Business School Response to the Refugee Crisis

refugeesSixty million people have been displaced by conflict and over 410,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean from the Middle East so far this year. Although the primary responsibility for peace rests with governments, the urgency of the global refugee crisis is a challenge that requires support from all actors in society on a short-, mid- and long-term basis.

One month ago today the PRME Secretariat, together with AACSB, AABS, ABIS, AMBA, CEEMAN, CLADEA, EFMD, GMAC, GRLI and EAUC issued a call to action to business schools and management-related higher education institutions (HEIs) in response to the refugee crisis. The call was made in response to a similar call made by the UN Global Compact and the UN Refugee Agency for business to take action.

The leaders of the international academic community were called to take action and address the refugee crisis by providing access to scholarships to business and entrepreneurship related classes and knowledge resources to refugees but also by raising awareness and understanding regarding the situation of refugees, and foster social cohesion. By joining forces with business, governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations and/or other HEIs, business schools can forge long-term partnerships for education and sustainable development.

The following are just a few of the many ways that business schools are responding to this crisis.

Through Collaborative Solutions

The Centre for Education on Social Responsibility at the Leeds School of Business, CU Boulder (USA) is taking a leadership role by convening relevant groups (local government, non-profits, businesses, and business schools) to address the topic of the responsibility of business and business schools to help address the refugee crisis. The meetings will consider the economic stability, employment for refugees and benefits to local employers within the Denver and Boulder business and civic communities.

By Engaging Students and Staff

ALBA Graduate Business School (Greece) collected information on how individuals can help the incoming refugees that was sent to all students, alumni, faculty and staff. Among other things, it gave directions on how to collect items and send them to the NGOs. ALBA has already offered an MBA full scholarship to a young refugee from Africa

The French Education & Research Ministry made a recent appeal to universities in France to propose solutions and actions that would facilitate the welcoming and integration of Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees. Grenoble Ecole de Management (France) has extended their criteria for the school’s volunteer skills-sharing policy to encourage GEM employees to dedicate 1- 5 days a year of their work-time to help welcome and integrate newly arrived refugees in collaboration with local associations and humanitarian organisations. GEM’s annual Geopolitical Festival in March 2016 will also highlight this urgent issue by hosting a range of activities focused that will examine and discuss the causes, the consequences and potential sustainable and human-focused solutions to this global crisis.

Engaging Refugees

Roughly 3000 refugees are accommodated in Leipzig at an emergency camp located next campus. HHL – Leipzig Graduate School of Management (Germany) opened a collecting point for donations, which are allocated to the refugees. Financial donations received via their graduate students will be used to purchase picture dictionaries in order to support language efforts. Fifteen language interpreters from across campus coordinated the matching of language interpreters with activities. One of these activities is “Neighbour meets Neighbour”, where the refugees can introduce their regional food to students and staff on campus and get in touch with the community. Another initiative has also been put in place to host indoor activities for the refugees at campus, such as a seminar room for a Refugee Law Clinic. HHL is currently organising a field project where students will work for three months with refugee support coordination bodies and a PhD thesis is underway focusing on opportunities and challenges of labour market inclusion for Germany is also in progress. The School is also planning trainings and mini courses aimed at supporting the necessary qualifications of the refugees.

Through Coursework

Hanken School of Economics (Finland) hosts the Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (HUMLOG Institute), which is a joint research institute founded by Hanken School of Economics and the National Defence University of Finland. The aim of the HUMLOG Institute is to “to research the area of humanitarian logistics in disaster preparedness, response and recovery with the intention of influencing future activities in a way that will provide measurable benefits to persons requiring assistance”. Through this Institute, Hanken offers a course on humanitarian logistics and students in the course have been encouraged to volunteer to help in coping with the current refugee crisis. They are currently exploring the opportunity to have one project on the refugee crisis in the course this year.


  • Alfred Nobel Open Business School (China) will provide five scholarships to their online e-MBA for registered and selected refugees having business background.
  • Euclid University (Gambia) will be announcing specific full and partial scholarship programmes for qualifying displaced persons and refugees.
  • Haaga-Helia University (Finland) has a proposal a special intake for refugees to study entrepreneurship, languages, sales and service skills as well as career planning. After these studies, they could be admitted as regular students.
  • ESAN Graduate School of Business (Peru) will offer three scholarships to refugees.
  • University of Warsaw (Poland) will provide an access to business and entrepreneurship related classes and a number of scholarships will be offered.
  • University of Strathclyde Business School (UK) is developing a scholarship with the Scottish Refugee Council intended to help asylum seekers and those staying in the UK on humanitarian grounds.
  • SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) already offers two open courses (strategy and finance) free of charge aimed at increasing the employability of young people. This course will now also be open to refugees.
  • Grenoble Ecole de Management (France) will offer admission to 5-10 qualified student refugees to study in one of the schools’ programmes.


