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Local Action

We aim to inspire more business students to take action within their universities and be active agents of positive change. It is relevant for both students in business schools that don’t have an active student organization on sustainable business, and for already existing student organizations who want to learn about best practices.

Student organizations are a key component of bringing change to business schools. We hope to see one in each one of Canada’s business schools in the next three years.

a student organization...

an existing organization...

 for change on business education...

This is the story of our organizations and the helping hand for that story to become yours too!

 

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START

How to get a sustainability organization started at your business school!

Define Your Missions.

Before taking action, you need to clearly define what are you are aiming to achieve! Here is a list of general missions that most of our council member organizations share…

Educate

Inspire

Connect

Formal education failed youth on many topics within sustainable business. However, our best hope to mainstream sustainable business practices and ensure a faster transition is to work on changing what we are being taught in universities. And youth is key to this change, especially because we don't want change for us, without us! 

 

Business schools are creating some of tomorrow’s leaders, but they often are not equipping them enough with the adequate knowledge of how much sustainability is already being integrated in business, how it will grow significantly over the next few years, and how we can help concretely this transition. 

Your organization could help educate the next generation through two complementary types of initiatives: 

  1. Events which allow the transfer of knowledge from leaders to the next generation of change makers and train the latter. 

  2. Advocating for more education on sustainability through courses by working directly with professors and faculty leadership. 

Both types of initiatives should not only have the aim to educate, but also get students to think critically by questioning paradigms and challenge complex issues. 

Recruit and Lead Your Team.

Once you have an idea of your purpose, get the right people to fulfill it with you! The way you recruit and lead people will be central to your impact so take the time to pause and reflect before taking the next steps…

Recruiting

Brainstorming

Leadership

Consider having two Co-Presidents as it will allow you to split portfolios and have more projects, or one President with one formal Vice-President or two people supporting them more informally (right and left arm). .

List of questions to ask your interviewees:

  • What are your ideas for this organization?

  • How reliable are you? Illustrate through an example with your friends, and another one with former implications/projects/work 

  • How much initiative do you naturally take? Illustrate through times where you went above and beyond the call of duty. 

  • To show intellectual curiosity: What is the last topic related to sustainable business you have researched on? How did you research about it? 

  • What are your biggest strengths?

  • Why do you care about sustainability and why do you think our organization has an important role to play about it?  

  • To show humility and willingness to grow: What is a weakness that you would like to work on, on the next year?

  • What type of role do you usually play in teams? There is no right or wrong answer, but it is essential to ensure a good complementarity of your team. See the DiSC framework to assess the personalities of your team.

  • Ask situational questions about problem solving and crisis management.

“Why is this framework so powerful?”

 

Regenerative Capitalism helps to understand that we as a society need to be much more ambitious than most of our current plans if we want to tackle the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. One very easy way to realize this is by looking at “Earth Overshoot Day”. This is the day of the year by which we will have consumed the maximum amount of resources that our ecosystems can support. In 1970, that date was the 29th of December. Today, it’s the 29th of July, almost half a year less. Achieving carbon neutrality and zero waste would allow us to stabilize that overshoot day. 

The problem: we cannot settle for stabilizing this date. We need to push it back, to regenerate both the ecosystems that we have been overexploiting for too long, as well as our society which is at the brink of rupture with the current levels of inequalities. 

The framework allows you to go from the traditional sustainable business approach (which still suffers a lot from the neoliberal economic paradigm) into hard hitting questions like systemic inequality, doughnut economics, degrowth, the central role of indigenous knowledge, and many more. It allows any organization/project to ensure it is not perpetuating issues through its work but getting to the root cause of the problem by achieving systemic change.

 

For a quick introduction, read both the Executive Summary and this article that summarize the framework. The full version of the paper combines plenty of thoughts from cutting-edge research & experience in sustainability into one framework of 8 principles that are easy to apply. 

“How do we use this framework?” 

 

The framework’s 8 principles serve as building blocks to guide the discussion. Your goal is to translate each principle into different actions, whether they be an event, an initiative, an internal process, or a different approach to sustainability & sustainable business in general. 

 

If you already have an organization with existing initiatives, consider assessing your past, present and future approaches to systemic change based on these principles. 

 

To help you, we created a thorough user guide with questions to ask your team to get the conversation rolling. This guide also has plenty of examples of concrete initiatives to help you go from abstract principles to transformational actions. 

