Dr Sustainable http://www.drsustainable.com Sustainability, Academia and Life... Sat, 18 Mar 2017 21:00:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 59563945 The Responsible Management Curriculum Tree http://www.drsustainable.com/the-responsible-management-curriculum-tree/ Wed, 07 Oct 2015 09:17:40 +0000 http://www.drsustainable.com/?p=1157 Screenshot 2015-08-24 20.48.52

This post originally appeared on CSRWire.com

The world is changing rapidly and new demands face business leaders to deal with the planet and environment more sustainably, to deal with the numerous societies their organisations operate in more equitably and with greater cultural understanding, and to be more open, transparent and responsible with respect to their stakeholders. Recent events such as the credit and banking crisis alongside a seemingly regular stream of corporate scandals have led to renewed debate as to the legitimate nature and purpose of business in society. However It is also important to recognise that business represents the predominant productive resource of the economy providing financial and human resources, infrastructure, innovation and technology: thus sustainable development cannot be achieved without the support of business. 

Many are now calling for a new approach from the people who manage and run businesses away from the profit orientated exploitative business practices of the past, towards a new model of ‘responsible management’. Accordingly attention has turned to whether current management education is adequate to equip and develop future leaders with the requisite skills to meet changing business and societal demands. This, coupled with the fact that business school education continues to grow in popularity amongst both undergraduate and postgraduate students, has put pressure on higher education institutions to ensure that graduates leave with the skills, knowledge and values associated with responsible management.

As business re-examines its role in society, business schools must also examine their contribution and thus the range and depth of responsible management topics within the teaching curricula. Despite much research activity in topics such as business ethics and corporate social responsibility and increasing interest in responsible management education driven by initiatives such as the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (UN PRME), holistic integration of such issues into undergraduate business school curricula remains rare. This is why many business schools are undertaking programmes to realign their curriculum, research and engagement activities around the core concept of responsible management and increase the range and depth of responsible management topics.

My own developing contribution to this agenda is the Responsible Management Curriculum Tree, a conceptual framework which seeks to set out a blueprint for business school curriculum design that integrates learning, teaching and assessment strategies that engage students of all disciplines with the PRME and responsible management agenda. The framework is built on the premise that sustainability and responsible management topics can function to build a bridge across disciplines and integrate the business curriculum as a whole by promoting holistic understanding and systemic thinking. The curriculum tree seeks to operationalise and embed the PRME and UN Global Compact principles into undergraduate business curricula as it is at this level that student numbers are increasing rapidly and thus a greater number of students may be reached than at postgraduate level.

The key to the framework is that it seeks to integrate with and complement existing curriculum structures that have evolved within business schools over many years. The analogy of the tree is useful and it provides multiple metaphor for explaining the relationships between business and society, whilst allowing for the articulation of core concepts and addressing discipline specific issues.

The Responsible Management Curriculum Tree

The Responsible Management Curriculum Tree

The framework is broken down into four main levels which represent elements of the tree: the Roots, Trunk, Branches and Leaves. The roots of the curriculum tree represent grounding, impact, history and connectivity. It is here that the role of business in society can be articulated and critiqued. Here the dominant shareholder value perspective held by many students arriving in the business school is challenged. They are exposed to a range of different perspectives and encouraged to think critically about the relationship between business and society. Here the prevailing context is why  business exists, as well as why are the challenges that society faces relevant to business and the role of business in creating, but also solving these problems.

The Trunk represents core concepts, strength, dependability and theory. Here the principles and norms of business can be examined and critiqued. The focus is on what business does, how it operates, the functional hard and soft skills that managers and leaders require day to day. Students are challenged to articulate what responsible management looks like across a range of business and management job roles, functions and departments. For example, what is the role of the Human Resources Department of an organisation from a responsible management perspective?

The branches of the tree allow for range and breadth, the exploration of multiple pathways, and discipline specific issues. Here the focus may be on how do, and how should business disciplines and functions deal with responsible management. For example, how are material sustainability risks identified, examined and addressed in business Strategy or Operations. Students are challenged to design strategic responses to a range of sustainability and societal challenges.

Finally the leaves of the tree represent innovation, new opportunity and future developments. Here the focus is on where are the opportunities for business and where will business sit in relation to society in the future. Students can be challenged to imagine new business models for sustainable development, responsible innovation pathways and social business.

