Partnering on Sustainability

Sustainability is the way forward for businesses and nations, and collaboration is the key to sustainability.

That was the underlying theme at the Renewing Business Education in Asia Conference held this summer by 50+20, a group that brings together academics, practitioners, and policymakers to explore how management education can create a better world.

“Sustainability demands far more than the effort of an individual, an organization, or even one country, and the transformation of management education is a marathon journey,” observed Edwin Cheng, dean of the Faculty of Business at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which organized the conference. “We fervently hope that the synergy between us brings real benefits to the joint pursuit of sustainability as time goes on.”

Katrin Muff, dean of the Business School Lausanne in Switzerland, also stressed synergy and collaboration as she spoke at the event. She said, “We need to stop competing for who is the best in the world, and start collaborating in order to do the best for the world.” She believes that business schools have three fundamental roles: to develop globally responsible leaders, to enable business organizations to serve the common good, and to engage in the transformation of business and the economy. To achieve these goals, she said, business schools must create collaborative spaces “where action learning and action research can realistically join forces.” They also must encourage students and educators to work with all facets of society to address current issues, and they must set new and relevant benchmarks.

Other speakers focused on the changes they see ahead if business is to become more sustainable. Andrew Savitz, president of Sustainable Business Strategies and author of The Triple Bottom Line, said, “Companies will need to find ways to create less harm and do more good.” This requires a new way of thinking about economic growth and how it can be achieved in a world facing difficult environmental and social challenges. Savitz admitted that changing over to this new paradigm is “enormously complicated” and requires that “research be conducted, case studies written, curriculum developed, and partnerships established. Business schools are essential to helping us make the changes that will be necessary.”