For example, this is an excerpt from Principle #4: Empowered Participation: 

“How can we get people to think about certain hard-hitting topics instead of just educating them about it?”

“For example: interactive workshops that create practical skills and get people thinking about complex topics (e.g. the role of taxes, social INTRApreneurship, decolonizing businesses, etc.)”

 

You can find the full guide here


Do you want additional questions that you may find helpful to moderate a brainstorming session? Click here for another thorough list of questions. However, these do not replace the use of a full framework like the one above!

 

You can find a list of questions to help guide the use of the Regenerative Capitalism framework here, along with many examples to help guide your thinking. Additional questions which can be helpful to moderate a brainstorming session (but cannot replace the use of a full framework like the previous one) are here.

“Why do we want Co-Creation in our organization?”

 

Not only does this approach lead to better results and ideas, it also empowers individuals within organizations and makes them much happier, more productive, and more aligned. Your organization will probably face some issues with regards to internal processes, where too much ideation happens top-down and your team will be siloed. There will be a lack of co-creation and people will not feel empowered. This framework can play a crucial role in allowing you to understand how to make the change towards true co-creation and decolonizing your own thinking as leaders. 

 

“How do we use this framework?”

 

First, you can start by sharing this quick summary of the full framework with your team. Then, you can have conversations with your team and use our complete user guide with questions to guide the thinking and examples of processes and initiatives to help you go from abstract principles to concrete actions. 

For example, this is an excerpt from Practice 1: Share Power

“How do we accommodate for different levels of experience and knowledge, and allow everyone to get what they want out of their involvement with the organization?”

“For example: Intellectual conversations (every member shares interesting resources about a topic in Sustainability they are passionate about and they host a conversation with people who want to learn more)”

 

You can find the full guide here

Your leadership and management style should ideally be adapted to each person and project. Certain projects and people might require more of your implication than others as they might not have naturally the instinct to take initiative, innovate, and be responsible enough. Other Execs might need more freedom to innovate. 

Make sure to regularly ask individual feedback and constructive criticism from your Execs.

 

Questions can include: 

  • Do you feel like your potential is being fully exploited? 

  • Have you felt empowered through this organization? 

  • What is your involvement with this organization bringing you? 

  • Have I made you feel uncomfortable at any point? 

  • More resources on giving and receiving effective feedback:

GROW

You've gotten an organization together. Now take the next steps to having an impact!

 

Define a List of Initiatives You Could Organize.

It is not simply about what impact you want to create, but how you will create it! Explore collective knowledge on best initiatives from years of experience from our council member organizations…

Inspire

Educate

Connect

Inspire students to discover concrete opportunities in the field for themselves

  • ​​​An annual large conference allows you to invite important industry leaders and organize recruiting sessions which inspire students to dedicate their careers to sustainability

  • Organizing industry-specific events allows you to focus on one industry and go more in-depth through various formats of sessions (panels, keynotes, workshops). This is a great opportunity to give a concrete idea of what an industry looks like and convince even people who are not knowledgeable. Indeed, having more in-depth content allows to shed light on industries which are not being taught in traditional business classes

  • Event on career paths in sustainability to showcase the diversity of career paths with a business background and a passion for sustainability. Don’t forget to promote opportunities in various sectors and industries

Click         to read more.

2. Advocating for more education on sustainability through courses by working directly with professors and faculty leadership. 

To mainstream sustainable business practices and ensure a faster transition, we
must tackle the root of the problem: education! 
While it is important to create alternative ways of learning, such as organizing
events and other student initiatives, we should not forget that also working with
our faculty to change what is being taught in our courses is the only way for our
organizations to have a truly systemic approach to change.
Please refer to the following category entitled “ADVOCATE for change on business
education on sustainability” to learn about best practices.

3. Monthly workshops on practical skills

  • Give people things they can actually put on their resume and talk about in interviews (helps to get hired in recession and gives necessary connections) 

  • Topics can include: How to become a social INTRApreneur, How to create Regenerative & Blue Economy Business Models, Impact Measurement & Management, Impact Investing, ESG Screening of investments, Decolonizing Business & Indigenous knowledge for Sustainability 

 

4. Debate Series to promote critical thinking 

  • Debates allow to get students to think critically about various perspectives on hard-hitting topics like “The role of taxes in sustainable business”, “Divestment & re-investment”, “Degrowth & Agrowth approach”, and more. 

