Skip to main content

Future MBA

100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 8

Students discuss the business of crisis management, innovate clean water solutions and find the link between tax fraud and poverty.

In 2014, author and TEDx speaker Giselle Weybrecht posted one short idea a day for 100 days exploring how we could rethink business education to produce the leaders that our business and the planet need. The ideas were compiled in a book, "The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Educations." As a companion to the ideas in the book, GreenBiz will be posting 10 examples of how schools around the world are bringing some of these ideas to life, creating new opportunities for people and the planet. This is part eight of the 10-week series. The series can be found here.

Day 71: Business in Conflict

In the Social Innovation elective, students worked alongside United Nations Development Programme staff in Yemen to address some seemingly unsolvable problems brought about by the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. With economic activity brought to a standstill and people unable to meet their most basic needs, students are challenged to find market-based approaches in rural and urban areas to ease the crisis. How do you overcome constrained  or no  access to finance for (social) entrepreneurship? What role do, or can, corporations play in war-torn countries? How could they expand their strategies to target bottom of the pyramid citizens? Can women create businesses that would enable them to sustain their families despite the conflict?

Day 72: Changing the World

The Hult Prize is the world’s largest competition with the purpose to transform students into entrepreneurs focused on using business to end poverty. Launched by a student in 2009, the prize challenges students around the world to use business to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. To help make these ideas a reality, prize winners receive $1 million in seed money from the Hult Foundation. Open to college, universities, undergraduate and graduate students on every continent, thousands of students from 130 countries participate annually. Each year, a critical social problem is selected by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and an ambitious, aspirational target is issued at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit. The resultant case study provides students with a comprehensive framework and a compelling call to action.

Day 73: Water, water everywhere

The Student Water Environment Federation at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater educates individuals and organizations about emerging water business issues, promotes water business opportunities and develops and supports strong alliances. The program creates an atmosphere where ideas and solutions to water problems can flourish. The group’s goal is to increase understanding of water quality, quantity and accessibility concerns and how these concerns affect society and business. It has led events including stream clean-up projects and visiting and working with local entrepreneurs and start-ups to address important issues, which range from innovative methods to clean wastewater to finding more affordable ways for people to have access to clean drinking water.

How do you overcome constrained — or no — access to finance for (social) entrepreneurship? What role do, or can, corporations play in war-torn countries?

Day 74: Trade and Development

The Trade, Investment and Development Observatory was created in 2013 with the support of the virtual institute of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD’s mission is to promote inclusive and sustainable development in international trade. The Observatory at Universidad EAFIT is organized by students from the university’s schools who regularly write short articles and opinion pieces focused on UNCTAD’s work and policies.

Day 75: 2030: A Sustainability Odyssey

A group of researchers from different disciplines across the University of Limerick formed a student-led think tank addressing the question of how to make Limerick a safer, healthier city. The Health Futures Lab brought economics and marketing students together with others from architecture, product design, engineering, interactive media and occupational therapy. Over a five-week period, they examined the potential future of Limerick 2030 and developed three ambitious projects that, when combined, offered a roadmap for the realization of Limerick’s positive future. An advisory board included academics and the public sector, and the group worked closely with the government Health Services Executive throughout the project.

Day 76: Waste bucket challenge

Recyclemania is an eight-week waste minimization and diversion competition that takes place in Canada and the United States every spring. More than 400 schools participate, reporting the amount of recycling and trash they collect each week. The schools are ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis, as well as which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling. As part of the benchmarking challenge, the University of Ottawa organized a Waste Bucket Challenge, where within 48 hours of being challenged by another individual, participants publicly must accept the challenge (or decline), collect their garbage for one week and share the results publicly before challenging someone else.

Day 77: Steps to change

After the launch of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, ISAE/FGV school in Brazil initiated an internal campaign to raise stakeholders’ awareness of the importance of engaging in these 2030 goals. Rather conveniently, the school found a staircase on campus with 17 steps and painted each with a different SDG. This simple action means that students are being exposed to the goals every time they take the stairs.

The Observatory at Universidad EAFIT is organized by students from the university’s schools who regularly write short articles and opinion pieces focused on UNCTAD’s work and policies.

Day 78: Core strength

Embedding sustainability into the core curriculum makes sure that it remains a focus in education. The Business School at the University of Fraser Valley in Canada has made sustainability a key part of the Business Research Methods, a mandatory course for all business students. Within the course, students complete major research projects to learn the process, methodology and applicability of various business research problems. Each year, Associate Professor David Dobson identifies one sustainability topic and uses it to frame the major research project. In recent years, it focused on the Fair Trade movement. Students explored customer’s willingness to pay for Fair Trade coffee and what perceptions existed among society about the distinction.

Day 79: Tackling the grand challenges

One college in Australia wants to shape the public discourse on the some of the most important issues facing humanity. UNSW Sydney’s Grand Challenges Program was established in order to facilitate these critical discussions and raise awareness of the ground-breaking research and excellent initiatives undertaken by UNSW academics, staff and students. Current Grand Challenge topics include climate change, refugees and migrants, and inequality. The Grand Challenges involved a wide range of public events organized throughout the year on campus and in collaboration with other events across the city and further afar.

Day 80: Tax and poverty

In March 2016, Kent Business School’s Accountability Research hosted an international seminar on Tax and Poverty, a part of a series of seminars called Architects of a Better World: Building the Post 2015 Business Engagement Architecture. This came as a direct response to the United Nations Global Compact’s call for business and business schools to support sustainable development, specifically the SDGs. The global crisis in tax avoidance, and its impact on poverty in the developing world, has become a matter of public debate. The seminar, the first of its kind in Ireland, brought together speakers from different organizations to discuss the problem and propose possible solutions.

More on this topic