Business Examples from Around the World – Poland, United Kingdom, Netherlands

The Eden Project

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of interesting examples of active companies. However when I speak with students/faculty they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite examples of local companies actively involved in sustainability for study in their classrooms. Here are some examples from Poland, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Boleslaw Rok, Business Ethics Centre, Kozminski University, Poland

I think that the biggest sustainability challenge in Poland is to innovate business models and apply them to produce desired social results, cost-effectively and efficiently. The process of building a successful venture of this kind needs the fundamental redesign of the business model. The best case here in Poland is concentrated on a special product – Milky Start – an instant fortified milky porridge designed in response to the specific local context of nutrition habits, with the price adapted to the purchasing power of low-income Polish households.  Milky Start is a for-profit commercial venture co-created by partners, such as supermarket chain Biedronka, Danone Poland, food producer Maspex, and the Institute of Mother and Child, to promote social change through profitable activity. One can read more on Milky Start here:

Professor Malcolm Kirkup, Director of MBA Programmes, University of Exeter Business School, UK

I would volunteer the Eden Project, in the Southwest of England.  This is a tourist attraction, charity and social enterprise dedicated to showcasing sustainability in practice.  They run transformational social and environmental projects, undertake research into plants and conservation and run the operations of the business in an authentically sustainable way.

Prof. dr. Marielle G. Heijltjes, Associate Dean, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University, Netherlands

Gulpener is a brewery in the Netherlands that has focused on sustainability for over 12 years. They apply sustainability concepts to the whole beer making process and source all of their materials locally, through a cooperative of over 60 farmers. Another example is DSM a global science-based company that works in health, nutrition and materials. They have a number of interesting programmes including a focus on cradle to cradle.

5 Questions for Dr. Boleslaw Rok from Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland

Students working on a waste assessment, courtesy of The Center for Industrial Productivity and Sustainability (CIPS)

I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Boleslaw Rok from the Business Ethics Centre at Kozminski University Business School in Warsaw, Poland. The Business Ethics Centre was established in 1999 and is the first and only such unit operating in Poland. Dr. Rok has been working with businesses for more than 25 years as an entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of both the first environmental NGO in Poland 20 years ago and also its first CSR organisation 12 years ago. His team at the Centre and the Business School are working on some very interesting projects, in particular around students working with Polish businesses to advance sustainability in the country.

1. How are students exposed to these issues in their classes?

Sustainability and responsibility issues are not yet well integrated into different areas (like accounting, strategic management, marketing, etc.). We have separate courses on corporate responsibility and sustainability, and currently very few faculty members try to incorporate them into their courses here.  However, things are slowly changing, especially with the younger generation of professors.

For example Professor Jonathan Scott, who leads the sustainability class, has students working with local businesses. Students have to locate a business and conduct an energy assessment, which includes providing written recommendations for reducing energy consumption and the total amount of cost savings that can be expected over one year.  To date, over 200 businesses in a dozen or so countries have been evaluated. Since the program started in 2005, it has never failed to produce savings for the companies. Just as important, the students acquire a great deal of confidence from the hands on experience of saving a business money while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Can you tell us about other work that you do with the Polish business sector?

We now have some 50 mature CSR companies in Poland. The Polish market is special, because we have mostly big multinationals operating here, a few state-owned Polish companies from the oil and energy sector and a lot of private Polish SMEs. The main driver for sustainability is coming from the multinational companies. For example, Coca Cola is doing work around water and sustainability, which is spreading through the supply chain and influencing Polish business partners to improve their standards.

We have been producing a CSR Ranking of companies for six years now, with PwC as the auditor. We also have an award for the best CSR reports in Poland. To date, some 20 Polish companies produce CSR reports using the GRI format. We also organised the Polish Congress on Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility in 2009. Things are progressing, but we still have a ways to go here.

