Business and Business School Collaborations: Working Toward Sustainability

Business and Business School Collaborations: Working Toward Sustainability

Sustainability provides new opportunities for businesses to further engage business schools. Business and academia are coming together to explore solutions to current and future challenges.

There has always been a strong connection between businesses and business schools: both are experienced in developing partnerships aimed at recruiting the best and the brightest business students post-graduation. But sustainability provides businesses with a range of new opportunities to further engage business schools while also furthering their sustainability efforts.

And business schools around the world are stepping up. They are creating opportunities and spaces for business and academia to come together to explore solutions to their current and future challenges. Interesting examples of successful business-business school partnerships can be found across the globe.

Addressing a specific issue: Jönköping International Business School has collaborated with over 30 companies from the glass and wood industries to create the Sustainable Housing Network. The project aims to safeguard and further develop innovations and industrial expertise in glass and timber construction, both core activities in this particular region of Sweden. It aims to explore business opportunities to meet the housing shortage in Sweden and internationally as well as support the glass and wood industries. One recent project includes the development of a prototype for multi-family housing. A series of open workshops brings together over 100 industry practitioners, public officials, and researchers to discuss future housing solutions.

Celebrating successes: Since 2007, the Intel-Asian Corporate Responsibility Award (IACRA) coordinated by the Asian Institute of Management has recognized companies in Asia that have embedded CSR into their operations and integrated CSR into their business. IACRA winners have made CSR an integral part of the way they do business and have implemented CSR projects or programs that have a significant impact and are sustainable in all appropriate areas of operations. At Queen’s University in Canada, the Smith School of Business’s Centre for Governance coordinates the Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards, which aim to aid nonprofit organizations in achieving transparency in annual reports.

Solving current challenges: The Haas School of Business at the University of California partnered with outdoor clothing company Patagonia to create the Patagonia Case Competition. This yearly event invites graduate students from across the U.S. in interdisciplinary teams to submit solutions to a case developed around a current challenge faced by the company. Last year’s topic focused on Patagonia’s desire to accelerate regenerative agricultural practices for food, specifically asking, how can Patagonia incentivize farmers to invest in regenerative and restorative organic agricultural practices in the face of many challenges involving stakeholders?

Empowering stakeholders: The American University in Cairo is working with a variety of business and non-business partners on their Women on Boards program, which aims to improve the gender balance of corporate boards in Egypt and the wider Middle East and North Africa region. The focus of the program is to qualify women to be appointed to corporate boards, develop a plan for engaging boards on the topic, inform male board members of the importance of gender equality issues, and advocate for policy and legislative changes that institutionalizes gender diversity on corporate boards.

Increasing participation: Deakin University in Australia has partnered with a range of accounting organizations, including CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, PwC, EY, and KPMG, with the aim of increasing the number of professionally qualified accountants identified as Indigenous Australians. The group meets on a yearly basis to build relationships and provide opportunities to share knowledge and explore strategies for building opportunities for Indigenous students.

Developing multiple opportunities: BMW was invited to participate in an event at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business in the U.S. in 2014 to introduce their work on sustainable urban mobility. This experience resulted in a number of unique collaborations engaging students in specific projects with BMW and providing BMW opportunities to gather and better understand the views of the next generations of customers and what they are looking for.

Mobilizing business: Ivey School of Business at Western University in Ontario is the academic host of the Network of Business Sustainability, a group of international academics and business leaders that produce resources on important sustainability issues with the goal of shaping management practice and resources. The network identifies and matches academics with the business community’s top sustainability challenges.

Connecting with business networks: ESPAE-ESPOL in Ecuador partnered with WBCSD, a network of companies working on sustainability topics locally to develop a Breakfast Seminar series on Sustainable Development. Since then the seminars, which have now been going strong for over eight years, have resulted in better integration of these topics into the curriculum, membership on the local board of WBCSD, access to guest speakers, collaboration on annual conferences highlighting best practices, and now the development of a new MSc in Sustainable Agribusiness.

Giselle Weybrecht is an author, advisor, and speaker on sustainability. Her most recent book is The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Education. Follow her on Twitter @gweybrecht.