Bring sustainability into the business school mainstream by aligning with schools’ existing practices: technical, political, and cultural.
Sustainable business has been taught and researched in business schools for decades. For nearly as long, proponents have warned about barriers to genuine integration of sustainability in business schools.
Sustainability Centres in Business Schools
In a recent article, we and our co-authors Sareh Pouryousefi and Ethan Schoolman looked at the role of sustainability centres in achieving this fit. Our analysis drew on a survey of directors of sustainability centres and interviews with ten of these centre directors. We found that leading sustainability centres seek to achieve three types of fit between their own practices and those of their business schools, in order to promote integration.
The types of fit are:
Technical. Centres achieve technical fit — i.e. alignment with existing organisational structures- by ensuring that sustainability topics are taught in a mix of core and elective programmes in different disciplines.
Political. Centres achieve strong political fit by aligning with the interests of school leaders in order to develop sustainability practices as a brand for the school.
Cultural. Centres achieve cultural fit — i.e. alignment with the cultural values of the wider organisation — somewhat counterintuitively. They do it by not defining terms such as ‘sustainability’ or setting fixed boundaries around their work; instead, they interpret research themes loosely to include colleagues with related research interests.
A centre may pursue one kind of fit, but because these types of fit are highly interrelated, actions in one area (technical, cultural, political) will affect the others.
On the one hand, they can positively reinforce each other towards better integration. The existence of cultural and technical fit will encourage collaboration. The presence of cultural and political fit will boost legitimacy. Political and technical fit will strengthen resources devoted to sustainability.
The challenge of fit
Centres that manage to achieve higher levels of fit across domains feel more secure about the long-term prospects of their centre. None of the centre representatives we spoke to felt that they had a complete alignment in all three areas of fit. But centres saw benefits when they had a good degree of fit in two or more areas, or were working towards fit in multiple areas. In these cases, directors felt that their centres’ purpose transcended the individuals associated with them, guarding them against future political headwinds, such as lack of interest from senior management.
Barriers to fit remain even at leading schools. This is because sustainability centres usually present some challenge to assumptions of others at business schools — often including Deans.
Our research shows that lack of fit in one domain may also impact the other domains. For example, a centre might have a high level of political fit through support from the Dean, but low cultural fit because it tightly defines sustainability in contrast with wider business school values. That centre may also struggle to achieve high levels of technical fit.
These elements are important even for sustainability centres that purposefully avoid integration with those wider business school practices which they deem wholly antithetical to sustainability. These centres can still attend to issues of political, technical and cultural fit as they choose strategies for carrying out their teaching, research, and engagement activities.
Rieneke Slager is Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. Jeremy Moon is Velux Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Copenhagen Business School.
In academia -especially for young researchers- there seems to be only one way to the top: publish frequently and in well-regarded journals. This pressure however may sometimes come at the expense of academic quality. As with other things, good research sometimes just needs time. Unfortunately, infrequent publishing might be followed by less recognition, and funding might be more difficult to obtain in the short-term. Eventually, one might lose the opportunity to move up the career ladder. In a nutshell: Publish or perish.
The pressure of frequent publishing
My experience is that the phrase seems to ignite a range of emotions from rage to acceptance among academics. This can be a conversation starter or something that inevitably comes up in conversation. The dilemma is also at the epicenter of different symposia, conferences and other scholarly debates. The woes of the publish or perish dilemma are manifold. To name a few, ‘salami slicing’ e.g. taking one idea or dataset and reusing it in various papers, disillusionment with the publishing process and lack of creativity. Yet, few researchers investigate the publish or perish dilemma and why it endures (de Rond & Miller, 2005). In essence, is it the publish or perish dilemma that is the problem, or are we?
Below, I briefly introduce the birth of ‘the publish or perish’ dilemma and then delineate a few points on what I call the short-term pleasure dilemma of the publish or perish dilemma. I conclude with a few questions to consider what a ‘publish or perish’ free world would look like. I suggest that paradoxically, we might enjoy the publish or perish dilemma because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term context. In this age of publish or perish, I should note that I am by no means a gratification theory scholar and raise these questions based on my own personal experiences in academia for further research purposes.