  • Have note-takers to create a quick report from key insights to spread within your faculty after the event to mainstream these conversations.  

  • Do not limit yourself to the most “digestible” and least “political” topics! You can use the Regenerative Capitalism framework (discussed under the “Brainstorming” section) to come up with concrete topics that fit your organization. 

  • Work with your faculty’s Career Services to make sure they promote the importance of having an education in sustainability when being recruited. Career Services can also play a key role at communicating with HR departments from companies, to build new relationships with sustainability-driven companies and also push companies to promote the fact that understanding sustainability is a competitive advantage when applying to jobs

 

Inspire students to take a more proactive and a leadership role within different environments to bring awareness of sustainability challenges and opportunities

  • Create an online “Community Group” where your organization can foster a culture of sustainable business thinking and behaviour, supporting students in enhancing their knowledge by sharing articles but also share jobs and events from the local community

  • Promote concrete and creative actions accessible to everyone. In partnership with the university, you can play a pivotal role in implementing new initiatives on campus such as composting, awareness campaigns on waste management, an urban agriculture project on campus to exchange and reflect on food & biodiversity issues

 

Inspire students from non-management faculties to explore the business case for sustainability and apply it to their future careers. 

3. Students to industry leaders: 

Complementary events can be small networking events where students have higher chances to meet professionals, or larger networking cocktails during conferences or seminars. 

 

4. Student organizations to each other: 

  • University-wide Sustainability Mixers allows you to gather all your university’s sustainability-related organizations to build bridges between faculties and recognize that business students won’t tackle sustainability challenges on their own, especially after university, so you need to start engaging more in cross-disciplinary discussions and projects. These Mixers can lead to cross-faculty initiatives such as cross-disciplinary events, campus-wide events on sustainable development, but also a more institutionalized cross-campus council to unite university groups dedicated to sustainability and make their voices much louder. 

  • City-wide Sustainability Mixers to gather all of your city’s sustainable business student organizations to build bridges between universities and create a bigger and stronger movement. These Mixers can lead to cross-university events such as the Montreal Youth Summit on Sustainable Business, Canada’s largest youth conference on the topic with over 500 participants and 45 speakers in two days. 

 

If you want to know more about specific initiatives, the challenges some organizations faced and how they solved them, please email info@businessyouthcouncil.ca or message the council member organization’s Facebook page with a specific initiative you would like to replicate.

Learn from Others' Challenges.

The more you put in (Co-president or your VPs), the more the execs respect you and are willing to go the extra mile as well 

Relationship with Stakeholders

Leadership Challenges

Within Your

Portfolio

Faculty’s Alumni Office

  • This office can be particularly resourceful as they might know alumni who are currently working in sustainability and who could be great contacts to build your network of local industry leaders. Alumni Offices also often know wealthy individuals who could be interested in supporting financially some of your initiatives. By having a set of serious and meaningful initiatives, you allow the Alumni Office to showcase what current students are doing which allows it to build stronger relationships with alumni. It’s a win-win situation! However, you need to be particularly professional as the faculty’s reputation is at stake. Keep the Alumni Office updated of every big move you make and make sure they feel like you are very reliable.   

Click          to read more about relationship with stakeholders.

Empower Your Team

An incredibly powerful framework for positive impact leadership is the Breakout Innovation Framework. 

Organizations love saying they co-create and they share power when they actually don’t. They either do it for show or do it genuinely, but in the wrong ways. This paper gives an easy to use framework to ensure actual co-creation within a team.

 

“Why do we want Co-Creation in our organization?”

 

Not only does this approach lead to better results and ideas, it also empowers individuals within organizations and makes them much happier, more productive, and more aligned. Your organization will probably face some issues with regards to internal processes, where too much ideation happens top-down and your team will be siloed. There will be a lack of co-creation and people will not feel empowered. This framework can play a crucial role in allowing you to understand how to make the change towards true co-creation and decolonizing your own thinking as leaders. 

 

“How do we use this framework?”

 

First, you can start by sharing this quick summary of the full framework with your team. Then, you can have conversations with your team and use our complete user guide with questions to guide the thinking and examples of processes and initiatives to help you go from abstract principles to concrete actions. 