I am not suggesting that this concept is perfect and can solve the problem of integrating sustainability issues into business school programmes, and it represents a work in progress, however we desperately need innovative solutions and new approaches to inspire a new generation of business leaders to solve some of the problems that current and past generations have left for them.

Conference Report: Leading Wellbeing Research Festival. http://www.drsustainable.com/conference-report-leading-wellbeing-research-festival/ Mon, 10 Aug 2015 08:00:10 +0000 http://www.drsustainable.com/?p=1138 Jon Alexander

In the final instalment of my ‘What I did last summer’ conference reports which previously saw me winning an award and dancing on the banks of the river in Warsaw, and attending the UN in New York, I offer some feedback and insight on the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival which took place towards the end of July at Brathay Hall in the UK’s Lake District. The ‘conference’ was one of the most deeply inspirational that I have attended mainly due to the mix of academic presentations and practitioner workshops, plenary sessions and keynotes from an eclectic mix of speakers, all combined with the chance to practice Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, Circus skills and a range of other activities not usually found at a research conference.

The 3 day event organised by the University of Cumbria’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) and the Brathay Trust was attended by over 200 people from more than 20 countries interested in exploring new approaches to leadership for wellbeing and sustainability. Set in the beautiful landscape of Ambleside in the UK’s Lake District the event combined academic paper sessions, practitioner workshops and a range of reflective and creative activities.

On arrival we were immediately treated to a fantastic lunch and took the opportunity to check out the venue which was a mixture of rooms set in the Georgian Mansion that is Brathay Hall, a large marquee tent and a collection of smaller tents and a yurt. The first keynote speaker was Charles Eisenstein the progressive author and public speaker, and self-described “degrowth activist”. His thoughts on the nature of leadership and success inspired a thoughtful panel discussion and audience debate on the role of culture change in organisations and society in general. The panel was moderated by Jo Confino until recently executive editor of the Guardian and chairman and editorial director of Guardian Sustainable Business having left to join the Huffington Post as Executive Editor of their new Impact & Innovation department, which covers Business, Technology, Impact, Science and Green verticals. Jo also gave the dinner speech at the event.


The panel in deep discussion

There were many other key speakers at the event and many further panel discussions alongside smaller ‘in conversation’ sessions where topics such as ‘personal burnout’, ‘woman’s leadership’ and ‘agriculture and climate change’. One that I found particularly inspirational was on Activist Leadership with Jen Robinson, human rights lawyer and Director of Legal Advocacy for the Bertha Foundation and lawyer to Julian Assange. Here Jen discussed what activist leadership looked like, what tactics activists use and the Bertha Foundations mission to support activism to support change. A short video that provides a taster of some of the speakers is available below and videos of the plenary sessions can be found here.

The event was an academic conference of sorts and as such included over 40 research papers which were presented over a series of dedicated sessions throughout the programme. The topics were as diverse as ‘The wellbeing of plankton’ through to ‘The Psychology of Sustainability through Mutual Credit’, My own paper was titled The Natural Cycle of Leadership: Practicing Self Sustainability for Leadership Development and I will be developing this into a full paper for submission to a special issue of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal (SAMPJ). A full list of papers and abstracts is available here along with some of the extended papers.

Alongside the academic work and ‘buzz sessions’, there was a wide range of reflective activities such as meditation, tai chi and yoga alongside workshops on drumming, story telling, creative writing and even learning leadership lessons through dancing the tango. I particularly enjoyed meditating in the yurt with Zeffi Kefala  which reminded me of the need to make time for daily mediation – a practice that I have let lapse of late. I even managed to take the opportunity to brush up on my circus skills as you can see…


I have to say that the event was one of the most inspirational that I have ever attended, and far and away the most interesting academic conference. I have attended many academic conferences over the last few years but i think this is the first one that I have given an academic conference paper ­ without PowerPoint or similar , in my shorts.. ­ but more importantly one that includes yoga, tai chi and meditation alongside conference papers. I found this a timely reminder that as academics and business practitioners we tend to decouple our personal, physical and spiritual well-being from our roles as professionals, leaders, educators and as business people. For me one of the keys to sustainability and sustainable leadership is addressing our own wellbeing alongside that of others.

If you are interested in issues related to leadership, wellbeing and sustainability you there is a community of like-minded people who attended the conference on Facebook and LinkedIn. A reunion event is planned for April 2016 as part of a Spring School in Sustainable Leadership.

