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.

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 http://www.unprme.org/working-groups/working-groups.php.

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