For example, this is an excerpt from Practice 1: Share Power

“How do we accommodate for different levels of experience and knowledge, and allow everyone to get what they want out of their involvement with the organization?”

“For example: Intellectual conversations (every member shares interesting resources about a topic in Sustainability they are passionate about and they host a conversation with people who want to learn more)”


You can find the full guide here.

Create accountability

  • Small teams are more effective than larger ones; consider having groups of 2-5 per event/project/initiative. More specialized functional roles (e.g. finance, marketing) will likely need to work with all the groups. 

  • Trust should be given, not earned. However, it is fragile.  

  • Create clear expectations around showing up prepared and on time for meetings. Define the purpose and objectives of the meeting and finish on time. Make sure everyone feels their limited time and energy is being put to good use. Lead by example, and keep everyone accountable.

 

 Building a reputation and a brand image

  • Can every internal member of your organization articulate why you exist, what you do, and why? Can external stakeholders do this? Clarity and coherence between mission, theory of change, and strategy is essential. 

  • Consider who your target audience is: are you only catering to the niche who are already 100% on board with sustainability or are you engaging with a broader, mainstream audience? 

  • Be strategically political. Recognize that sustainability is a political issue. Lead with your values. Don’t water down your commitments to fit other people’s paradigm. For more: read Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lankoff and watch to the Pricing of Everything by George Mombiot on YouTube. 

  • The members of your team are your brand ambassadors. Make them excited to be a part of your organization and of your vision, and they will make people around them excited as well. Moreover, word will get out that your organization is the best place to work, and you will attract the most competent and passionate students for recruitment.

Faculty’s Career Services

  • You might face Career Advisors who are not too knowledgeable about sustainability, some who are not even aware of the amazing opportunities that exist within this field. Depending on where they are, you can adapt your pitch and arguments. Show them the growing importance of sustainability in business and the lack of job promotion in this field. 

 

Faculty’s Leadership

  • Even if you are frustrated by the lack of work on sustainability by your faculty’s leadership, try to formulate your critic in a constructive way that includes a recognition of what has been done and a lot of respect. You want to make sure they understand that your faculty is far from where it could and should be by talking about both the responsibility and opportunity they have in taking more leadership on sustainability. But you always want to make sure they don’t feel frustrated by your request by showing them that you understand their challenges and all the work they have done in the past.

 

Faculty Professors 

  • It is important to reach out to professors, especially those that have a genuine interest in sustainability. They often have an extensive network. However, you need to maintain a positive relationship with them by communicating with them throughout the whole process of creating events, so they feel confident about sharing their network with you.

  • Example of challenge faced: many times professors will have busy schedules and have a set amount of time that they set aside for meetings with students. It is best to do your due diligence and plan the meeting with the professor ahead of time in order to come up with the best questions that will meet the goals that were set before going into the meeting. Coming up with direct and answerable questions that are less open ended can be helpful, but a variety of question types, be it open ended, specific, advice-based, or something of the like is best. The main thing to keep in mind is that preparation for this important time with faculty professors is essential. 

  • Some professors are still skeptical of sustainability or aren’t ready to teach it. Be careful with spending too much convincing those who are not convinced. Rather identify a few key professors who seem more progressive and work closely with them and others will follow with time. 

  • Keep in mind that professors do not have to work with you- their job is to research and teach and not necessarily to work with student organizations. Keep this in mind and try to appeal to their interests and motivations- this will help ensure that the professor sees the benefit from working with you. 

 

Faculty’s Undergraduate Society 

  • Your faculty’s undergraduate society might play a very large role in the operations of your organization. If so, you risk having to deal with a very bureaucratic process, which does not operate as flexibly as your organization. It is crucial to work with them, and not against them. Speak their language; show them how your organization creates a unique and unmet need for the students. See them as a partner and a tool, not an enemy. 

  • It is also important to play the politics of the undergraduate society in order to advocate for the cause of sustainability. Many other undergraduate majors impart influence on the faculty’s undergraduate society through their student organizations or getting members elected to positions of power. Sustainability must also have a say in this- an operational VP position on the executive council of an organization is not out of the question. 

 

Building a cross-faculty network 

  • Universities are riddled with silos across faculties and within faculties. Creating links between different groups and the leaders of different groups is very difficult. You might get lost, or be faced with incompetent and unmotivated leaders. Make sure to do your research, and identify the common connections and common circles in which these leaders tend to meet. Go to events organized by them, meet them, spend time with them. Get in touch with them and organize get-togethers to have them meet and discuss best practices and goals. 

