Our new Director for Social Responsibility Eva Niesten outlines her vision for the role.
Eva Niesten has long held a passion for helping to protect the environment and promoting sustainable behaviour.
Indeed to prove the point, when we meet for a coffee she observes that the café has served the drink in a compostable cup. “It’s all very well serving the drink in a compostable cup, but there is no compostable store to put the cup in afterwards. Why are we buying these cups if there is nowhere to compost them?”
She says it’s just one small, yet perfect, example of the need for more joined-up thinking. “In other countries across Europe, such as the Netherlands where I am from, you see sustainability everywhere, but that isn’t the case here in the UK. The UK needs to find more consensus and agreement to find solutions to environmental issues.”
An economist by background, Dr Niesten’s interest in sustainability was first sparked by her studies into the deregulation of European energy markets back in 2002. As she explains: “The legislation spawned lots of new, green energy companies and I became very interested in researching these companies because it was clear that they could have a real positive impact on tackling climate change.”
To this day she remains very interested in the growth and performance of these companies, and among her current research areas are how firms in the renewable energy sector collaborate and collectively stimulate environmental sustainability.
For instance she is currently working on a paper with colleagues at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR) on how these companies change their business models over time to remain profitable while also doing good for the environment. “Ultimately if you are a renewable energy company you are creating positive externalities. So the question is how can you make money from doing a good thing for society and for the outside world?”
After being Associate Head of Social Responsibility for the past three years, Dr Niesten has now stepped up to become the school’s Director of Social Responsibility, and is passionate about further embedding ethics and social responsibility across the Business School.
"Further embedding social responsibility into teaching is absolutely crucial. If we are to produce socially responsible graduates then we need to be embedding this throughout degrees and academics need to be incorporating social responsibility throughout their teaching and making it an integral part of their curricula."
A key element of Dr Niesten’s new role will also be overseeing the Business School’s application to become a member of Principles for Responsible Management Education, a United Nations initiative which aims to promote awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and develop responsible business leaders.
As she adds: “The initiative is all about sharing best practice and how you can best implement social responsibility into the curriculum. At Alliance MBS we have a large number of academics who are already very active in this area and we want to communicate more widely to the outside world about the work we are doing."
As part of that drive Dr Niesten, who is already a coordinator of an MSc course unit on Sustainability and Social Responsibility, is looking to bring together academics and researchers from across the School for a social responsibility conference to share their research. “Social responsibility is very inter-disciplinary and academics have much to learn from each other.”