BRINGING SUSTAINABILITY TO BUSINESS EDUCATION

The new challenge of global business is to generate profitable and sustainable growth. To this end, MSc in Global Business Programme Director Bastiaan Van der Linden decided to add sustainability to the educational mix. The Dutch professor talks to us about the making of EDHEC’s new MSc in Global & Sustainable Business.

Written on 22 Nov 2019.


 

WHY CHANGE A WINNING FORMULA?

You have to adapt if you want to keep on winning. Academic programmes are not set in stone. I felt, and so did my students, that our highly successful MSc in Global Business needed to evolve to keep pace with demand for sustainable business growth. EDHEC Dean Emmanuel Metais agreed. I believe in empowering our students to be knowledgeable, skilled and committed or, in short, competent. This means making them eager to participate, right now in their studies and later in business. I strongly believe in the added value of co-creation. This is founded in my research in the field of stakeholder theory and business purpose, but also in my experience as a consultant and educator. So, I enlisted students, companies, professors and EDHEC’s staff to help me forge a new, rich, finely honed curriculum. I held a pilot workshop with 25 students. We tested ideas and shared thoughts on recent developments and course content in a Facebook group. That group rapidly grew to 150 students! I also consulted companies, leaders in their sectors, about the kinds of skills they wanted to see from future employees – Danone, Michelin, GreenFlex and The Body Shop to name a few. I talked with fellow professors to see how their disciplines were evolving to meet the business opportunities presented by the sustainable development of the economy and society.

ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE OUTCOME?

I’m proud of the programme we have created. The MSc in Global & Sustainable Business offers three comprehensive sets of courses. First, there are the global business disciplines, such as finance, corporate strategy for international business, global marketing, international operations and procurement. They give students an in-depth general understanding of these domains, but also a good grasp of  the evolution of these disciplines to embrace the opportunities  of sustainable business in an evolving world. The marketing course addresses purpose-based branding; the finance course includes ESG integration; the operations course introduces students to concepts associated with closed-loop supply chains, etc. The second set deals with managerial skills: leadership, negotiation, combatting illicit business practices, business ethics, international compliance, etc. Third, we have a whole new set of courses that revolve around industries where sustainability is key and where sustainable development offers real business opportunity. These include for example innovation policies for a sustainable energy sector, circular fashion, sustainable transport and mobility, and green real-estate. This new curriculum is, I believe, intelligent, timely and highly practical. It gives students the core competencies they will need to flourish in global and sustainable business.

SO, DOES THE CO-DESIGN STOP HERE?

Not at all. The students are still actively shaping the MSc. They are currently working on our study trip, which will see the class experience the latest global and sustainable practices in Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. They are sharing ideas on sustainable accommodation and company visits and they are negotiating some of these tour elements themselves. We have also started a pilot project to investigate whether there is a reliable scheme out there to offset the CO2 emissions of the tour bus. These emissions are rather modest, but make an excellent case study for discovering whether there are any truly effective CO2 compensation schemes on the market. We will publish our findings.

This MSc is about their future – a future in which profitable and sustainable business growth will require great products and services that help create a healthy environment and an inclusive society. Sustainability will be at the very heart of their existence. If they can participate in shaping their MSc today, they can participate in shaping global business tomorrow.  

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