Promoting Research around Sustainability: Examples from the UK, France, Belgium and Canada

During the 3rd PRME Global Forum at Rio+20 in June, one of the discussion topics revolved around research and how to promote research on sustainability topics. How can we facilitate faculty need for research publications on sustainability? What type of change strategy can be developed that will shift the emphasis in research toward rigorous, yet practical, theoretically informed research?

An Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, which launched at the 3rd Global Forum, provides answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning how to move forward in embedding sustainability into management education. In putting together the Guide, many schools shared projects and initiatives around promoting sustainability research on campus. Here are some examples from the UK, France, Belgium and Canada.

Ashridge Business Schoolwanted to understand the proportion of faculty engaged in research that related in some way to sustainability. The thinking was that, if a member of faculty was researching how sustainability related to their core area of expertise, then that could be a good indicator as to whether new thinking on sustainable business might also be coming into his/her educational work. As a result, the school measured, over an 18 month period, that 25% of faculty had either published some kind of research or thought leadership, or had spoken or played a facilitative role in an event where there was a connection with the theme of sustainable business.

At Euromed Management, over 30% of academic activities and publications are linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability issues, and the number of publications continues to rise. These results are due to various initiatives, including the creation of projects, networks and research chairs. However, the deciding factor lies in the school’s decision to structure research into five priority groups, one of which is dedicated to the CSR.

Louvain School of Managementorganises the CSR Research Seminar, which aims to bring together researchers, PhD candidates and prominent professors from around the world to discuss their respective research projects. Participants come from various disciplines and fields, including, but not limited to, management, law, sociology, philosophy, economics, political science, and social psychology, but sharing a common interest for CSR and business and society issues. The goal is to explore the diverse dimensions of these questions, and special attention is given to research projects that involve strong linkages with industry participants.

The University of Western Ontario Richard Ivey School of Business’s Building Sustainable Value Research Center has a Research Network for Sustainability that connects researchers, teachers and practitioners to better facilitate the creation and dissemination of evidence-based research in business sustainability. The network, which includes more than 2,700 managers, academics and students, maintains a website with an online database. There is a section specifically for researchers that includes both recent articles focused on sustainability in a range of academic journals as well as journals that are looking for contributions for special sustainability editions.

The Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, is available online at http://www.gseresearch.com/about/prme.htm.

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.

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