 

Faculty Sustainability Centre (FSC)

  • You want your work to have a long-term impact so collaborating with your faculty’s sustainability centre can allow you to institutionalize the impact. Take the time to show them how dedicated your organization is and spend time identifying how you can help each other.

  • Often times, the FSC will be a great location to find resources and motivated students who can join your organization and share key information. A challenge that might arise is information silos between the various sustainability organizations on campus, which can only be mitigated by good communication between organizations at the points of overlap. The FSC provides a good example of this.

  • Be responsive from the beginning to show respect for their time. Don’t be afraid to follow up two, three, even five times if you don’t hear back. Just do so with sincerity, frame the engagement as an opportunity, and make it very clear what you’re asking of them. If they’re at all confused by your communication, it’s not their responsibility to figure it out.  

  • Speaker’s experience at an event is paramount. Ensure they are well taken care of. The small things (greeting, showing where to go, providing refreshments, etc.) determine whether they feel that they are being appreciated. Giving them a thank you gift and sending them a follow up email to thank them also goes a very long way. Speakers act as brand ambassadors and will speak about your organization in their circles - making sure they do so in a very positive light will open many doors. 

 

Finance

  • Maintaining clear and consistent communication across team members, the presidents, and our undergraduate society liaisons (Finance and Internal). It is challenging to keep everyone on the same page at the same time, mostly due to the constant back and forth of negotiations required from both sides. This can lead to either one of or both of the presidents and/or the undergraduate society (sometimes even the director of Finance) not being completely up to date. This creates friction and can sometimes lead to what seems like an US vs THEM type of situation, with finance having to be the compromiser between groups. 

 

Logistics 

  • Your director of logistics should have the most insight on the constraints and feasibility of certain suggestions from team members relative to the logistical mandate of your event. However, the challenge is to objectively welcome feedback and listen, not taking anything too personally. It is possible to find oneself even insulted by a team member’s proposition to radically change a logistical parameter that you put effort into defining. Everyone has good and bad ideas for logistics, it is up to you to listen, reverse-engineer, re-evaluate, react, and explain your thought process.

  • Communication between finance and logistics is crucial. It is extremely important to develop processes ahead of time to make sure both are kept in the loop and make decisions accordingly. 

  • Making your events sustainable: research if your school has a sustainability office/department. Do they have guides and fact sheets on hosting sustainable events? For example, the McGill Office of Sustainability offers consultation and resources. Here is a Sustainable Events Certification checklist.

 

Marketing

  • As a new organization you can try to increase your following base by doing giveaways and resorting to posters, postcards, and other traditional marketing material. You also have to get creative with boothing in order to draw students to your booth. 

  • Good marketing requires anticipation. There are many different facets to cover in the execution of promotion of an event or a project, and things can easily get missed. It is therefore crucial to create structures and processes like schedules and documents with all the necessary information on them ahead of time. This allows for straightforward execution of promotion. 

  • Marketing is truly what you make of it. A creative, hungry mind will go above and beyond in finding new and innovative ways to grow the organization and spread its values to the wider public. It is very easy to get caught in the everyday promotion and to forget about the bigger picture. Creating a robust marketing plan outlining the organization’s value proposition, its target audience(s), the channels through which it will be communicating, the offers it will be holding, etc. is an incredibly organized way to outline a direction and to put creative ideas on paper. 

  • An organization’s marketing team works very closely with the design team, but both tend to have different structures and to work at different speeds. Outlining and implementing processes early on to make sure the marketing team gives adequate time for the design team to develop assets and content will ensure promotion gets put out on time. 

 

Design 

  • An organization needs a clear brand image and vision. Working closely with designers to develop this can take lots of time and energy, but tends to make things much faster and homogenous down the line. Working closely with the design team to constantly reiterate this image, as well as bringing in ideas from the entire team will give people a sense of ownership over the image of the organization and create a stronger brand. 

  • Designers tend to get swarmed by last minute requests. To ensure this does not happen, create processes, like having team members fill in a spreadsheet with their requests and due dates, to give designers the time they need to operate. Moreover, make it clear to team members that their requests need to be submitted much earlier than their due date. As design is a creative process, it is not as quickly executable as other kinds of work. However, designers can sometimes go too far in their processes and take too much time with their work. Discussing with designers the key aspects of branding that deserve ample time and the ones that can be quickly executed is useful in making operations fast and efficient. 

