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NBS Sustainability Centres Community Workshop 2021

How can we create a sustainable future? A multi-sector dialogue, plenary workshops, and breakout sessions showed the way.

Every two years, leaders of business school sustainability research centres gather for the Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) Workshop.

In July 2021, the Workshop focused on sustainable transformation: designing and creating a sustainable future. NBS Founder Tima Bansal described the goal: “To reach sustainable development, we need to see both the current realities and the desirable possibilities. And, more than ever before, we need to work towards this future through a shared vision and with a community effort.”

The event featured:

  • Multi-Sector Dialogue: Radical Change or More of the Same. Leaders from across sectors opened up dialogue on vital contemporary issues from human rights to the role of small businesses and even art in advancing sustainability..

  • Plenary Workshops: Designing the Centre of the Future. Using design thinking, sustainability centre leaders imagined and operationalized a desirable future.

  • Breakout Sessions: Executing Sustainability in Business Schools. Centre leaders looked at different aspects of business schools and sustainability centres, including teaching, research, and outreach, and administration.

Videos and outputs from all sessions are below.

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

Are you part of a university sustainability centre? Join the Sustainability Centres Community to become part of the learning and action network.

Handbook for the NBS Sustainability Centres Workshop 2021

The pre-event handbook provides an orientation to the entire event, with details on sessions and speakers.

Multi-Sector Dialogue for a Sustainable Transformation: Radical Change or More of the Same?

To kick off the workshop, leaders from multiple sectors discussed the most pressing issues we face. View all sessions here. They are also available on the FHWien YouTube channel. (Special thanks to facilitator Katharina Moser.)

Learn more about the Sustainability Centres Community

Plenary Workshops: Designing the Centre of the Future

‘Futurist’ Stuart Candy (Carnegie Mellon University) began the discussion by providing strategies for imagining and creating a positive future. Read about How to Create Positive Futures.

Working in small groups over three days, business school sustainability centre leaders (1) envisioned a desirable future for society and business schools, (2) considered the constraints and trends shaping the future, and (3) identified actions to overcome constraints and amplify positive trends. Garima Sharma (Georgia State University) and Tima Bansal (NBS) facilitated the process.

See the actions they envisioned in these slides. The download outlines a summary of the main themes that groups highlighted in their collaborative “Jamboards”, by NBS staffer Abby Litchfield.

Breakout Sessions: Building Sustainability in Business Schools

Business school sustainability centres engage in research, teaching, outreach, and administration — all with the goal of creating a sustainable transformation.

In 12 breakout sessions, Sustainability Centre Community members addressed different ways that centres can have impact. Each session page features a description of the focus, a video of the conversation, and organizer biographies. A playlist of the session videos is available on the NBS YouTube channel.

Workshop Reflection, from NBS Founder Tima Bansal

The 2021 NBS Sustainability Centres Workshop was a huge success. Co-hosted with FH Wien and WU, we sought to energize our community members. And, I believe we did.

We did not dwell on the problems we face, as we too often do. Instead, we as centre directors looked forward to the future – the future we wanted to create with business schools playing a positive role in society. The discussion was nothing short of inspirational.

Then, we moved into the hard work of how we could move towards that desirable future. What a delight to sit around the virtual conference table, imagining what could be and figuring out how to create it. I do hope you enjoy the materials that we assembled from our plenary discussions and the breakouts that focused on topics that were salient to our community members. This year’s sustainability centre’s workshop happened with the pandemic raging around us, so we held it online. The organizing team worked hard to ensure that the event was engaging and personal, while also addressing the ‘hard and real work’ of managing a sustainability centre.

Ultimately, it was a great demonstration of NBS’s goal of bringing together the communities of research and practice to make our desired future a reality.

Our Sponsors

We thank our generous sponsors: MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, City of Vienna, Harvard Business School Business and Environment Initiative, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at University of Michigan, Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation at the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.

We appreciate the input of the SCC Advisory Committee:

  • Pilar Acosta; Kairos Observatory for corporate sustainability (part of school of management), Universidad Icesi, Colombia

  • Yury E Blagov; PwC Center for CSR, Graduate School of Management at St. Petersburg University, Russia

  • Xuanwei Cao; Centre for Responsible and Sustainable Business Education (RSBE), International Business School Suzhou of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China

  • Rumina Dhalla; Sustainable Commerce @ Guelph (currently in the process of establishing Institute for Sustainable Organizations). Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, University of Guelph, Canada

  • Noa Gafni; Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation, Rutgers Business School, United States

  • Jouni K. Juntunen; Sustainability in Business (SUB) at Aalto University School of Business, Finland

  • Daniela Ortiz; Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainable Strategy, FHWien University of Applied Sciences for Management & Communication, Austria

  • Zehra Waheed; Centre for Business and Society, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan

  • Klaus Weber; Kellogg Public Private Initiative, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, United States

  • Melissa Zaksek; Erb Institute, University of Michigan, United States

  • Milda Zilinskaite; Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR), Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

About NBS and the SCC

Hundreds of sustainability centres at business schools around the world are dedicated to helping create a more sustainable business model. These centres teach, conduct research, and work with industry to make social and environmental change. The Sustainability Centres Community (SCC) launched in 2012 in response to the need for greater centre collaboration and for an online platform to facilitate collaboration. NBS manages the SCC. If your centre has not already joined, we invite you to be part of the community.

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  • Lexi Wright

    Lexi Wright is an Associate for the Network for Business Sustainability and Centre for Building Sustainable Value. At NBS, Lexi's focus is on web management, event planning, and network coordination. She is passionate about bringing sustainability to the center of business education in the near future.

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