To publish or to perish
The idea behind the publish or perish dilemma is often traced back to two studies by the Carnegie and Ford Foundations in the mid-1950’s which looked at the state of business education in the US. The findings of the studies deplored the lack of intellectual relevance and dynamism, analytical prowess and lack of high quality journals in organization sciences (de Rond & Miller, 2005, citing Gordon & Howell, 1959, pp. 355, 379). As a result, research which had been on the backburner compared to teaching endeavors became the hallmark, or at least of equal significance, to teaching in academic organizations (ibid). The idea also traveled to Europe with similar studies conducted in the UK and France in the 1960s and 70s and has since spread like wildfire globally. In essence, with the prevailing publish or perish idea, there has been a focus on publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals, citation impact factors and tenure rewarded as a result of publications. This has led to the criticism that scientific quality e.g. innovation and intellectual inquiry has come at the expense of publishing expeditiously to move up the career ladder. One example of these costs is the phenomena of “rogue publishers” or journals which offer to publish (often younger scholars) at a fee thereby abusing the peer-review system.
Taking this into consideration, I suggest some areas that require further research (to do at another time due to the publish or perish dilemmaJ) which suggest that the publish or perish system endures because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term academic game.
While it has been argued that publishing frequently comes at the expense of originality and innovation, academics also cite deadlines such as paper calls and conferences and the review process itself as means to work through ideas and enable them to come to fruition. This suggests that there may be some short-term gratification that results from publishing often as opposed to waiting years for a high-quality idea to emerge and be published. On the contrary, if the idea might not amount to something publishable, the review process may be a way to root it out. Clearly, the inverse is also true e.g. that great ideas and theories are obviously not developed in a day but short-term gratification might be attained from delivering frequent outputs.
Publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals
Publishing in top-tier peer-reviewed journals has been a source of great contention as many argue that the process forces publications into certain conversations and might prize certain discourses, that the metrics which rank journals are problematic and that the peer-review process itself is rife with transparency, bias and time allocation issues. Yet, publishing in top-tiered journals also provides scholars with a sense of pride, inclusion into an academic conversation and sense of accomplishment. Again, there seems to be a sense of short-term gratification related to publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals: scholars develop a certain prestige, are able to network and communicate with others in the community and use a yardstick to measure their progress. Given that senior scholars do not need to prove themselves to the same extent that junior scholars do, it can be argued that gratification might be more of a short-term benefit.
Moving up the career ladder
Publishing frequently and in top-tiered peer reviewed journals is the ticket to advancing in academia. But once you move to the top, there is likely less gratification received from publishing in top-tiered journals and publishing frequently. Therefore, it is likely more gratifying in the short-term to publish frequently and in top-tiered journals because they can lead to career advancement.
The short-term publish or perish pleasure dilemma or an alternative?
Taking these factors into consideration, the question remains as to whether this short-term gratification is at the expense of the long-term. This raises the question as to what the alternative would look like. Presumably, it would involve publishing less frequently, in journals of the author’s choice and using other metrics for evaluation. What do you think? Is this what the new generation of academics should strive for or should we continue to play the game and enjoy the short-term gratification / pleasure dilemma like eating a Snickers bar?
Luisa Murphy is a PhD Fellow at Copenhagen Business School and supported by the VELUX Endowed Chair in Corporate Sustainability. Her research examines governance for anti-corruption. She brings a human rights and business background from the University of Oxford and legal experience from the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Addressing climate change requires an urgent implementation of far-reaching solutions. Policy-makers and natural scientists have mainly offered supply-side solutions to solving the climate problem, such as widespread adoption of new or innovative technologies. While of critical importance, strictly prioritising supply-side solutions is unlikely to deliver the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions within the desired time frame. An often-overlooked demand-side solution is behaviour change, which can offer both immediate and long-term reductions in GHG emissions.
