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UN's sustainable development goals assessed at ABIS

The colloquium, hosted in Brussels, focused on “Leadership for a Sustainable Future: Business-Academic Collaboration on the UN SDGs for Long-Term Success.”

School Director of Social Responsibility Ismail Erturk joined an interactive session on “Redefining Curricula for the UN SDG Era” to discuss how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can be integrated into business school programmes. Ismail presented the University of Manchester’s Goal 3 agenda and how Alliance MBS promotes and supports social responsibility (SR) in research and teaching on its programmes through various initiatives and funds. 

He argued that a university-wide commitment and framework and a long-term strategy in SR on business school programmes can create an academic ecology for SR in the curricula to flourish.  

Ismail was joined at the session by Claire Preisser, Associate Director, Aspen Institute Business and Society Programme and Michel Bande, Senior Executive VP at the Belgian chemicals company Solvay.

Eva Niesten of the School's Social Responsibility committee and Paul Dewick from the PMO division who is collaborating with a network of business schools under ABIS framework for research funding also attended the conference. 

The colloquium included presentations by the heads of sustainability, innovation and strategy, and responsible investments of several large multinationals, including Nestlé, Unilever, Philips, ING, BASF and Solvay.

The companies reflected on their implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and what academic research can contribute to their knowledge of the SDGs. In panel discussions and interactive sessions between business and academia, a recurring theme was that research should focus on the interaction or trade-offs between the 17 different SDGs. For instance, if we focus on SDG 7 ‘clean energy’ and SDG 13 ‘climate action’, what are then the positive or negative effects on SDG 2 ‘zero hunger’ or SDG 10 ‘reduced inequalities’?

Business strategies that address some of the UN’s sustainable development goals should not have unintended negative consequences for other sustainable goals. Several business partners of ABIS also proposed that more research is needed on new metrics for determining the environmental and social impact of business activities.

Other sessions addressed changes in business schools that can improve education and learning by incorporating the sustainable development goals. One session was devoted to playing a serious game developed by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. This game, called the Scenario Exploration System, is a simulation tool that allows participants to collaboratively develop scenarios for a more sustainable future and can be implemented in an educational context.