The notion of sustainability or sustainable development, as introduced in the Brundtland Commission’s report Our Common Future in 1987, has been on the political agenda for almost thirty years. The Brundtland report anticipated grave environmental and social problems unless contemporary models of development were modified, and called for redirecting development so to integrate environmental and social considerations into the public policies and business practices. This call for a new development order is as, if not more, relevant now in light of the current economic crisis, and the growing social and political unrest in the face of climate change.
Scholars affiliated with the Platform study a number of business-related research agendas regarding e.g. sustainable innovation and the development of clean technologies and energy systems; the role of models, codes, and standards in influencing corporate, citizen and consumer behaviour; the unlimited responsibility of corporations – the challenges of transparency and increased accountability; and the sustainability of globalization in emerging and developing economies.
The Platform’s activities also explore “sustainable capitalism” in an open and public debate on the limits to growth and the constraints of capitalism, as we know it.
The platform has been established to facilitate and foster research, develop CBS’ educational activities so as to enhance the competencies of CBS students within the field and enhance CBS’ outreach so as to increase the viability and visibility of new approaches to sustainable development.
The CBS Sustainability Platform is the first of two platforms established at CBS as part of the “CBS Business in Society Strategy”.
The Sustainability Platform draws upon and seeks to consolidate already existing research and teaching activities at CBS, which with the exception of the work being conducted within the CBS Centre for Business and Development Studies (CBDS) and CBS Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (cbsCSR) has been dispersed across departments. CBDS and cbsCSR are internationally recognized for their prominent, entrepreneurial faculty and excellent research results. However, in light of the grand challenges associated with coping with climate change, developing new energy technologies and systems, addressing increasing resource scarcity and the need for new institutional and social models for societal development, the aim of the Sustainability Platform is to support and strengthen these other dimensions of sustainability as well.
Building upon existing resources
The Platform builds upon existing competencies across CBS, with the aim of engaging colleagues from across CBS to build a strong cross-disciplinary sustainability research agenda that not only extends the scope of business school research on sustainability, but also engages with stakeholders outside CBS.
The Platform can draw upon many resources: A survey of sustainability-related research at CBS in 2011 revealed that there are over 100 faculty members with research interests within the area and that they have produced more than 300 research publications on the topic. CBS was ranked 43rd in the world when it comes to sustainability teaching and 9th in Europe in terms of sustainability publications in the 2011 overall ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes’ ranking made by the Aspen Institute.
Another important resource for the Platform is CBS’ students, particularly the student organization “360o Students for Sustainability” with it’s around 50 core members and more than 600 supporters. We think these numbers bear evidence of a strong interest and a sound background for the future development of an interdisciplinary and coherent sustainability platform at CBS.
Three key areas
Building upon CBS’ current research, education and outreach activities, the objectives of the Platform are to:
- Enable inter-disciplinary research that can augment existing research activities/agendas within the disciplinary domains of CBS departments by: providing support for external funding and research project development; by attracting (international) PhDs and more senior researchers; by organizing international conferences and developing relationships with strategic funding agencies and potential business partners.
- Provide students at all levels with unique educational opportunities that will enable them to effectively address issues pertaining to business and sustainability. This will allow CBS to leverage its position as one of the relatively few B-schools in Europe offering an extensive range of educational activities focusing on sustainability.
- Continue to develop CBS’ outreach activities through collaboration with students and CBS-colleagues as well as external stakeholders so as to build networks of business leaders, policymakers, researchers, CBS alumni and NGOs that can meet and engage with one another in constructive and thought-provoking ways. Additionally, we propose working with the international accreditation bodies that take an interest in sustainability focus in business school accreditation.