3. Are you working with other organisations?

We are involved in several research projects with organisations, such as the European Union, UNDP, European Academy of Business in Society, European Business Ethics Network and the Caux Round Table. We have been working on a range of CSR case studies from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in cooperation with the Center for Business and Society CEU Business School, the Graduate School of Management St Petersburg State University and CSR Ukraine. (see previous blog)

Kozminski also has an interesting partnership with Nyenrode University that raises awareness by bringing students to 25 companies across Poland to discuss management approaches to CSR, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Associate professor, Iwona Kuraszko, is the inaugural scholar of the Jepson School’s Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar Program in Leadership in Ethics. She is off to the University of Richmond to research leadership and ethics in the context of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe.

4. What programme are you most proud of?

The programme that I like most is our postgraduate certificate “CSR: The Strategy of Responsible Business”.  This 180 hour programme, run in cooperation with PwC, introduces students to the basics of corporate sustainability issues and focuses on how managers can implement effective strategies. Now in its third year, the programmed is the only one of this kind in Poland. It’s aimed at people already working in business – some of them are “almost” CSR/ sustainability managers or ethics officers, while others would like to work in this function. There are a group of some 30 instructors working with me, some of them are academics (business ethics, corporate governance, marketing), some are CSR consultants (including PwC, but also from smaller consultancies), social innovators and changemakers (from NGOs, like Ashoka), and some are mature CSR managers. The programme has reached nearly 100 students and is constantly evolving.

5. So what’s next for Kozminski?

The short answer is to work more on sustainability integration. In the next year, I would like to organise a short course or workshop for CEOs on “leadership in sustainability”. At the moment, I am busy preparing for the ISBEE World Congress at Kozminski in July 2012, which expects 300+ people for 4 days.

For more information

Creating Teaching Cases around Sustainability: 4 examples

One of the challenges mentioned by faculty looking to incorporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their classrooms is the lack of relevant case studies. This includes not just case studies relating to responsible leadership, but also case studies specific to the businesses in their region or other regions around the world. Here is a collection of 4 Business Schools around the world that are taking a leading role to increase the number of relevant case studies from their country, region or internationally:

  • In Poland, Kozminski University has been working on a range of case studies from the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The project is coordinated in cooperation with the Center for Business and Society CEU Business School, the Graduate School of Management St Petersburg State University and CSR Ukraine. The aim of the project is to make a selection of the best responsible corporate performers from companies operating in CEE and to prepare a collection of educational case studies. The project will be finalized in 2011 as a booklet of 8 practical teaching case studies for MBA programs. The booklet will be distributed for use by academic institutions to integrate CEE CSR case studies into their mainstream management and executive education programs
  • In Mexico, at Tecnológico de Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, students write and present short teaching cases on businesses in Mexico as a way to provide close-to-real life responsible business learning experiences and to enable students to pass on their learning to classmates. Cases are based on interviews, extensive external resources, and at least one responsible management tool that is taught in class. Students then have the possibility to enter their case into the publication process with the “Centro Internacional de Casos” (the biggest case collection in the Spanish-speaking world).
  • In Italy, ISTUD Foundation has developed a range of case studies around sustainability and CSR of companies based or operating in Italy. This includes 38 case studies based on research projects with companies such as IKEA Italia, BMW Italia, Illy Caffe, Adidas Saloman, and 19 cases of best practices, including Enel Green Power, ENI, Pirelli Labs.
  • In Canada, Richard Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario has been working with the UN Global Compact to create a repository of real-world examples. A significant volume of cases has been developed around the four categories that are used to encompass the ten Global Compact Principles – Human Rights (55 published case studies), Labour Standards (41 published case studies), the Environment (101 published case studies) and Anti-Corruption (36 published case studies).

Get Involved!

Are you working on an initiative to create case studies around sustainability or responsible leadership in your region? Share your experiences in the comments area below this blog.

The PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption and the PRME Working Group on Gender Equality are both working to aggregate case studies and other resources (syllabi, research, etc.) related to their respective topics. Those interested in joining/contributing should visit

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