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Photos of Connection: The 2023 Sustainability Centres Community Workshop

People from 75 countries came together for a week focused on responsible management education. Here are the visual highlights.

Many groups aim to advance sustainability in business schools. In June 2023, these groups gathered in New York for the first “Responsible Management Education Week.” The week was organized by the United Nations Principles of Management Education (PRME). With the theme of “Connecting for Impact,” it sought to magnify the impact of different individuals, schools, and initiatives.  

The NBS Sustainability Centres Community (SCC), an international network of business school centres, joined the week’s activities. “Sustainability is about connection and learning,” said Jury Gualandris, director of the Network for Business Sustainability. Responsible Management Education Week provided opportunities for both.

This photo essay highlights sessions organized by the SCC during the week. Explore the full week’s activities as well, through the agenda and more images and session recordings.  

Appreciation to UN photographer Joel Sheakoski for the pictures; we’ve also included comments from participants. Enjoy!

Workshop: Systems Change for Sustainability: Collecting and Collaborating for Grand Challenges

A day-long workshop organized by NBS and co-host MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative used a systems lens to tackle change.

Jason Jay and Jury Gualandris speaking to an audience at a sustainability conference
Leaders Jason Jay (MIT Sloan) and Jury Gualandris (NBS) led the process

A white poster board with sticky notes, name cards, and lanyards at the workshop
People shared ideas they were passionate about

Audience members stretching in their seats during a long workshop
Time for stretching and meditation lets ideas develop

Participant Maria Jose Murcia, Universidad Austral, wrote: “This day helped us develop skills as a systems change leaders, finding ways to help our institutions and broader society transition to a just, equitable, and sustainable economy.

Centre Leaders Knowledge Exchange – The Nuts and Bolts of Running a Centre

Sustainability centre leaders gathered to explore practical aspects of running a centre, in a session led by Klaus Weber (Northwestern University) and Heather Ranson (University of Victoria).

Two people writing pressing topics in running a sustainability centres onto a whiteboard
The group identified pressing topics

Centre leaders from across the world raising their hands to share their experiences running a centre at the workshop
Centre leaders shared experiences and found solutions

Monica Touesnard, Cornell University, wrote: “It was energizing and inspirational to engage with such an amazing cohort of champions for #sustainability education!”

How to Change Business Schools and the World

What’s necessary for business schools to make a positive impact? A plenary conversation challenged assumptions, with participants Jason Jay (MIT Sloan), Fernanda Carreira (Fundação Getulio Vargas), Jill Bogie (Gordon Institute of Business Science), and Rumina Dhalla (University of Guelph).

Panel speakers discuss what's necessary for business schools to make a positive impact and applauding
Plenary participants learn from each other

Jason Jay, MIT Sloan, said: “If we want to go out and create an inclusive just equitable world, we need to reexamine our own practices.”

Mission: Save Our Home Planet

Music and arts are central to sustainability. Abby Litchfield of NBS composed a song about the Earth exclusively for the Global Forum and sang it for the first time publicly on the main stage.

Abby Litchfield playing the piano and singing an original song at PRME
In an original song, Abby Litchfield expresses the “beauty and pain” of working on sustainability.

Tima Bansal, the new PRME Chair, wrote: “Abby’s voice and words were simply breathtaking and elicited a standing ovation. Thank you, Abby, for giving Earth a voice through your music.”

Courageous Conversations: Tackling Tough and Controversial Issues

Andrea Prado (INCAE) guided discussion of three hot topics often faced by sustainability centre leaders:

  • Funding — whom should centres accept money from, and how do they stay independent of donor wishes?
  • What role should centres play in “political” situations — e.g. issuing statements on a current issue?
  • Are centres studying the most important topics, or just the ones where data are readily available? Are topics like poverty and climate adaptation overlooked? 

Andrea Prado leading a breakout session on challenges in centre management
“We all struggle with these questions,” said Andrea Prado as the discussions began.

Meaningful Take Homes and Meaningful Times

The week provided opportunities for inspiration, innovation, and joy amidst challenges.

Iiris Sachet, HEC Paris shared conclusions:

reflections of workshop by Iiris Sachet

Joelle Kanyana, University of Pittsburgh, wrote: “I am leaving the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Global Forum feeling invigorated and motivated to drive positive change in the world of business education.”

Attendees having multiple conversations outdoors at a reception at the United Nations Headquarters
A reception at the United Nations Headquarters provided space to imagine a better future.

Thank You and Acknowledgements  

Many thanks to the participants, leaders, and organizers of the workshop. MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Initiative and the Network for Business Sustainability co-organized the systems change workshop, and partnered with the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education on Responsible Management Education Week. The Sustainability Centres Community Advisory Board provided wise guidance. Fordham University provided space and the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute supported travel bursaries for attendees from developing countries.  

NBS and MIT Sloan organizing teams of people pose at a dinner table
MIT and NBS organizing teams eat a filling dinner before the event

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