Conference Report: Global Forum for Responsible Management Education http://www.drsustainable.com/conference-report-global-forum-for-responsible-management-education/ Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:38:49 +0000 http://www.drsustainable.com/?p=1087 Photographs from the UN Global Compact meeting 2015

Photographs from the UN Global Compact meeting 2015

This post continues the “what I did this summer” series following on from my EURAM Conference Report. At the end of June I was privileged to get the opportunity to take part in the 2015 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education in New York. The event brought together business and management educators from around the world to help shape the path of sustainable and responsible management education for the coming years. Highlights of the trip included the sight of 400 business school leaders meditating, meeting some academic heroes and the stunning views across Manhattan…

For those who have not come across the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative of the United Nations, it is a relationship between the United Nations and business schools globally which seeks to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally. The initiative focusses on Six Principles of PRME inspired by internationally accepted values, such as the United Nations Global Compact’s Ten Principles for responsible and sustainable business and provides an engagement structure for academic institutions to advance social responsibility through incorporating universal values into curricula and research activities.

Screenshot 2015-07-23 17.22.49One of the main reasons I was recruited into the main institution I work for, Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University, was to manage our PRME project, gain PRME accreditation and oversee the development of programme curricula in this area. We achieved PRME accreditation in November 2014 and are now well on the way to becoming a much more responsible and sustainable business school.


Clearly deep in conversation!

The United Nations Global Compact convened the 2015 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education – 6th PRME Assembly alongside its Global Compact+15: Business as a force for good programme. The aim of attending the event was to join fellow business school academics and leaders in shaping the path for management education and business to take on a key leading role in shaping and achieving the global development agenda. The cohort comprised nearly 400 leaders of responsible management education and business, including deans, university presidents, professors, business school accreditation bodies and regional associations, students, as well as representatives from the UN, government, civil society, and corporate sustainability thought leaders. The result was a fascinating few days of debate, planning, knowledge sharing and networking.

The event was held on the top floor of Chase Plaza, New York, a stones throw from Wall Street and the US Stock Market. In many ways this was rather an opulent setting, and a little unsettling, however it did serve in my mind to remind us of the power that business has and as such the potential for business to develop and deliver solutions to the grand sustainability challenges that the world is currently facing – IF we can change the conception of business in the minds of leaders, managers and students, the aim of the PRME initiative. The venue also provided stunning views over Manhattan.


There were many workshops during the event alongside plenary sessions and talks from the keynote speakers, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, ex-chairman of Royal Dutch Shell and a director of HSBC Holdings and of Accenture (an interesting choice as a champion of responsible business perhaps) and Susana Malcorra – Chef de Cabinet (Chief of Staff) to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. One of the highlights of the event was the ‘Visioning’ session facilitated by Dr. Katrin Muff, Dean of Business School Lausanne. She managed successfully to persuade 400 senior professors, deans and business leaders to close their eyes and meditate as a means to ‘vision’ the business school of the future. As a proponent of meditation myself I was delighted to peep my eyes open and find the majority of the room complying. My own personal vision was of a ‘Montessori‘ style Business School that incorporated environment, nature and a free thinking style into professional education. More on that in a later post…

Whist the event was a lot of fun, as was checking out New York City, there was some serious business to be done. During the two days we:

  1. Identified major global trends for 2015-2030, including the role of business and management education in responding to the proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  2. Engaged in interactive discussion, share good practices, and connect with peers and key stakeholders, including company representatives, to generate solutions and opportunities for responsible management education.
  3. Shaped a roadmap for how business and management education can leverage engagement through PRME to be leaders, building on active projects and outcomes from past PRME Global Fora and Summits.

You can see the results of the forum here: Outcome Statement.

Overall the experience was humbling, inspirational and highly motivational and I returned to the UK ready to take on the world and with a deep commitment to business, and business school reform…

If anyone else has experience of the UN PRME initiative or the Global Compact let me know in the comments!

Conference Report: European Academy of Management (EURAM) Warsaw 2015 http://www.drsustainable.com/conference-report-european-academy-of-management-euram-warsaw-2015/ http://www.drsustainable.com/conference-report-european-academy-of-management-euram-warsaw-2015/#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 08:00:13 +0000 http://www.drsustainable.com/?p=1026 EURAM 2015It’s that time of year when many academics leave the safe confines of their ivory towers and travel out to conferences to share their latest ideas and work with colleagues at various academic conferences. I have just returned from over three weeks worth of trips to three very different conferences in three very different countries. First up was the annual European Academy of Management (EURAM) Conference, held this year at Kozminski University in the capital of Poland, Warsaw between Wednesday 17th and Sat 29th June. 

