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…
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:
Events which allow the transfer of knowledge from leaders to the next generation of change makers and train the latter.
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…
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.
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 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
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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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
If you want to know more about specific initiatives, the challenges some organizations faced and how they solved them, please email email@example.com or message the council member organization’s Facebook page with a specific initiative you would like to replicate.