Wittenborg Vice-President Ron Tuninga Gives Inspiring Speech at HAN Inauguration
What are the most important trends influencing the global economy at the moment and what impact will they have on the future of international business, education and research? This is the question unpacked by Professor Dr Ron Tuninga, Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, in his inaugural speech at HAN University of Applied Sciences, where he was installed as Professor of Applied Sciences and chair of its Centre of International Business Research (CIBR).
Tuninga said developing international business opportunities is both easier and more complex than before. The CIBR focuses on two interrelated areas of study: international business education and international entrepreneurship. Global citizenship connects these two areas of research. "Global citizenship entails, among other things, recognising and dealing with global economic, social, and ecological challenges to the benefit of local business communities and consumers. International entrepreneurship is focused on how global opportunities will benefit local business."
He identified the following 5 trends as the most important influencing the global economy:
- Climate Change
- Technological Change
- Multi and Trans-Culturalism
- From Globalisation to Regionalism
- Changes in Global Demographics
New Business Opportunities
Tuninga said changes in the world have been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis and other environmental changes. "It is now widely recognised that climate change is one of the most threatening issues of our time." Developments of late - such as a Dutch judge ordering Shell to reduce their CO2 emissions 45% by 2030 - show that measures addressing climate change, CO2 reductions and the energy transition will have a far-reaching impact on companies worldwide, he averred.
Tuninga said regions that succeed in stimulating the use of new technologies while at the same time decarbonising industry will be at the forefront of international business activities. "The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially increased and accelerated the development, acceptance and use of communication technology among large parts of the global population. As a result, working remotely will likely now stay an integral part of many office
Multi-Cultural, Inclusive Workforce
He also said climate change is already forcing people to move away from areas where growing agricultural products has become very difficult or even impossible. It is predicted that both economic and climate emigration flows will further increase in the next decades.
"Changing demographics of countries in, for example, the EU will lead to changes in the make-up of regional labour markets. On a smaller scale, organisations can no longer count on recruiting employees with similar cultural backgrounds. This may actually be a benefit as research has shown that companies with a more diverse workforce are more productive and more innovative.
"Domestic companies can learn from those that are internationally active and have learned how to work with and in many different cultures. Domestic and regional companies would do well to value diversity and become more transcultural. We will need all available human resources to solve the complex issues of our time. No longer can we allow that some groups in society are excluded from the workforce. Boards of multinational companies increasingly recognise the importance of sustainability and have been seeking leaders to transition from traditional business practice to sustainability.
"Socially adept and responsible global citizens will be needed as leaders in organisations, managers in companies, as well as students and consumers to make the planet a great place for all."
From Globalism to Regionalism
According to Tuninga, another lesson learned from COVID-19 is how easily long international supply chains can be disrupted by circumstances beyond their control or by new priorities of local governments. "Given the vulnerability of long international supply chains, additional regional sourcing and production may be deemed necessary or desirable, where feasible, to avoid overdependence on distant suppliers.
"Another benefit of more regionalism is an increase in regional employment and expertise and a smaller environmental footprint. Yet this trend should not necessarily exclude the optimal productive global cooperation. Considering the market (size) served, and weighing the pros and cons of dependence on local versus remote supplies, will determine the proper balance between global and regional activities at any given time."
Given these factors, Tuninga said nurturing global citizenship in international business education is essential for turning out aware and socially responsible managers who are equipped to operate ethically and effectively in a transcultural environment both regionally and globally.
Business and Education
"Without a close and mutually beneficial relationship between the business community and universities, and an understanding of the environmental pressures businesses face, much is lost. This is certainly unnecessary and undesirable today. Businesses are a source of a wealth of data which, if unused, is a wasted opportunity to improve our knowledge and provide relevant educational offerings to students. Likewise, graduates have acquired valuable knowledge and bring new energy and insights to companies. They may well help identify new opportunities and can be a force to critically analyse and stimulate progressive thinking and innovation."
Tuninga said educators should stimulate their students to take real advantage of what they are offered and to learn all they can while they have the chance readily available. "Knowing about all (potential) trading partners, for example, whether near or far, will sensitise them to what is important for competent decision-making later on. In the case of a Dutch business school, this may mean understanding the cultures of Germany, Belgium and France. Students need to be advised to examine what languages and cultures should be studied in order to enhance their future success. As always, the more students and faculties put into education research and practice, the more they get out of it.
"A close cooperation will ensure the curriculum remains relevant and that students are adequately equipped to perform well in their professional lives. Eco-learning systems should thus include as many stakeholders as possible. The use of communication technology can help in developing global eco-learning networks, which includes students at other universities, in other disciplines, employers, NGOs, and foreign customers. Given the benefits of inclusivity,
we need to design education that is not only internationally oriented but also inclusive and accessible to all.
"To remain competitive and relevant in the higher education sector, it is expected that a large percentage of academic staff at universities of applied sciences hold a relevant doctoral degree and have sufficient business experience. It is this combination which helps in bridging international business practice, education and theory."
by James Wittenborg