We asked three students to give their views on the role of sustainability for the next generation of business leaders.
Elin Hunger, administrative assistant at MISUM and student at Stockholm School of Economics
You are a Bachelor Student at Stockholm School of Economics, the President of the Feminist Society in the Student Association, and an Administrative Assistant at MISUM. Do you think that these roles enrich each other, and if so, how?
It’s somewhat important to me that the things I do create value, since that’s what keeps me going. The nature of value varies between people, but to me value appears in the process of learning and in turning this knowledge into practical action. As I define myself as a feminist, the knowledge I seek is usually related to power structures or the prevailing norms in our society. I enjoy studying Economics since the concept of economy is often treated as a guideline for what is possible and impossible today. Furthermore, being engaged in MISUM has broadened my definition of feminism, putting environmental challenges on the agenda alongside other equality issues – I have gained a more global perspective on feminism. Altogether, my different roles interact and create a great possibility to learn, as well as platforms from which I can reach out to others. So yes, I definitely find that my different roles enrich each other.
What role do you think that a gender perspective will play for the development of sustainable markets?
I hope that gender equality will play a central role, since different aspects of equality always interact. When it comes to feminism, I’ve embraced the concept of intersectionality– coined by feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw in the late 1980’s. An intersectional analysis acknowledges that a person will always be affected by different power structures simultaneously, making it impossible to divide oppression into segregated categories to be discussed one at the time. I think a beneficial development of sustainable markets would gain if an analogy of the intersectional analysis is put into practice. That is, sustainable markets would benefit from considering different aspects of unsustainability at the same time, making collaboration and challenging of prevailing power structures central.
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important component in employer branding. How important do you think that sustainability is for you and your fellow students at Stockholm School of Economics when choosing whom to work for in the future?
I think the vast majority care about sustainability, and since I am one of them I am also a target for this branding. I find this development encouraging, but to me an even more important aspect of sustainability is what kind of business I will decide to enter – like what’s the actual nature of the business? Some businesses will never become sustainable no matter how much improvement spent, and if students were to consequently deselect certain areas it might put sustainability even higher on all companies’ agendas.
Ankit Desai, student at Stockholm School of Economics
What do you think is most important to promote sustainability in higher education?
I think branding plays a huge part. For the sustainability movement itself to be sustainable, it needs to feel fresh and attractive. This is exactly what Tesla Motors have done – they have made driving sustainable cars something the average person aspires to. I think it is also very important to show students a path to success through learning about sustainability. This can be anything from grants and scholarships, to financing study abroad trips, to setting up students with mentors, to sharing alumni success stories, to something as trivial as having fun and engaging names for the individual modules within the class.
I am a firm believer in the reverse-funnel marketing that the internet has enabled – you start out with a few people at the bottom of the funnel, and you give them a better experience than they can find anywhere else; then they will talk about it and tell their friends, and so on.
What can individual students do to facilitate this development?
I personally believe that as individual students the most important thing we can do is set a good example to our peers. People often want to copy successful people, and SSE has some of the most successful and influential alumni in Europe. I think that if students – the decision makers of tomorrow – were encouraged (and reminded) that they will be a role model for even younger students, and this tradition was nurtured and supported, this will reflect in businesses investing more sustainably in the future, exercising more responsible operations, and maybe even donating to sustainable research centers in the future.
I would also say that having lived in India, the US, France, and now Sweden; Sweden is definitely the most advanced out of the four in terms of sustainability. I had hardly even heard about the term ‘fair trade’ before I came here, so in addition to setting a great example, I think it is also extremely important that we just simply talk about it with each other, especially since our Facebook friend lists are getting more and more international.
You have an interest in clean tech and alternative energy solutions. What role do you think these can play for the development of sustainable markets?
I have begun to believe that alternative energy solutions will play an absolutely massive role in not just sustainable markets, but markets in general in the future. There are vast markets out there (such as my home country, India) where millions of people in rural villages have, for example never known what it is like to be able to store food in a refrigerator. When we figure out a way to deliver cheap (maybe even self-sustaining) power to people like these, can you imagine the impact such a simple thing could have? Instead of having to worry about food from day to day, people are now able to study, to work, to contribute to growing the economy. And this is just one small part of the things alternative energy will make possible in the developing world. I am extremely excited.
Fanny Holgersson, student at Stockholm School of Economics
Do you think that business schools are doing enough to promote sustainability in their educations? If not, what can be improved?
Generally speaking I believe more can be done as sustainability is a very broad area that can be linked to many different fields of study. For instance there are clear opportunities to include the aspect of sustainability to a broader offering of courses than currently seen. Further, rather than having it as a separate side topic it should be more integrated and interlinked to the main content of the courses.
Is there a certain aspect of sustainability that you think is the most important?
In my opinion the long-term outcomes of our actions should be of main focus in the discussion of sustainability. Often too much focus is placed on what the short-term objectives are for acting in a sustainable way. If positive long-term effects are to be seen, then this cannot be of main influence deciding whether or not to act sustainably. Accordingly, I believe that it is crucial to put the individual short-term agendas aside and to focus on the long-term effects that our actions have on society, nature and the planet as a whole.
What can individuals in large organizations do to promote sustainable business?
I believe that each and everyone of us can and should influence sustainability. Throughout the value chains of organizations there are hundreds of processes involved. Individuals should take the responsibility to look at how the processes linked to their own sphere influence can be further improved. Last and perhaps most importantly, the different suggestions of improvements should then be presented to management in order for changes to be implemented.