There is an urgent need for rapid decarbonisation to reduce the magnitude of climate change. The Paris Agreement reflected this urgency in its formulation of ambitious goals to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C. Since the Paris Agreement, researchers—often affiliated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—have with accelerated frequency been building scenarios for potential pathways to reach the temperature goals. These far-reaching—and arguably radical—pathways involve urgent transitions to renewable energy sources and the majority assumes the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, such as afforestation or bio energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Neither of the pathway scenarios take behavioral changes into account despite the fact that studies have shown its potential to reduce GHG emissions. For example, Thomas Dietz and colleagues (2009) found that a national implementation of behavioural changes in the United States could reduce U.S. households’ direct emissions by 20% within 10 years (representing 123 million tons of CO2). Although not sufficient single-handedly, behaviour change can help speed up the decarbonisation of societies.
Three dimensions of behaviour change
To identify the potential of behavioural changes to reduce GHG emissions, it is critical to consider three dimensions:
the technical potential (TP) of a behaviour, or the emissions reduction achieved if an individual or a target population collectively adopted the behaviour;
behavioural plasticity (BP), or the proportion of the technical potential achievable through the most effective behavioural interventions; and
feasibility of initiatives (IF) to induce change, which refers to the likelihood that the most effective interventions are achievable within a target population.
Focusing exclusively on either of the three dimensions will result in skewed analyses from which only imperfect interventions can be developed. For example, substituting a GHG-intensive behaviour with a less GHG-intensive alternative (e.g., flying to Bermuda on vacation versus vacationing in one’s own country) will promise a high TP but the extent to which people are willing to make such a behavioural substitution may be less promising (BP) and so might the feasibility of achieving the behavioural change across a large population (IF). Conversely, a behaviour could be easy to change (e.g., getting people to shut off lights in unoccupied rooms) and feasibly be implemented in a large population, yet hold a very low TP and therefore even in the aggregate fail to reduce emissions by much.
Identifying the most promising target behaviours
The task of researchers (across disciplines) in collaboration with policy-makers and companies is to identify the behaviours with the highest potential to reduce GHG emissions while considering all three dimensions in cohesion. Making such calculations is no easy task—as the dimensions may vary substantially between and within countries—but neither is adopting innovative technologies at a massive scale. However, focusing on both supply- and demand-side solutions will heighten the likelihood of achieving the Paris goals.
 Dietz et al., 2009; Vandenbergh & Gilligan, 2017.
Dietz, T., Gardner, G. T., Gilligan, J., Stern, P. C., & Vandenbergh, M. P. (2009). Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(44), 18452-18456.
Rogelj, J., Popp, A., Calvin, K. V., Luderer, G., Emmerling, J., Gernaat, D., … & Krey, V. (2018). Scenarios towards limiting global mean temperature increase below 1.5° C. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 325.
Vandenbergh, M. P., & Gilligan, J. M. (2017). Beyond Politics. Cambridge University Press.
Kristian Steensen Nielsen is a PhD Fellow in environmental behaviour change at Copenhagen Business School. His research interests are self-control, behaviour change, and environmentally significant behaviour.
In the second week of May 2018, the architectural and design worlds were abuzz with reviews of the new green glass giant looming over the Copenhagen harbour – BLOX. There have been critiques of design, urban planning, participation processes, and more, but perhaps less likely to emerge in your social media and news feeds is the nature of organizational development and experimentation designed into the very heart of BLOX.
Physical, organizational and cultural diversity under one roof
BLOX as a physical building is composed of various building elements but is also socially composed of diverse elements. The property is home to the old military storage buildings at Fæstningens Materialgård, still stunning with their yellow-washed walls and currently under renovation for becoming part of the BLOX family of offices and meeting spaces. The new building houses top-floor apartments, a large fitness centre, the Danish Architecture Center (DAC), the Danish Design Center (DDC), and last but not least, BLOXHUB, the new building industry innovation hub.
These last elements are where the organizational potential lies. Firstly, there are the yet-to-be woven together threads that draw across DAC, DDC, and BLOXHUB, opening up for potential co-conferences and exhibitions that not only blend spaces, but blend disciplines. Secondly, BLOXHUB is a non-profit organization of around 150 members (and anticipated to grow) aiming to stimulate innovation for sustainable building and urbanization by facilitating co-working, co-creation, and experimentation. Beyond the potential stemming from sharing working spaces, the hub supports the organization of seminars and conferences and offers access to labs that can serve as platforms for new products or services, including, for example, epiito’s virtual reality (VR) lab and UnderBroen’s maker-space equipment. And thirdly, nested in BLOXHUB is the Science Forum, hosting a suite of built environment researchers.