 

Academics 

  • Please refer to the following category entitled “Advocate for change on business education on sustainability” to learn about challenges and solutions to counter them.

 

External Relations (to university campus and/or local community of organizations)

  • Collaborating with other organizations can become extremely challenging. Every team has a different structure, works with different levels of rigour, and expects highly different things from each other. Often, organizations will have ample time before the set date of the collaboration, but things take too long, people become unresponsive, and the collaboration gets pushed back. 

  • It is extremely important to perform due diligence on an organization before collaborating with it. Doing research, getting insights from people who have attended their events or projects, and seeing the caliber of their work will give good insights. Once this is done and your first meeting is set up, both teams need to come together and outline clear expectations from each other that are set in writing. This means: who will be taking care of logistics, developing promotional assets, sponsorship, etc. Make sure to discuss financial considerations, including budget allocation and administration with each organization’s governing body (finance can become very tricky to divide). Create a plan with deadlines and phases for performing important tasks, and hold the teams accountable by checking in on them regularly. Something as simple as creating an eventbrite will allow you to get an idea of expected headcount which can be helpful in holding the other organization accountable for promotion. Give yourselves ample time - if the other organization is not pulling its weight, it is better to drop the event altogether than to continue with difficulty. 

 

ADVOCATE

For change in business education on sustainability

To mainstream sustainable business practices and ensure a faster transition, we must tackle the root of the problem: education! 

While it is important to create alternative ways of learning, such as organizing events and other student initiatives, we should not forget that also working with our faculty to change what is being taught in our courses is the only way for our organizations to have a truly systemic approach to change.

Team Structure

Key Stakeholders

What to Ask For

Challenges and solutions

You can create an informal working group, independent from any other initiative, but it is better to create a team within an existing student organization to make sure it’s a sustainable effort, and that you can access enough resources.

Teams should:

-   Be organized to show clear accountability

-   Be small enough so as to remain fluid and flexible

-   Have members with specific tasks and mandates

-   Set attainable goals and timelines

In general, the Academics team should be composed of members with different functions. In many cases, it might be beneficial to divide functions based on the stakeholders with whom the team will interact with. For example, if sustainable finance education is one of the topics your team wants to work on, only one or two members should be in charge of talking with the relevant stakeholders (finance professors, sustainable finance professionals, other university professors, etc.). Optimally, members will be able to build convivial relationships with stakeholders and maintain these throughout time. These relationships allow each team member to represent a different perspective based on the understanding of a different stakeholder. Additionally, having a team with diverse academic backgrounds is a strength as you might want to work on creating sustainability-related courses within different specializations, but also foundational courses on sustainability for all business students.  

Cross-disciplinary learning opportunities: Sustainability challenges are inherently cross-sectorial and cross-disciplinary. You want to make sure that your business education on sustainability includes classes and learning opportunities in other faculties of your university. One example is McGill University’s cross-disciplinary major on sustainable business. 

Case studies on sustainability within traditional business courses: This is the ultimate step to mainstreaming sustainability across the business curriculum as courses specialized on sustainability often impact only a minority of students. Make sure to identify the most progressive professors in various areas of study. Academics can be sometimes very hard to change, and you want to make sure to start with the most visionary ones. Experience showed that aiming at convincing the more conservative professors who are not ready to teach sustainability yet can often be a waste of time and energy. Eventually, they will change by seeing the popularity of sustainability-related courses and case studies taught by their peers.  

One key resource about best practices for business education in sustainability is the Positive Impact Rating Business Schools. Their 2020 Report ranks the best business schools on sustainability in the world and recommends best practices for the future of business education.

oïkos International has a Case Writing Competition encouraging the writing of high-quality cases on sustainability topics that can stimulate innovative teaching and learning experiences. The program aims at giving students the possibility to approach their faculty to start embedding sustainability into curricula through the use of case studies.

The Aspen Institute has a competition for best courses in the world on sustainability called “Ideas Worth Teaching”. The winners make their syllabus available so you can find lots of material to inspire your professors.

