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Highlights from the GNAM Faculty Week on Sustainability Leadership

Yale University was delighted to welcome Faculty and Administrators from the Global Network for Advanced Management for the inaugural ‘GNAM Faculty Week’ from 21 – 24 July.

Participants from eleven GNAM business schools came together with representatives from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), senior corporate executives, and other leading experts to discuss new approaches to management education for sustainability leadership.

The four day program provided an opportunity for faculty who are leading work on inter-disciplinary challenges across environmental, social and economic systems to share expertise and to explore possibilities of connecting teaching, research and programming across the Global Network. Participants shared ideas for creating new curriculum, case studies and courses; for collaboration in teaching approaches; and for integrating the perspectives of business leaders into the classroom.

Photo: Anthony Clark ‘14 FES/SOM

In exploring the role of business schools as agents of change in addressing social and environmental challenges, the four-day agenda covered:

  • Understanding the need for innovation and response;
  • Connecting the expertise of GNAM Faculty, the WBCSD and its regionally based global network, and leading companies;
  • Examining the disruptive forces in business education: online education, globalization, and the demand for new training in an uncertain, complex world; and
  • Identifying concrete next steps to further embed social and environmental sustainability in management education through co-creation of programs, curriculum and activities across the GNAM and WBCSD networks.

    Key Themes and Highlights

  • How can we effectively bring science in to business education and ultimately the boardroom? Participants were introduced to the Planetary Boundaries framework developed by a group of 28 international scientists, and the global platform for business response at scale, Action2020, developed and led by WBCSD.
  • Where are the opportunities for transformative innovation to get to the sustainability solutions we need, and as Faculty, how do we come together to teach across systems? Participants heard from Yale Professors Paul Anastas and Julie Zimmerman the need to reframe the design space for transformative innovation; and Karen Seto, lead author of the IPCC 5th assessment report chapter on urban areas, on the opportunities that future megacities create for sustainable solutions.
  • How can business schools develop system level change makers? Author Christine Bader, Kevin Moss, Head of Net Good at BT and Terry Yosie, President & CEO, World Environment Center, joined Yale School of Management Dean Ted Snyder and Professor Brad Gentry in a panel discussion on Identifying the Needs of Businesses Leading on Sustainability at 2020 – What Skill Sets will Companies Need to Address the Challenges of the 21st Century? Watch the video: Identifying the Needs of Businesses Leading on Sustainability at 2020. Read a summary of the panel: Tips from the Field: A Survival Guide for Sustainability Professionals.
  • How can universities provide a solutions lab for companies interested to connect to research and students globally to advance business solutions to sustainability challenges? Participants heard the needs of WBCSD member companies SABIC, United Technologies and MeadWestvaco; and discussed new models for connecting business challenges to research and action learning with Andy Mangan, Executive Director, US Business Council for Sustainable Development.
  • How should business education for sustainability leadership balance integration of sustainability principles into existing education tools, with expansion of the curriculum to develop deeper sustainability skills and expertise? Faculty from GNAM schools presented their leading sustainability case studies and ideas for what the next generation of case studies needs to look like; before looking in depth at a specific example - integrated performance management and reporting - with Rodney Irwin, Managing Director, WBCSD and Brendan LeBlanc, Partner – Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Ernst & Young. Jaan Elias, director of case development and research at Yale SOM, held a presentation on raw cases, websites that augment a business problem narrative with video interviews with key players, news stories, financial documents, and other source materials. The approach requires students to work in teams and examine materials from multiple perspectives.
  • How can business schools best develop Exec Ed programs to raise awareness of Action2020 and facilitate scale-up? Bill Lorenz, Director of Sustainable Engineering Program at Villanova University, presented on the ERM approach, where 400 employees were trained online on the principles of Action2020.
  • How can collaborative online education engage business school students in the complex, global challenges of sustainable development? Participants explored the example of the GNAM online course on Natural Capital: Managing Risks and Opportunities in Global Resource Systems taught by Yale Professor Brad Gentry.
  • How can we prepare students for working in global teams in an increasingly volatile, complex and uncertain world? Mark Fritz, IE Business School presented his recommendations for training students for working effectively in global and virtual teams by focusing on ownership and outcomes.

Next Steps

Participants developed a number of ideas to take forward in collaboration with the Global Network for Advanced Management and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, including:

  • A portfolio of innovative executive education programs for companies, NGOs and policy-makers
  • Collaborative and applied research connecting Faculty across the Global Network
  • Creating a set of dynamic living case studies across countries, to expand resource system mapping and regional perspectives
  • Mapping the expertise and opportunities for local collaborations between GNAM schools and the WBCSD Global Network of regional business organizations
  • Developing applied learning opportunities for GNAM students
  • Engaging colleagues to build awareness and connections within GNAM schools.

The Yale Center for Business and the Environment has developed an online platform using the learning management system Canvas, to support ongoing engagement and connections across GNAM Faculty and Administrators with a focus on sustainable economic, environmental and social systems. The platform enables each GNAM school to share detailed profiles of their Sustainability Academics, Faculty Case Studies, and other Initiatives; provides a repository of all materials and presentations from the July 2014 GNAM Faculty week; and supports further dialogue and information sharing through Discussion Boards. If you are interested to join the platform, please contact Jennifer Rogan,  

Related stories:

How can businesses lead sustainability? via Yale Insights
Business + Society Conference Panel: The Path to Resilient Prosperity via Yale SOM
Global Network Course Takes the Business Perspective on Natural Resources via Yale SOM News
For Yale, WBCSD, sustainability is good business via Yale News
#GNW2014: Follow the conversation on Twitter