Smart Building research among industrial researchers
Now the Science Forum is one of my offices-away-from-the-office. Since the start of this year, we are a cluster of nine industrial researchers – seven PhDs and two postdocs – with projects concerning “Smart Buildings and Cities” (read here about the formation of the cluster). Launching from my postdoc project with VELUX and CBS on smart building business model innovation, we have already identified several crossovers and synthesis possibilities within the first months. This begs the question: what happens when you combine companies, universities, and industrial researchers into an innovation hub? How does this change how research, investment, and innovation are done? And how does this change how industry can relate to academia?
With user-friendly tech to better indoor climate
With VELUX, the starting point is smart device automation, but based on the people who live and work in buildings (read: all of us). But even if the indoor climate is ubiquitous and something we all experience, we also take it for granted and may not even notice how we are feeling unless something disturbs us. Even more importantly, the more serious health consequences of a poor indoor environment stem from factors that cannot necessarily be noticed just by paying attention, including for example, high CO2 levels from poor ventilation or off-gassing chemicals from unsustainable building materials. My research investigates both how smart devices can be designed based on an organization’s inquiry into the user experience, but also how the nature of these user-driven digital devices can change the way traditional manufacturing companies do business.
Much more to expect in the future of BLOX
The project has only been running a few months, and BLOXHUB has only been open not even a month – so there will be many more exciting developments and synergies to report in the future. In the meantime, swing by the great glass giant and experience the shifting landscape around Langebro. You can visit the most recent DAC Exhibition “Welcome Home” looking at how the meaning of home has shifted historically and continues to adapt in Denmark, and your kids can have a go at the new playground on the city-side of the building. A new bicycle and pedestrian bridge is planned for 2019, as well, and then the connections will go even further; from connecting industry and researchers to connecting the city on a level we all can meet.
Lara Anne Hale is an industrial postdoc fellow with VELUX and Copenhagen Business School’s Governing Responsible Business World Class Research Environment. The 3-year project is part of Realdania’s Smart Buildings & Cities cluster within BLOXHUB’s Science Forum. It builds upon her PhD work on experimental standards for sustainable building to look at the business model innovation process in organizations’ adaptation to the smart building business. Follow her on Twitter.
Managers’ public claims to improve CSR can have self-persuasive effects on corporations and their members. However, sometimes such “aspirational talk” can have the opposite effect. We explain why this may happen and how to avoid it.
“Green washing” or “smoke and mirrors” are labels that are often attached to the promises of managers who publicly claim to improve CSR. CBS researchers have challenged this sceptical view and argue that “aspirational talk” by managers, by raising public expectations and scrutiny, can make corporations and their members live up to these aspirations.
Sometimes, however, we argue that even the best-intended aspirations can have opposite, even detrimental effects. In the following we provide some reflections on the conditions, under which high CSR aspirations may “go low” and we suggest some ideas how to prevent such outcome.
From persuasive to provisional aspirations Aspirations are helpful to direct and motivate employees. However, the last thing managers need on a mission towards substantial corporate responsibilisation are “blind believers”. Employees, who simply rely on a visionary manager and do not voice, where current business conduct impedes aspired CSR, will contribute little to change. Hence, we propose that managers should avoid getting too persuasive and creating “corporate cultism” around aspired CSR. Rather, managers should signal that visions are provisional and that employees, who critique contradictions between vision and reality, are the true driver of change.
From insistent to revisable aspirations We suggest that managers should not stick too closely to their initial CSR aspirations. As innovation research tells us, insistence on initial ideas is never a good advisor to affect change. In contrary, managerial insistence on initial CSR aspirations may prevent that different ideas about future CSR by employees develop. Hence, managerial willingness to revise their aspirations in accordance to what employees consider responsible practice is crucial. After all, it is the employees who enact CSR in their daily work.