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What happened at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013

UN Global CompactThe UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013: Architects of a Better World took place on 19-20 September in New York. The event brought together representatives from the business community to set the stage for business to shape and advance the post-2015 development agenda and put forward a framework for business to contribute to global priorities, such as climate change, water, food, women’s empowerment, children’s rights, decent jobs, and education, at unprecedented levels. The Global Compact comprises 8,000 companies and 4,000 civil society organisations from 145 countries.

Several major projects and documents were released during the summit. One of the most anticipated ones was the New Global Architecture for Corporate Sustainability designed to “drive and scale up corporate actions to directly advance United Nations goals,” according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It provides an overview of plans to link business engagement with global priorities, in particular around the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and expected Sustainable Development Goals (details to be unveiled by the Secretary General this week). Further, the architecture has already been endorsed by both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

In addition to the existing UN Global Compact programmes, three new programmes were launched on education, agriculture, and peace. Additionally, a new Business Partnership Hub will provide a space online for the business community to post projects around the UN Global Compact’s different themes. Further, the summit officially launched the PRME Champions leadership group (more details to follow in an upcoming blog post).

The summit also saw the launch of several major reports. The Global Corporate Sustainability Report 2013 looks at the state of corporate sustainability today – providing an in-depth review of the actions taken by companies around the world to embed responsible practices into their strategies, operations and culture. The report is based on the results form a survey with nearly 2,000 companies across 113 countries.  The Report shows that companies are doing a good job at making commitments, defining goals and setting policies but still have a lot of work to do on putting these into practice. Larger companies are more likely to put these strategies into action than smaller companies however small companies are increasingly taking steps to catch up with their larger peers. Sustainability in the supply chain is not just one of the key actions in sustainability within companies but also one of the biggest roadblocks because tracking compliance is a challenge.

UN Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Architects of a Better World surveyed 1,000 CEOs and includes in depth interviews with 75 of them.   The report says that more than two thirds of chief executives – 67% – believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. Seventy eight percent see sustainability as a route to growth and innovation and 79% believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry. Respondents also site lack of financial resources, a failure to make the link between sustainability and business value as challenges. CEOs are demanding greater collaboration between business, governments and policymakers as well as increased regulations, standards, subsidies and incentives to support their sustainability efforts.

Global Compact 100 is a stock index of companies committed to the UNGC’s ten principles which tracked the stock market performance of GC companies during the past three years, comparing the results against a broad market benchmark, the FTSE All World. Released in partnership with research firm Sustainanalytics, the index shows a total investment return of 26.4% during the past year, surpassing the general global stock market (22.1%). “While the performance of the GC 100 should not be seen as clear evidence of a causal relationship between a commitment to corporate sustainability practices and stock performance, there appears to be an exciting correlation,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director the UN Global Compact. “Moreover, the results may also reflect the fact that sustainability performance is a factor that is receiving increasing interest from investors.”

Corporate Sustainability and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda, based on consultations and surveys with thousands of businesses in all major regions, contains business perspectives and recommendations in three areas: determining the core of a post 2015 agenda, including suggested sustainable development goals and targets; how to engage business and investors towards sustainable development goals; and recommending ways that Governments can advance inclusive and sustainable markets. The proposed goals are: 1) End poverty and increase prosperity via inclusive economic growth; 2) Quality education for all; 3) Achieve women’s and girls’ empowerment; 4) Universal health coverage; 5) Good nutrition for all through sustainable food and agricultural systems; 6) Water and sanitation for all; 7) Sustainable energy for all; 8) Build peaceful and stable societies; 9) Modernize infrastructure and technology; and 10) Good governance and realization of human rights.

The Africa Sustainability Barometer was also launched, covering more than 1,000 international companies with operations in the region, as well as local and regional companies. It gauges the state of corporate sustainability reporting and is a joint initiative between the UNGC and the Financial Times.

