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How to Integrate Sustainability into a Business School


Integrating sustainability into business schools can be done in many ways. Which is right for you?

This session was part of the NBS Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) Workshop 2021. The SCC connects business school sustainability centres worldwide.  

This SCC Workshop Session took a comprehensive approach to building sustainability into business school curricula, asking “why,” what,” and “how” such integration can be achieved. Session leaders  Heather Ranson (University of Victoria) and Sarah Ivory (University of Edinburgh) sought to enable sustainability change agents to understand and overcome any barriers.

Watch the Session Video

Here’s some of what they covered:

Why integrate sustainability into the business school curriculum?

Session participants considered: Why would a professor or business school change (especially to include sustainability)? What obstacles would make them hesitate or fail?

How to integrate sustainability into the business school curriculum

Sarah Ivory began by presenting a theory of transformation, encouraging participants to think about where they are currently on the continuum and how to move from one step to the next.

Ivory and Ranson shared “Tips and Tricks” for “overtly and covertly” embedding sustainability into the culture, including influencing new faculty, creating sustainability champions, and handling pressure from above and below. They discussed where sustainability fits and how much is enough sustainability material in an integrated curriculum.

What professors need to include sustainability in their curriculum

Heather Ranson addressed common reasons why faculty members may be hesitant:

  • The “I have no room in my curriculum” argument

  • The “I have no expertise in that area” argument

  • The “It is too risky to change my curriculum” argument

Joined by others in the session, the leaders then shared materials to “introduce, integrate, inspire…” These included lesson plans, readings, assignments, videos and ideas for guest speakers.

 A mix of resources from the presenters as well as sharing from the group have resulted in the creation of a “playbook”.

About the SCC Workshop 2021

Every two years, the NBS Sustainability Centres Community Workshop connects leaders of business school sustainability centres for learning and action. This session was a part of the most recent Workshop in July 2021: “Designing the Business School Sustainability Centre of the Future.” See the main Workshop page for an overview and to access additional sessions.

The 2021 Workshop was hosted by the Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR) at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainable Strategy (IBES) at the FH Wien University of Applied Sciences for Management & Communication.

See the Sustainability Centres Community homepage for additional information and to join the group.

Banner photo is taken by Marius Brand of WU Vienna, who gave us a great sense of what our conference would have felt like in Vienna, had it not been virtual.

About the Session Leaders

Heather Ranson, University of Victoria

Heather Ranson (Associate Teaching Professor and Associate Director, Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI)) teaches Ethics and Business and Sustainability courses at the Gustavson School of Business. In her role as Associate Director, CSSI Heather builds the sustainability teaching culture in the school by supporting faculty with timely materials, guest speakers and curriculum.

Sarah Ivory, University of Edinburgh

Sarah Birrell Ivory is a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Business School, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is Director of the Centre for Business, Climate Change, and Sustainability (B-CCaS). Dr Ivory established the Global Challenges for Business compulsory UG course which won an Aspen Institute ‘Ideas Worth Teaching’ education award and is one of the core team delivering the flagship MBA Strategic Leadership course.

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  • Heather Ranson

    Heather Ranson joined the Gustavson School of Business in 2004 and is the associate director of the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI). In this role Heather directs Centre activities including collecting and sharing sustainability-oriented teaching material, supporting programs with sustainability guest speakers and activities, collecting data for Gustavson’s annual carbon footprint report, ands supporting Gustavson researchers in their sustainability-oriented research. In addition, she has taught tourism and event management, service management, social entrepreneurship, business and sustainability and Canadian Business to undergraduate, graduate and executive programs students.

  • Sarah Ivory
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