From broad to locally grounded aspirations Aspirations, by nature, have a bias when it comes to envisioned scope and gravity. Dreams are larger than life. On a managerial mission towards better CSR, hence, the goal cannot, and maybe should not be to live up to managerial ideas. Rather, we suggest that corporate responsibilisation is about local grounding and depth of CSR in situated understandings and practices. In other words, CSR is less a question of reaching an aspired scope, but about winning depth and grounding in corporate practices.
Our ideas should by no means discourage managers to think big and speak out about CSR. However, we suggest that voicing CSR aspirations is only the first step. In a second step, managers might need to modify or sacrifice these aspirations for locally committed CSR practices.
Peter Winkler is a FH professor at the FHWien der WKW – University of Applied Sciences in Management and Communication, Vienna, and guest professor in organizational communication at the University of Salzburg, Austria. He is interested in sociological approaches to organizational and management communication research. In 2015/16, he was a research fellow at the Governing Responsible Business Research Environment at CBS.
Michael Etter, Ph.D., is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Cass Business School, City University of London. He is interested in CSR, new ICTs, and social approval of firms. He tweets about media, technology, and business & society issues @MichaelEtter_.
In September 2017, the CBS PRME office hosted a small SDG awareness event at Solbjerg Plads. At the event, the students were asked to answer a brief survey in order to assess their awareness of the SDGs. Out of the 108 students, 67,6 percent indicated that they did not know about the sustainable development goals. From the students who indicated that they knew about the goals, 82,9 % answered that they learned about them outside of CBS.
But let’s zoom out from CBS for a moment and look at some examples from Danish business society. The Danish Global Compact Network was launched on 24 October 2017. This marked an increased focus on the private sector’s crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Denmark. Another recent event was the launch of the SDG Accelerator, a DKK 3 billion initiative by the UNDP (UN Development Programme) in collaboration with Industriens Fond with the aim to empower 20 SMEs with competencies to work strategically with the SDGs.
Funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, UNLEASH was held for the first time in Aarhus in August 2017, and gathered 1000 talents (students and alumni) from around the world to spend 5 days developing concrete solutions to the SDGs. The list of SDG initiatives in corporate sector could go on, but this is just to state that the corporate sector is mobilizing, we are seeing more investments focusing on SDG activities and even the Danish Parliament now has a Cross-Political Network on the Global Goals.
There is no doubt that the SDGs will be a strong influencer on the strategies and activities of the above-mentioned stakeholders until 2030. In the light of these developments, can universities afford not to take action?
Students do not learn about the SDGs from CBS
It has been two years since the SDGs were launched, but when CBS PRME hosted the SDG awareness event in September 2017, that was the first time the SDGs were present at a public event at CBS. This is while the DANIDA (The Danish International Development Agency), in collaboration with the UNDP, has developed teaching material and platforms for Danish highschool students and teachers. Highschools now host theme weeks on the SDGs providing the students with knowledge, opinions and competencies related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
While we should acknowledge the CBS courses including SDGs into curriculum and teaching, CBS needs to take a much stronger stand and acknowledge the SDGs as a crucial part of all business education. It is time we break down the belief that the SDGs are not part of e.g. finance and accounting and acknowledge that sustainable development are relevant for all discplines and practises if you want a sound and longlasting business.
Universities can benefit greatly from engaging in the SDGs A report developed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network in collaboration with Monash University, University of Wellington and Macquarie University argues that universities not only have a critical role to play in achieving the SDGs, but will also benefit greatly from doing so. Among the benefits, the report mentions an increased demand for SDG related education, a framework for demonstrating impact, accessing of new funding streams and collaboration with new external and internal partners. Evident of this is PRMEs upcoming SDG Day 11 April with 13 student organizations coordinating a full day of SDG activities and events all funded by Chr. Hansen, VELUX and Ørsted who got engaged when they heard “SDGs in a business context”.
Education is at the core of achieving the SDGs, and universities are with their teaching and research activities of fundamental importance to the implementation of the goals. The SDGs are a global framework and shared language and understanding of the world’s development with strong buy-ins from governments, business, civil society, foundations and other universities. CBS can benefit greatly from this support and use the SDG platform to position itself as a meaningful contributor in the areas of research and education.
