International Business Week: Business for a Better World
| May 23, 2022 | Michael Benigno
By Claire Curry
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the iconic torch centerpiece burned 50,000 cubic meters of natural gas every day to stay lit. But when the 2022 Winter Olympics Games were held there in February, the city switched to smaller, handheld torches, representing China’s increasing environmental consciousness. This is one of many examples of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies being adopted in countries around the globe to ensure a better world—according to presenters at this year’s International Business Week.
Hosted virtually by the Gabelli School in March, the weeklong celebration featured speakers from North America, South America, Europe, and Asia who discussed ESG, sustainability models, and cultural distinctions across the global business landscape.
“The idea is to open up the students’ minds on the importance of global business for a better world as opposed to just global business to increase shareholder value,” said Francis Petit, EdD, associate dean for global initiatives and partnerships. “It aligns with the strategy of the Gabelli School, which is not only to develop global compassionate business leaders, but also [to do] business with purpose.”
“It’s always an honor to be part of a tradition that the school has kept for more than 10 years,” added Hanaa Fawzy, assistant dean for global initiatives and partnerships. “This year’s International Business Week theme highlighted the concept of ‘doing well by doing good.’”
In the kick-off session, “Cultural and Global Business Traditions Across the World,” which was moderated by Fawzy and Camryn Pecyno, BS ’22, president of the International Business Association, a panel of students spoke about their experiences living and working in England, India, Bangladesh, and Poland.
“The goal of the session was to showcase the international diversity within the Gabelli School,” Fawzy said. “It allows our students to exchange knowledge on different countries’ cultures and business practices. It also helps them understand how competitive advantage is created and sustained in an international context.”
The students discussed Bangladesh’s production of pharmaceuticals, electronics, and textiles, and Poland’s strength in the service sector. They also covered cultural differences, such as dress codes, modes of networking, and employee-employer relations. In India and Poland, for example, business meetings involve long conversation over meals, while those in the United Kingdom and Bangladesh are more formal. While companies in the United Kingdom are smaller and tight-knit, Mumbai native Snehsrishti Assie, BS ’25, said that many of India’s largest companies traditionally use a top-down hierarchical system, though that trend is beginning to change.
“Management and others in top positions set out the tasks, and the workers follow whatever management says, although they have been shifting to a more democratic style lately,” Assie said.
India is also evolving in terms of its environmental and social responsibilities, said Sutapa Pati, PhD, dean of the School of Sustainability at XIM University in Bhubaneswar, India. In the session, “Business, Energy, and Social Mission,” she and Omar Paganini, MBA ’15, minister of industry energy and minery for the government of the Republic of Uruguay, discussed power sourcing and social missions, and their country’s goals for the future.
India is currently the third largest energy consumer in the world and it relies on imported sources, like coal and gas. To
combat this, the government has committed to achieving 40% of renewable energy production by the end of 2022 through solar and hydropower. The government has also agreed to work toward becoming carbon neutral and self-reliant by 2030, Pati said.
In Uruguay, Paganini noted that 44% of energy production derives from hydropower and 32% from wind, while only 3% is attributed to oil. More than a decade ago, the government began buying independent power producers and building solar, wind, hydro, and biomass energy production. The focus today is on increasing electric public transit and addressing social issues, like unemployment and strengthening the rights of minority groups.
“Things that seem simple, many times, are not so simple,” Paganini said. “You have to be patient, enrich yourself with others’ points of view, and be brave.”
Corporate leaders around the world are committed to expanding ESG practices, and the effects can change entire countries. In the session, “Business and ESG Strategies: China and South Korea,” Petit spoke with Jeongil Seo, PhD, professor of strategy at Seoul’s Sogang Business School and Jeffrey Jing, MSGF ’10, senior partner at Gold Endeavor Capital, Ltd.
In order to adapt to the global markets as a smaller country, Seo said that South Korea focuses on ESG goals to meet the demands of overseas companies they sell their products and services to, such as GM, Google, and Apple. The government is also developing more renewable energy solutions to move away from nuclear power. ESG in China started to expand when the release of annual corporate governance reports became required in 2016, Jing added. China’s mission to contribute to the global business community as an economic powerhouse extends beyond the business world to its citizens.
“The business community has been encouraged to introduce new sources of energy, such as solar energy, wind power, and electric vehicles, and Chinese citizens realized that including sustainable practices in their everyday lives derived from the Chinese government and businesses,” Jing said.
Petit concluded that International Business Week is not only a way to showcase the latest business developments around the globe, but also to celebrate the Gabelli School’s commitment to business with purpose. Recently, several programs earned high rankings for global business and social responsibility, including the full-time MBA program which Bloomberg Businessweek ranked No. 1 in the country for corporate, social, and environmental responsibility. US News & World Report also ranked the school’s undergraduate and graduate international business programs No. 11 and No. 12 respectively.