Celebrating United Nations Day: 9 Ways Business Schools Can Engage

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Monday, October 23, 2017
By Giselle Weybrecht
United Nations emblem, used with open permission from un.org.
With United Nations Day upon us, it is important for schools to remember why the U.N. was created and engage in efforts toward global peace and prosperity.

Every year, October 24 is celebrated as United Nations Day. This event marks the day when, in 1945, the U.N. Charter was ratified and the U.N. officially came into being. It is important, today more than ever, to remember why the U.N. was created and why its role is crucial. In fact, many people don’t fully understand the impact the U.N. and its different agencies have on all aspects of our lives or even the opportunities the agencies provide for schools in terms of events, partnerships, or teaching resources.

In celebration of United Nations Day, here are nine ways that business schools can engage with the U.N.

  1. An “International Day”: There are many U.N. Days that are observed internationally on a yearly basis in addition to U.N. Day itself. Each special day has its own website with resources and links to events happening globally. Many universities will organize local events on campus around the themes of those days or connect with activities and events being organized by the local government or even business. Each of these days also changes their theme slightly every year in order to focus on specific topics of importance within that particular theme. For example, the 2018 theme for International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, is #PressforProgress, focused on gender parity.
  2. The Sustainable Development Goals: In 2015, all 193 member states of the United Nations adopted a plan for a path to achieve a better future for all and protect the planet. The result was a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and 169 related targets, that focus on addressing the most important economic, social, environmental, and governance challenges. The SDGs will continue to guide national and business priorities until 2030. Not only do all 17 goals relate to business schools, in terms of their operations, their curriculum, and their research, but they also present opportunities to connect to the work that governments, businesses, NGOs, and other organizations are doing to support the SDGs.
  3. The United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education: The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is a United Nations-supported initiative founded in 2007 as a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in schools around the world. Business schools and universities can sign up to be part of the initiative, which is the largest organized relationship between the U.N. and management-related higher education institutions, with over 800 schools involved. Signatories have access to a range of opportunities to work specifically with businesses through the UN Global Compact, the business arm of the U.N. AACSB is a member of the PRME Steering Committee.
  4. Education for Sustainable Development: The U.N. has several other initiatives that engage universities in sustainability projects. For example, the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) is a partnership between several U.N. agencies, including UN University, U.N.-Habitat, UNESCO, U.N. Environment Programme, and the U.N. Global Compact. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) focuses on education as part of its mission and offers a wide variety of events, resources, and projects relating to education for sustainability. Their annual Sustainability Education Prize provides a great source of inspiration for the future of education, and their Global Action Plan on Education for Sustainable Development provides a vision, an action plan, and resources for changing education at all levels to focus on a more sustainable future.
  5. Ideas for Action: U.N. agencies are starting to tap into the pool of talented business minds in schools globally through numerous new global programs. For example, Ideas for Action, a collaboration between Wharton Business School and the World Bank, aims to engage youth in the design and implementation of the SDGs, inviting innovative and fresh ideas to tackle the new challenges the world faces. The project includes an online knowledge platform that connects youth leaders globally as well as an annual competition where youth design ideas for financing the U.N.’s development agenda.
  6. Direct business school connections: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched Business Schools for Impact to address a key component to unlocking finance for development and shifting corporate strategies. The project provides a range of teaching tools focused on the development of business models that incorporate positive social impact, including an online network for knowledge exchange, open source modules, publications, and curriculum recommendations. Individual business schools are also collaborating with UNCTAD at a local level. For example, Universidad EAFIT in Colombia has created a special blog platform for students to comment on UNCTAD programs and work with feedback from the local UNCTAD office.
  7. U.N.-based research and curriculum: Executive MBA candidates at the University of Technology Sydney Business School in Australia gained real-world experience working in collaboration with U.N. Environment’s Finance Initiative, specifically their Principles for Sustainable Insurance. Working with the team at the U.N. as well as a range of businesses signatories to the Principles of Sustainable Insurance, the team looked at ensuring that environmental, social, and governance risks such as climate change, human rights abuses, and corruption are considered in the placement of credit guarantees for big infrastructure projects.
  8. Resources for the classroom: Many of the U.N. agencies provide specific resources or opportunities focused on a business audience. For example, the U.N. Global Compact is a network of over 12,000 businesses from 170 countries across sectors working to integrate sustainability into their business and contribute positively to global issues. Their website contains a wealth of resources, publications, case studies, and links to events and even live webcasts about business and sustainability. They also provide some specific opportunities for universities, for example, their Academic Research Project, which promotes and funds research relating to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment.
  9. U.N. Network engagement: The United Nations is a whole system organization that is engaged in a wide range of environmental, social, and economic issues globally. This includes U.N. Development Programme UNICEF (children), as well as specialized agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the International Labour Organization (ILO); the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the World Tourism Organization (WTO). Many of these agencies not only have global headquarters with programs and resources that business schools can access and contribute to, but most also have local offices doing projects on the ground that schools can partner and collaborate with.

Whether through classroom resources, business engagement, or direct collaborations with the U.N., business schools have many opportunities to incorporate the important work this organization is doing to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable, and globally connected place. How will your school celebrate United Nations Day?

Giselle Weybrecht
Author, Advisor, and Speaker, Sustainability and Business
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