The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is a United Nations-supported initiative aiming at bringing more sustainability education in schools around the world, and to equip today's business students with the understanding and ability to deliver change tomorrow. Take the time to explore their website as they have a broad list of inspiring initiatives and resources.

The Students:

This is you. Students are an important part of any school, but they can be hard to mobilize and organize. If you wish to affect students and get them on your side, they must be incentivized and motivated. Appealing to their self-interest via small things such as convincing them that they need more education on sustainability or larger things such as career incentives will help promote your objectives. This is also where you see the importance of having an organization that has an Academics Team while running events. Events can be a great source of inspiration but also of realization about the state of the world and the lack of knowledge about sustainable practices. Students will naturally understand that they need to be taught more about sustainability by attending these events.

The Professors:

Teachers can give important context about how the faculty functions and can give you information that only a person who’s been at the university for more than 5 years can give. Make sure to identify the most progressive professors in various areas of study. Academics can be sometimes very hard to change, and you want to make sure to start with the most visionary ones. Experience showed that aiming at convincing the more conservative professors who are not ready to teach sustainability yet can often be a waste of time and energy. Eventually, they will change by seeing the popularity of sustainability-related courses and case studies taught by their peers. Provide resources to professors to make it as easy as possible to consider them, but also make sure to have a conversation where you ask questions instead of just saying what to do. Researching and discussing the limitations & opportunities of different sustainability-focused industries is a great place to start. 

The Alumni:

The expertise of alumni who graduated in the past 10 years builds on both their own previous student experience and practical industry experience. Just like professors, they may give important context combined with industry expertise and concrete insights into what might have been amiss in their own experience of the targeted curriculum. Another key stakeholder are the alumni who became respected industry leaders and are either fully embracing sustainability or are simply convinced by its importance. Whether they are involved with the faculty’s advisory board or not, they can be a great source of support.

It is also worth pushing for industry-specific courses on sustainability: Courses like “Responsible Finance”, “Impact Investing”, “Sustainability in Operations”, “Purpose Marketing”, “Sustainability Accounting”. These allow you to integrate sustainability across different business specializations. 

More and more business schools have been creating these courses to create a direct link between sustainability and the career paths that students are envisioning. Examples include Concordia University who has both a practicum and a course on responsible finance, UBC and its Center for Social Innovation & Impact Investing which created many initiatives including an impact investing course.

A list of other things you can ask for and do: 

  • Improve existing sustainability-focused classes: by getting feedback directly from students so professors can improve their teaching material. Too often constructive criticism is not enough systematized and students don’t take the time.  

  • Become the liaison between professors and students: by creating surveys for each area of study and showing what students want to learn about sustainability within it. 

  • Creating awareness around sustainability study programs and courses: by hosting an Academic Advising event and making online promotional campaigns. 

  • Create support from the industry and recruiters: about certain topics to push the faculty to realize the importance of teaching these topics. One example can be a declaration about an area-specific issue. You can also create an advisory panel/task force with industry leaders, professors, and students on a specific area (like sustainable finance) in order to create courses and integrate more case studies.

  • Implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework within your business school.  

  • Find ways to increase interest & demand for case studies on emerging countries: to counter our narrowed understanding of the world, and ensure we have responsible business practices when operating or doing partnerships with a company based in emerging countries.  

  • Share best practices on sustainability education: by organizing and help co-create a roundtable of professors & students from various schools in your region. 

  • Establish the right relationships and power dynamics: you want to help your school advance business education on sustainability, but you also want to have a say and be kept updated about what people are going to do with your work. Read this report to see how some of the world’s most progressive Deans of business schools identify sharing power with youth as key to the necessary change. 

  • Decolonizing education & pedagogy to raise awareness of the ways Indigenous Peoples are suffering from legacies of colonialism and are still facing neocolonialism today. We must remind ourselves that many environmental and social issues caused by climate change and growing inequalities within our society are faced disproportionately by Indigenous communities. We also need to learn to recognize the crucial role that Indigenous knowledge & communities have to play in our fight against climate change and social issues. Indeed, a lot of the knowledge and practices developed by Indigenous Peoples are a big part of the solution to what issues we should tackle and how we should tackle them (from their paradigm shift, to their practices about co-creation and leadership).

If you want to know more about specific initiatives, the challenges some organizations faced and how they solved them, please email info@businessyouthcouncil.ca or message the council member organization’s Facebook page with a specific initiative you would like to replicate.