Highlights of the conference for me were winning an award for our paper, hearing from a Nobel Laureate and ex President, and an awesome party on the banks of the Vistula river…

This was my first trip both to a European Academy of Management (EURAM) conference and Poland itself. If you have not come across EURAM, it is a professional community of engaged management scholars and reflective practitioners with the aim of facilitating open, inclusive, international and cross-cultural academic discourse. The EURAM website states that “the academy places a strong emphasis on multidisciplinary theoretical perspectives and methodological pluralism, and promotes critical examinations of the historical and philosophical roots of management theory and praxis, and that it aims to enhance the quality of research, improve its relevance for responsible and effective practice and contribute to the social and political discourse on management”. Faced with that rather dense, and slightly intimidating set of academic words and statements I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a welcoming set of people from all over the world with the common purpose of wanting to improve the management profession.

Like many similar large conferences such as the Academy of Management (AoM) in the US and the British Academy of Management (BAM) in the UK, the conference is divided into Special Interest Groups (SIGs). This system allows for the more efficient creation of a community of ideologically or discipline related scholars and colleagues can either stick along this conference track or dip in and out of different groups. The paper we authored was allocated to the Business in Society SIG and as a result I spent most of my time in sessions aligned to this group and attended SIG meetings and a the SIG social on the first night of the conference. Despite my initial nervousness as to how I might find the conference, the whole event was extremely welcoming and this particular SIG especially so. I also ran into a friend from another conference last year and made some new ones.

Scan 5 Jul 2015 18.19

We won an award…

The paper that I presented was written my myself and my colleague at Northumbria University, Robert Moehler. It was titled Responsible Business Model Innovation: Reconceptualising the role of business in society” and in it we argue that the concept of ‘Responsible Innovation’ has predominantly been applied from a technocentric perspective at the level of product and service thus maintaining the current paradigm that business’s primary role is to create economic value through profit. We developed this argument to suggest that truly responsible innovation takes place at the level of the business model itself as a means to reconceptualize the fundamental role of business in society. I am very pleased to say that the paper was well received and won a “Most Inspirational” paper in the SIG whilst also being nominated for the overall conference “Most Inspirational Paper” award which we unfortunately did not come away with, but hey – ill take the SIG award any day! We are currently developing the paper into a Journal article to be published next year.

The conference was hosted at Kozminski University, a private, non profit business school in Warsaw, Poland. Considered Poland’s highest rated private university, it was established in 1993 and named after Leon Koźmiński, a Polish professor of economics and entrepreneurship, and also the father of Andrzej Koźmiński – the founder and the first rector of the school. It is one of the top business schools in the world recognised by their triple crown accreditation from EFMD, AMBA and the AACSB. The University were excellent hosts and the conference was very well organised. The key-note speaker on the first day was the Nobel Peace Price Laureate, former President of Poland, trade-union organizer, philanthropist and human-rights activist, Lech Wałęsa who gave a charismatic, humorous and thought-provoking speech focussing on the responsibility of business as a force for good – a key interest of mine and this blog. The second Key Note speaker was Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. She gave a very different key-note to Wałęsa but just as inspiring as she set out the business model of the non-profit Wikimedia and the challenges for educating the more connected and technologically adept student of the future.


Lech Walesa


Lila Tretikov











Finally it has to be said that this cohort at the EURAM 2016 conference know how to party! The climax of the event was a party held at the National Stadium, Warsaw which saw some serious eating, drinking and dancing, all in the name of building closer academic relationships ;). Some of us carried on the party afterwards in the outdoor clubs on the beach along the shores of the river Vistula..


Friends old and new


Partying on the beach







All in all the EURAM 2015 conference was a fantastic event and one that was very productive both in terms of learning, receipt of prizes, opportunities for further work and publications, and perhaps most importantly connections and friendships made. I can highly recommend the EURAM conferences to anybody interested in management or business related topics and I am looking forward to EURAM 2016 which is to be held in Paris at the Univeristy Paris-Est Creteil (UPEC) on the topic of ‘Manageable Cooperation’.

Were you at EURAM 2015? if so let me know and share your experiences in the comments below!

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