Next step – reach, engage and educate the 67 percent of CBS students, who have never heard of the SDGs.
Louise Thomsen is Project Manager for CBS PRME and the VELUX Chair in Corporate Sustainabilityat the Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS. Her areas of interest are sustainable consumption, innovation, student engagement, education and partnerships for sustainable development. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Two newly published CBS-authored books look at how public-private collaboration can bring sustainability norms into existence and offer recommendations for civil society, business, regulators and academics. Based on research on the discursive evolution of the Business & Human Rights regime and taking an interdisciplinary social science approach, both volumes target broad audiences of sustainability-concerned practitioners and academics across the social sciences.
The urgency What does a Tesla in space have in common with conflict minerals or labour abuse in the garment supply chain? The question may look like a new school children’s riddle. In fact, it is a strong reminder of the urgency to consider how public and private organisations can collaborate to develop norms of responsible conduct, especially in areas marked by governance gaps; how such processes can avoid capture by particular interests; and what communicative strategies actors can deploy to advance the acceptance of new norms across functions and interests.
When Elon Musk earlier in February 2018 successfully launched a space rocket that carried a Tesla headed for Mars (although in missing that target it was less successful), the project was heralded as a break-through in private space exploration. Some have described Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars as a ground-breaking response to the Earth’s depletion of resources and space (!) for an ever-growing human population. Others have lamented the quest for extra-terrestrial resources, and called for humanity to solve problems on this planet before moving on to (as it has been put: wreck) other planets and their eco-systems. Some have been raising warning signs in regard to private exploration of resources in space at the backdrop of an absent or at best immature Earth-ly system for governance of earthlings’ interests and desires in extra-terrestrial resources, whether explored and potentially exploited by private or public actors.
Unfortunately, issues of territory and governance gaps are not limited to outer space. They are very much a fact of life on Earth. They are the cause of many of the social and environmental sustainability concerns that keep media, corporate watchdogs and CSR consultants busy. They are also the causes of tragedies like the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed more than 1000 workers employed in garment factories in the building, and injured more than 2000.
Governance Gaps – not only a matter of state weakness
Governance gaps caused by limited territorial jurisdiction of companies’ home states and limited political will to adopt international rules setting a level playing field for companies without freezing the bar at low levels are also at least partial reasons for abuse of workers in numerous other factories, mines, quarries, infrastructure or agri-industry projects or in the informal industry that form part of global value chains, typically supplying goods made in low-wage countries to buyers or retailers in higher-wage countries. These problems have been argued to be due to states (in capacity of governance phenomena) being absent, weak or ineffective. Academics have been debating so-called political CSR, arguing for private enterprises to fill gaps left by ineffective nation states. However, the reason for governance gaps is not only state weakness. Jurisdictional limitations on states’ powers to regulate and enforce rules outside their territory is also part of the reason, shared by nations across the world and exacerbated by disagreement and lack of political will at the international governance level to adopt international rules pertaining to business.
The issue of nation state jurisdiction and territory can be compared to tedious situations in everyday life that are annoying but hard to change: If your neighbour plays music that you do not like in his or her home, you are not allowed, to access that home and turn down the volume. Unless, of course, the neighbour invites you to do so, or a prior agreement has been put in place. Similarly, you probably would not be pleased if your neighbour trespassed your property to turn off your music. Instead, the solution is to communicate and to do so in a manner that will – hopefully – drive change with your neighbour. Governance of transnational business activity largely depends on similar action, at least until governments agree to adopt and accept strong national rules with extraterritorial application, and/or international rules that apply to business. And as long as Earth’s governments do not agree on such rules for earthlings’ activities beyond our planet, this goes for exploration and exploitation of outer space too.
