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.

PRME LEADERS+20 competition

I recently had the chance to speak with Pernille Kallehave, Head of Development at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Organizational Architecture and Consultant to the dean on sustainability issues at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences. Pernille is the organizer of a new contest called PRME LEADERS+20, which encourages faculty and student teams to submit innovative ideas on how to address sustainable development as part of management education courses and curricula at business schools and management-related university faculties.

1. Tell us a little bit about sustainability at Aarhus University.

Aarhus has been working since 2009 to implement PRME by integrating our strategic focus of Sustainable Growth through Innovation into research, education, knowledge exchange, operations, culture, etc. From the beginning, we chose an “integration” strategy, meaning that we did not establish a CSR or sustainability centre, but rather tried to integrate the sustainability perspective into our products and processes – a well known strategy in many companies and organisations.

The question is: How do you integrate such a perspective into classical programmes such as economics, law, communication, supply chain, marketing, organisational behaviour, etc.? It takes good incentives and deep understanding of what drives people to create impact and change the way they do things. For us, it all comes down to the four I’s: Incentives, Innovation, Integration and Impact. How can we create INCENTIVES to stimulate business school INNOVATION through the INTEGRATION of sustainability in programmes and curricula in a way that creates the biggest IMPACT? This is the challenge that we want to meet with the PRME LEADERS +20 competition.

2. What is PRME LEADERS+20?

We thought that the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference provided the perfect opportunity for Aarhus to sponsor a contest that incentivises students and lecturers to collaborate in developing innovative ways to integrate sustainability issues into management education course and programme offerings. The competition will create both great ambassadors and valuable, up-to-date material. This is a bottom-up approach is supported fully by Aarhus Dean Svend Hylleberg.

3. What are the details?

Teams consisting of a lecturer and students are invited to either adapt an existing course or develop a new course with a focus on the 6 Principles of PRME as well as the themes of the Rio+20. Submissions are welcome from any program that educates future leaders and managers, including business schools, engineering, law and science, to name a few.

Submissions consist of a 3 page written entry and a 3 minute video entry, which will be judged first and foremost by their originality and creativity.

First place wins a trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to attend the PRME Global Forum and Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum. Second place wins a trip to Denmark to attend Aarhus summer university and visits to Maersk to learn about their sustainability activities and the world renowned Renewable Energy Island of Samso.

4. Who are the wide range of partners (academic, business, etc.) involved in this event?

Sustainable development requires new partnerships and cooperation across sectors and disciplines. Several businesses and public organisations are involved in the contest in a variety of different ways, from providing prizes to acting as judges and advisors. In addition to Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, PRME, and the Global Compact Office, t partners include Global Compact participant companies Maersk, China Minmetals Corporation, Vestas, Vale, and Novozymes, the Danish City of Aarhus, PRME Steering Committee members CEEMAN and GRLI, as well as Challenge:Future, Lead Africa, Mandagmorgen (Monday Morning) and Sustainia.

The PRME LEADERS+20 competition has also been invited to join the official Danish delegation to Rio+20. We see this as recognition of the important role that universities play in the development of the future leaders.

5. What impact are you hoping that this will have?

We are hoping to be surprised and inspired by a robust pool of innovative entries that motivate change across the responsible management education community. It would also be great to see these ideas implemented in the coming semesters.

The deadline for submission is Monday, 19 March 2012. For more information, visit To learn more about sustainability at Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, visit or read their PRME report.

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