Sustainability education gets boost at Fordham meeting

From left, Susanne Stormer of Novo Nordisk talks with Carey Weiss, Fordham University's coordinator of sustainable initiatives.

Susanne Stormer of Novo Nordisk, left, talks with Carey Weiss, director of sustainability initiatives for the Gabelli School of Business.

Changing the culture of global business to one that embraces sustainability principles depends in part on a generational change in leadership.

Making sure that next generation of business leaders is well-versed in social innovation is one of the goals of representatives from universities from around the world who gathered at Fordham University on Friday.

The schools are subgroup of PRME, or Principles for Responsible Management Education, six principles concerning education, research and dialogue developed by a task force of academics in 2007 in coordination with the U.N. Global Compact. More than 650 business education institutions in 83 countries signed on to the PRME initiative.

The PRME Champions, as the schools are called, were discussing projects, among which were an online course on the 17 sustainable development goals outlined by PRME and initiatives to improve the dialogue between companies and business schools concerning sustainability efforts, said Jonas Haertle, head of the PRME Secretariat and Academic Network of the U.N. Global Compact.

The Friday meeting, opened with welcoming remarks by Gabelli School of Business Dean Donna Rapaccioli, brought together institutions from among 30 PRME Champion schools, of which Fordham is one.

Representatives from PRME Champion schools gather at Fordham University on Friday, June 24, 2016.

Representatives from PRME Champion schools gather at Fordham University on Friday, June 24, 2016.

The meeting was held to establish which of the proposals the schools would prioritize and which schools would collaborate on them in order to produce some measurable outcomes by June 2017, said Alec Wersun, Lead For The Common Good at the Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University.

There is little doubt the global business environment is changing, Wersun said.

“I think if you look at businesses today, the whole idea of responsible leadership and management has become more mainstream,” he said. “There is … increasing evidence that companies have embraced something which 10 years ago they were less keen to do.”

An example of that shift is Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company, which employs the “triple bottom line” approach to decision-making, said Susanne Stormer, the company’s vice president for corporate sustainability.

“We say, ‘Is this financially responsible? Is it socially responsible? Is it environmentally responsible?’ And how do we balance those considerations short term-long term, and how we consider the impact of our actions on people, communities and the environment?” Stormer said.

The PRME Champions – formed in 2014 to inspire and lead responsible management education, research, and thought leadership – were needed to take the next step, Wersun added.

“Our role is to educate the leadership of the tomorrow that we want,” he said.

Fordham has a big role in that, said Haertle.

“I see certainly here at Fordham a … clear signal to [the] students and faculty that change is taken seriously,” he said. “I see Dean Rapaccioli very committed to the mission.”


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