Beyond CSR guidelines, reporting and codes of conduct
Global sustainability concerns go beyond climate change, often related to economic practices with social and environmental impacts. Excessive natural resource exploitation, land grabbing and sub-standard labour conditions in global supply chains are frequent occurrences that also have high sustainability relevance. Such practices pose risks to the environment and human lives currently as well as in a longer term sustainability perspective of balancing current needs with those of the future. Investments and trade have caused depletion of large stretches of tropical forests, which not only harms the environment and adds to climate change, but also affects the socio-economic conditions of communities. The transnational character of these economic activities often involve or affect numerous private and public actors in several states or regions. This causes challenges for singular or even sector-wide private self-regulatory initiatives, and reduces the effectiveness of self-regulation by individual actors on their own. The enormity and encompassing character of global sustainability challenges have also drawn attention to the limitations of singular initiatives like private or sectoral Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) guidelines, reporting schemes and codes of conduct. Hence, broadly applicable multi-stakeholder-created sustainability governance schemes have emerged to fill gaps left by public as well as private governance.
Breakthroughs in global sustainability governance
The UN Global Compact with its ten principles in the four issue areas of human rights, working standards, environment and anti-corruption, is a prominent example. Yet like the Paris Climate Change Accord offers a general normative framework but leaves much to further detailing of implementation. The UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) offer more detailed guidance that has inspired several other transnational business governance instruments even beyond human rights, thus influencing the evolution of CSR norms and governance in a broader sense (Buhmann 2016, 2015). All these instruments were firsts within their fields, and broke previous stalemates. What causes such breakthrough? How can organisations concerned with sustainability engage with a regulatory process to advance substantive outputs? Understanding this can have far-reaching impacts for future public, private and hybrid governance of sustainability, locally, globally and beyond, and whether private, public or hybrid.
Norms of conduct: the road to the product is as important as the product When we think of normative directives for private or public organisations for actions that conform with global sustainability needs, the focus is often on the substantive content of the rule as such: in other words, what are organisations encouraged or required to do? However, the road that leads to that substantive content of a rule is a condition for what ends up in the rule, whether soft (guiding) or hard (binding). It is therefore crucial to understand what makes some processes progress and deliver results, whereas others stall.
Across the globe, organisations of many types encounter difficulty in adequately meeting environmental and social sustainability challenges. The diversity of processes and outcomes calls for insights on what drives and impedes processes of clarifying what constitutes acceptable conduct. There is a particular need for knowledge on what makes for effective processes for defining norms for such conduct, and for the norms to become accepted with a view to integrate into organisational practice.
The field of business responsibilities for their societal impacts is marked by a diversity of interests that are often not aligned, even within a sector: those of different business organisations and sectors, different civil society organisations with diverse focus issues, and various national or local governments with diverging interests. As result, developing norms of conduct becomes a process of negotiation in which participants often have regard to what is in their own interests. The bumpy road to the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord is a case in point, but not unique. The evolution of international normative guidance for businesses in regard to human rights leading to agreement on the 2008 UN Framework and 2011 Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have received less attention and acclaim outside human rights circles, but the processes to those results represent important innovation too and potential lessons for future collaborative regulation.
Studies suggest that while some initiatives to develop norms of conduct for responsible business conduct get weakened in the process, typically as a result of lobbying by certain organisations (Kinderman 2013; Fairbrass 2011; Buhmann 2011), in other cases the key to a strong or weak result is in the capacity of actors at making the effective argument, and linking up with the right partners for that purpose (Hajer 1995; Kolk 2001, Arts 2001).