The Smartest Investment:  A framework for Business engagement in education  was launched at the event as a joint initiative between UNESCO, UNICEF, UNGC, and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. The report makes that case that education is not only good for society but also good for business and charts the means to realize business benefits while advancing education goals.

Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles, launched in collaboration with key civil society organizations, the Principles were developed in response to the need for a common understanding between existing standards and industry initiatives. The Principles will provide a framework for furthering good practice and for developing effective private and public sector policies and partnerships.

For more news about the event visit the UN Global Compact website.

Getting ready for Rio+20 – The Nine Major Groups (Part 1)

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by government action alone. It requires the participation of all sectors of societies. At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a document called Agenda 21 was released that, among other things, formalized groups whose contribution is crucial to making sustainable development a reality. Since then, these nine groups have represented the voice of their respective constituencies within UN meetings, including all subsequent Earth Summits.

Each of the nine major groups (Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Women, Local Authorities, NGOs, Workers and Trade Unions and the Scientific and Technological Community) has submitted position papers leading up to the Summit as well as commented on drafts of the prospective outcome document. These documents are all available via the websites below. The groups will be involved in a wide range of side events, workshops, presentations, exhibitions, etc., including the People’s Summit, and, of course, the official events of Rio+20.

With Rio+20 fast approaching, here is a brief overview of some of the activities that the different groups have planned (for more on Business and Industry, check out an earlier blog).

  • Children and Youth: Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population, which means that their involvement in environmental and development decision-making is critical. Youth are always very active in the Summits, and many official government delegations send a youth representative. Youth from around the world will come together at the Conference of Youth for Rio+20 (aka Youth Blast), taking place from 7-12 June in Rio. The group is coordinated by Rio+twenties.
  • Farmers: Since agriculture occupies one third of the land surface of the Earth and is a central activity for much of the world’s population, farmers play a crucial role in sustainable development. Their calls for action include increasing the proportion of overseas development assistance focused on agriculture and rural development, increasing support for participatory approaches to farmer to farmer training, developing new approaches to reward farmers for ecosystem services, and securing land tenure for rural women (to see the full list read their statement online). The group is coordinated by La Via Campesina – International Peasant Movement.

Using Online Games to Teach Sustainability – Part 1

Click here to see a recent update to this article.

Lately, I have been seeing quite a bit about games and how games can be used to not only help educate individuals about sustainability issues, but also help solve the challenges it poses. Games provide of the opportunity for friendly competition, lower the barriers to participation and can spur innovation. This three part series will look at a range of games, most available for free online.

Using gamers to collectively explore options: Fold it is a web platform that involves gamers in contributing to important scientific research. Individuals can compete to design new proteins that could be used to prevent or treat diseases like HIV. Planet Hunters allows individuals to look through the massive quantity of images coming back from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft to help look for planets amongst the stars.

Using games to encourage green behaviour: A growing number of sites such Recylebank reward individuals for everyday green behaviours, like recycling, with deals and discounts in the US.

Using games to educate about sustainability: Oceanopolis is a Facebook game based on designed to educate users on sustainable living, in which users protect their island paradise from being buried under recyclable rubbish. Sweatshop is a game that educates users about the realities that many workers around the world contend with each day. Players act as the factory manager and are responsible for hiring workers while ensuring that prices stay down and product numbers stay high.

Using games to show gamers the challenges that businesses face: Karma Tycoon offers gamers the chance to run their own NGO. Oiligarchy puts gamers in the seat of CEO of the world biggest oil company, confronting them with real challenges like corruption.

Using games to come up with creative solutions to the world’s problems: Evoke is a ten week crash course in changing the world. The goal of this social network game is to help empower people all over the world to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems. The game was developed by the World Bank Institute and is appropriate for all ages.

Using games to raise awareness about particular issues: The Reebok Human Rights Foundation, International Crisis Group and mtvU created the Darfur Digital Activities Challenge, which brought together technology students to create games to help educate the public about the genocide in Darfur. One of the finalists, Darfur is Dying, requires players to negotiate forces that threaten the survival of their refugee camps.

Using Games for Good: PSFK and Al Gore, with The Climate Reality Project, collaborated in an open source Gaming for Good Challenge where gamers were encouraged to create games that build awareness, promote fundraising, solve the unsolvable, embed knowledge, teach new skills or leverage collective manpower. One of the finalists was the very popular Facebook game, FarmVille, which gives players the change to run their own farms.

Do you use any games or simulations in your classes? Please share your experiences in the discussions area below.

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