshops, activities and even a marketplace. In short, we felt we offered a very well rounded and impactful line-up at the BGRC. I’m looking forward to the 2012 edition!

4.     What have been some of your favourite moments from the event?

This year we had an incredible list of speakers, including Ning Li, the founder and Chairman of LI-NING (sporting equipment), Casey Wilson, the founder of Wokai (a Chinese version of Kiva), Bo Wen, an environmental activist and Time Magazine Eco Hero, as well as representatives from national and international businesses across China. Besides meeting my childhood martial arts hero, Jet Li, Chairman of One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute, I was really pleased with the large turnout and the feedback I received from both presenters and attendees.  It is important that these events have a networking component that helps connect members of this community.

5. Are students at CEIBS very active in sustainability? What else are you up to?

CEIBS is very active in this regard.  We have modules on responsible leadership, ethics and corporate governance.  We also have a two semester-long responsible leadership project that requires student teams to work on sustainability projects with local and international companies. To demonstrate that CEIBS walks the talk, it is also the first carbon neutral business school in Asia, which is an initiative that grew out of a responsible leadership project and was then carried forth by myself and two other teammates.  We launched several energy reduction campaigns on campus, planted a forest of 1000 trees in Inner Mongolia and eventually offset the school’s carbon emissions. There is now a large team of about 10-14 students, known as the Decarbonators, dedicated to furthering’ sustainability efforts at CEIBS.

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