How are norms on sustainability issues negotiated? At this backdrop, it is highly necessary to understand how norms on sustainability issues are negotiated and how stalemates that mark many such efforts can be broken. Two new books by CBS professor Karin Buhmann deal with this issue, both drawing on the evolution of the emergent regime on business responsibilities for human rights. Of the two monographs, Changing sustainability norms through communicative processes: the emergence of the Business & Human Rights regime as transnational law (Edward Elgar 2017) undertakes an analysis of the discourse that marked the construction of detailed normative guidance for businesses and states in regard to business responsibilities on human rights. It analyses communicative and argumentative dynamics that allowed the multi-stakeholder process launched by the UN to break previous stalemates in several settings, as well as dynamics that caused previous initiatives to fail. It finds that the ability to address other actors in terms that directly speak to their rationality and interests holds big potential for obtaining significant influence on the details of the normative outcome, and its acceptance. The book offers a theoretical explanation of this, and expands the analysis through findings and explanations on how actors in multi-stakeholder regulatory processes may strategically play on the interest of other actors in change and in preserving their interests. It offers insights on argumentative strategies that can be applied by civil society, CSR- and sustainability-committed companies, regulators or others to advance the acceptance of new norms on sustainability with other actor
Collaborative regulation for balancing of power disparities
In recognition that where negotiations take place on issues marked by highly divergent interests and issues of power, legitimacy of the process and output are significant for a normative outcome to be meaningful, the other monograph, Power, Procedure, Participation and Legitimacy in Global Sustainability Regulation: a theory of Collaborative Regulation (Routledge 2017) offers a theory-based proposal for collaborative regulation that takes account of power disparities and continuously manages these. The analysis combines empirical experience on public-private regulation of global sustainability concerns and theoretical perspectives on transnational regulation to offer a new theoretical approach to guide multi-stakeholder negotiations. It sets out detailed suggestions for the organization of multi-stakeholder processes to regulate sustainability issues to avoid capture and ensure the legitimacy of the regulatory process as well as the outcome of that process. In a global legal and political order, in which the private sector is increasingly replacing the public in terms of power and privilege but lacks the democratic legitimacy of the state and international organisations, such issues are of global as well as regional or local pertinence.
By addressing the same overall topic of developing sustainability norm and empirical cases to inform the analysis, the books develop synergy through two separate analyses that are mutually complementary. Both volumes apply theoretical perspectives from organisational and communication studies, political science and sociology to enrich the socio-legal analysis of regulatory strategies and innovative transnational law-making. This makes the volumes speak to the broad audiences that are engaged in the development of sustainability norms in practice and theory.
Focusing on the processes for developing norms of conduct, the analyses leave assessments of the uptake and effectiveness of such norms in organisations to future studies.
Karin Buhmann is Professor with special responsibilities for Business and Human Rights. She is employed at the Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC) at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). She currently serves as the interim Academic Director of the cbsCSR (CBS Center for Corporate Social Responsibility) and CBS Sustainability.
 Kolk, A. (2001) Multinational enterprises and international climate policy. In Arts, Bas, Math Noortmann and Bob Reinalda (eds) Non-state actors in international relations, Hants: Ashgate: 211-225.
 Arts, B. (2001) The impact of environmental NGOs in international conventions. In B. Arts, M. Noortmann and B. Reinalda (eds). Non-state actors in international relations, Hants: Ashgate: 195-210.
While the world seems to have moved on from the last financial crisis, one can only wonder if banks and financial institutions have learnt something from it that could steer them away from repeating the experience. From the educational side, we also have to consider whether business schools are able to instill in their graduates the values and norms to navigate financial institutions into clearer waters.
100 Years CBS – Time to Rethink Finance During a CBS conference in the late months of 2017, academics and practitioners within the finance and banking industries alike had come together to think and “rethink the financial sector”. The purpose of the event was to bring to light the issues and opportunities of responsibility and sustainability within the financial sector, and create an agenda for future research and teaching in business schools, like CBS.
Over the course of the event, the ambition was to develop a dialogue with stakeholders from the banking and finance industry and to challenge the current attitude towards banking and its future with “responsibility” being the word of the day. The hope was that this dialogue would ignite new ideas and develop an agenda for future research and teaching in business schools towards 2117.
During the three tracks focusing on society, business models and the individual, with responsible banking being the overarching theme, participants heard speakers address issues spanning from the role Fintech and disruptive technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies play in industry innovation to different religious perspectives on banking and finance.
To Rethink Finance, we need to Rethink Education When it comes to financial education, the focus was set on bringing it in sync with the new developments and real life challenges, while at the same time stressing the need for a business model based on valuation and normative principles. In crisis situations, the clear-cut modelling learnt in school no longer represents the norm. Education plays a major role in securing that the new generations of graduates have the capabilities needed to identify and understand people and their needs, rethink and modernize local banking and be attuned to the technological developments that can pave the way to a more responsible banking sector – centered on people instead of money.