Interesting Discussions on Improving Corporate Sustainability at Book Launch
In line with moving its research agenda forward and fostering an environment of knowledge creation, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has in the last few weeks taken several initiatives to promote and support the research and creative scholarly activities of faculty, staff and students.
One of those activites in the week before Christmas was the launch of an insightful new book on corporate sustainability at Wittenborg Amsterdam which is bound to spark interest among academics and companies wishing to pursue more sustainable practices in their businesses. Another was an interesting Project Week where more than 140 undergraduates took part in the MIT World Climate Change Games – a role-laying exercise which simulates UN climate change negotiations. The idea was to have students research climate change and create awareness about the issue while learning how political power works and working together towards one goal. Two of Wittenborg's top researchers, Dr Teun Wolters and Dr Geert de Haan, also made presentations to students as part of preparing them for negotiations.
Meanwhile in Amsterdam, no fewer than 4 academic staff members and one MBA graduate from Wittenborg contributed to the book "Corporate Sustainability: the Next Steps Towards a Sustainable World". It was co-authored by Wolters and Dr Jan Jaap Bouma.
Besides Wolters and Bouma, various chapters were also written by Wittenborg lecturers Dr Gilbert Silvius and Dr Muhammad Ashfaq, as well as MBA graduate Gizem Gören who graduated from Wittenborg in 2017.
Drawing on empirical research, the book focuses on how corporate sustainability has evolved through innovation, new business models and recent approaches to corporate sustainability, the circular economy and strategic corporate social responsibilities. These issues are viewed through various prisms, including cultural, social and religious. It zooms in on the freight sector, the banking sector, Islamic finance and sustainability, detailing the contribution of faith-based organisations to promoting sustainability and the greening of church buildings.
The authors made an appearance at the launch to talk about their various contributions. Wittenborg’s Head of Research, Dr Nicolet Theunissen, was the moderator at the talk. Theunissen has been tasked earlier this year to create a long-term research agenda for Wittenborg. Also at the launch was Sophie Punte, executive director of the Smart Freight Centre, and Dr Wim Hafkamp, environmental economist and Dean of Erasmus University College, who also made contributions.
Hafkamp said that there is a lot more research and teaching than actual, sustained, meaningful practice. "In corporate sustainability there is an increasing paradox, if not contradiction and gorge, between the practice on paper and the practice in the field. Multinationals, and larger, well established firms have largely adopted ISO certification in the field of environment, but are they doing what they should, what they can?
"A positive sign is that the number of spin-off, start-ups and other enterprises on the circular economy, eco-design, green wave, organic/local networks, green blended IT supported platforms are increasing. Compare this to the situation 25 years ago.
"However, what do we know about them? How are they doing? Are they living beyond the initial excitement of the launch and their first year? Are they prospering? Are they successful in bringing consumers over to a more environment and sustainability oriented purchasing behavior?"
On the question of how to measure success in implementation of corporate sustainability policies, the speakers had different views. Wolters said: "We can join the international movement of sustainability accounting research and adopt research projects in the field. At a local level we can involve students in research in the best way."
Punte said methodologies that allow you to measure impacts (like Greenhouse Gas emissions) in a consistent and transparent way, must be standardized. "Different companies currently use different methods and key performance indicators, making benchmarking impossible."
By James Wittenborg
©Wittenborg University Press