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Teaching Sustainability Competencies

in Business Education

20-04-2023
Companies can no longer afford to overlook sustainability issues; instead, they need to proactively address them. In today’s changing landscape, businesses need to be cognizant of environmental factors in order to remain successful. Business leaders must have an in-depth understanding of the latest developments in sustainability and how they can best implement sustainable practices throughout their organization practices and operations at every level.

Julia Binder, Director of IMD’s Center for Sustainable and Inclusive Business, encourages companies to move beyond a risk mindset towards embracing sustainability as an opportunity and as a responsibility. Binder notes that while many companies have adopted a few core environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles, it is time to do more. She points out that, “Transforming your business towards sustainability can enable you to capture new markets, address changing customer needs, and attract and retain talent. A recent study by McKinsey estimated that the transition to net zero alone will provide business opportunities of $12tn a year by 2030.” That’s why sustainability competencies should be taught in business education.
We cannot expect entrepreneurs to learn the full range of sustainable business practices once they are already running businesses. Additionally, employees at all levels of business should be familiar with how to integrate sustainability at their level of work. Teaching sustainability competencies in business education is essential to ensure that businesses are ready to tackle the challenges of the future. By teaching sustainability competencies in business education, students will learn how to integrate sustainability through all aspects of their business—from goal-setting to marketing to operations.

Business schools can benefit from teaching sustainability competencies in various ways. Teaching sustainability competencies helps create a generation of graduates who understand the challenges involved with sustainability and are better equipped to tackle them. This makes businesses more competitive and allows them to better address environmental challenges. Teaching these competencies also empowers learners to make decisions that help restore and maintain ecosystems and promote justice. Furthermore, it encourages students to develop visions of sustainable futures.

A sustainability competence empowers learners to embody sustainability values and embrace complex systems, in order to take or request action that restores and maintains ecosystem health and enhances justice, generating visions for sustainable futures. Our goal is to equip our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote sustainable development within the workplace and beyond.

I am proud of the commitment AUS has made to teaching sustainability competencies. It is integrated into our existing courses and we actively seek out real-world examples to give students an opportunity to apply their learning. For example, we offer a "Sustainability" course, taught by Sanja Fabrio, students examine the framework of sustainable development in terms of economic development, sustainable business strategy, social inclusion, governance, and environmental stewardship. In our "Business Ethics" course, Dr. Bakshi Khurdi introduces students to the topic of "The Green Office: Economics and the Environment," and in our “Macroeconomics” course Dr. Attila Shelly guides students through an understanding of ethical issues and sustainability awareness in applying economics to company decision-making in a global context.

In our "Aviation Sustainability" course, taught by Philippe Meyer, students explore the four pillars of sustainability. They also recently participated in a site visit to Payerne Airport, where they met with companies engaged in sustainability work, including Solar Stratos, which is focused on demonstrating that with today’s technologies, it is possible to achieve feats beyond our current conceptions of the aviation industry. This is an excellent opportunity for students to further explore various sustainability competencies in various sectors, including future literacy.

While sustainability competency is not a new concept, its integration into business education curricula is on the rise. As businesses become increasingly conscious of their social and environmental impacts, there will be a growing demand for young people with backgrounds in sustainability. In order for businesses to remain competitive, they need to develop strategies that reduce their environmental impacts while also increasing their profitability and they are looking to hire talent that not only understands that but is ready to bring new innovative ideas on how to do this. Businesses are looking for employees with a deep understanding of sustainability principles and they recognize that graduates with such backgrounds can bring innovative solutions to the table and provide valuable insights.

Gaidi Faraj
Dean of Academics