By Miguel Cordova (PUCP, Peru) and Marina Schmitz (IEDC, Slovenia)
Global societies urgently need a great reset towards sustainable development. According to the Global Risks Report 2021 of the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2021), risk interconnectedness would prompt more frequent natural disasters. Moreover, dramatic crises are likely to force countries and organizations to adapt, evolve, or disappear (ibid). The decline of nature will significantly impact the economic reality of corporations (Dasgupta, 2020; Johnson et al., 2021; Swiss Re, 2020). Furthermore, corporations will be affected by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change priorities to fight against climate change and facilitate the adaptation and mitigation processes for countries (UNFCCC, 2021). Hence, collective action and a renewed responsible paradigm of economic activities are required. We advocate a multilevel strategy to obtain this multilevel response from the leading society’s stakeholders.
How can we change the issues we have been accumulating for decades in just a few years?
Traditional learning has pushed us to think in silos rather than integrating systems as systems theory would suggest (Cumming & Allen, 2017). From elementary levels to higher education, we have learned how life works by studying separate pieces of knowledge in different disciplines (i.e., Maths, Physics, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Innovation, etc.). We are used to separating processes into activities, systems into courses, and projects into stages, which reduces complexity and makes it easier for us to understand those separate parts better. This strategy worked in the past but is not working anymore when we face wicked problems such as climate change or the pandemic. These and other challenges, such as ensuring sustainable development for everyone, can only be solved by applying integral solutions that suit the entire system. Moreover, the problems are increasingly global and no more relevant only for a single country. Thus, to address some of these “new realities”, we must “unlearn” and challenge existing knowledge, theory, and assumptions. On top of that, we need to pass some strategic threads through the fragmented fabric that we have woven for years. Should education for sustainability be one of these threads that could help us provide cohesion to this fabric?
Education can influence that change in a multilevel way since it focuses on elementary, middle, upper school, undergraduate, graduate, executive, master’s, and doctoral education. Furthermore, education has the prestige and the power to deliver meaningful insights that students and professionals could use respectively within their career development and jobs. In this regard, higher education institutions (HEIs) could extend and conduct this influence and decisions towards their stakeholders, embracing a sustainable orientation (Aleixo et al., 2018; Gonzalez-Perez et al., 2021). Furthermore, higher education has a pivotal role in upgrading international business (IB) courses with a sustainability perspective, which are actively enrolled within the impacted global communities (Ghauri et al., 2021).
How can education in IB contribute to change?
The IB field has strong potential to spread ideas and expand practices for certain kinds of economic activities and business practices applied by countries and societies. Moreover, IB graduates can achieve this as multipliers since they (will) work in and lead multinational organizations and institutions capable of shaping and defining global issues.
Thus, it is of utmost importance to teach and address critical perspectives in the IB field. For example, IB scholarship has already highlighted certain aspects and potentials of corporate sustainability, e.g., becoming more resilient (Carmeli et al., 2020; Folke et al., 2016) or contributing to the strategic development of business models by addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Sinkovics et al., 2020; 2021; Wood et al., 2021). Overall, we wish IB scholars to take bolder approaches in teaching IB, challenging the current status quo by asking critical questions, tearing down walls between disciplines, and new innovative and creative teaching formats.
For example, we can achieve the change by incorporating future or transformation studies methods to rethink IB realities. We could ask ourselves and our students: What would a desirable IB landscape look like, and how can we make sure that we take action now to see this vision materialize? On a more concrete note, we could use the future workshop methodology. In the IB classes, we could first engage in a critique phase, move on to a visioning phase, and conclude with an implementation phase, which uses tools such as backcasting. Another approach is asking to identify the related stakeholders and raising awareness about multiple effects of innovation and business practices on them. To facilitate implementation of this approach in IB classes, we could ask: Which unintended short-term and long-term outcomes will affect the local community while or after executing the initiative in question?
Global current concerns deserve significant attention and new strategies to learn, plan, execute, and measure. We no longer need to watch issues happening from the ivory tower. Instead, we need to feel the ongoing challenges, understand their dynamics as a whole, and, most important, bring this understanding to the IB classroom, to the future and present global managers. Therefore, IB courses would become the loom to repair the fabric, gather all the pieces again, and see the whole picture to counter the global threats against sustainability.
About the Authors
Miguel Cordova is Associate Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), and Internationalization Leader for the Management Department and Management School at PUCP. He holds a PhD in Strategic Management and Sustainability from Consorcio de Universidades in Lima; he has doctoral studies at the Copenhagen Business School, and an MBA from Centrum Católica. His research is oriented to Power and Influence in Organizations, Sustainability, Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Entrepreneurship, and International Business. He was visiting professor at Inseec Business School in París, Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago de Chile, ESADE University in Barcelona, and UDEM in Monterrey. He is Associate Editor at the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and Deputy Editor at 360 Journal of Management Sciences. He is Country Director for Peru at the Academy of International Business – Latin America and the Caribbean chapter (AIB-LAC) and Resources Vice-Chair of the AIB Teaching & Education SIG.
He has +10 years in teaching and +20 years of experience as manager and director in different economic sectors such as foods and beverages, construction, pharmaceutical, energy, sports & entertainment, and information technology.
Marina Schmitz serves as a lecturer at the Coca-Cola Chair of Sustainable Development at IEDC-Bled School of Management in Bled, Slovenia. Previously, she was working as a Lecturer, Research Associate and Project Manager at the Center for Advanced Sustainable Management (CASM) at CBS International Business School in Cologne, Germany. Marina is passionate about challenging the status quo of how we understand and teach economy and management-related content to our students. To accomplish this goal and to create a more inclusive and sustainable society and business environment, she seeks the exchange with fellow educators and practitioners.
Image source: Markus Spiske, Unsplash
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