Business School takes action towards Sustainable Development Goals

2 March 2022
From narrative to action in the transformation of business and management education
The University of Sydney Business School has published a report detailing its progress towards advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2020-2021.

Collaborating on sustainable food systems with Indigenous communities, reducing modern slavery in global supply chains and supporting refugee workforce integration are just some of the ways the Business School has demonstrated its commitment to the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) in recent years.

The newly released PRME progress report, 'From Narrative to Action' (pdf, 5.7MB), details some of the many ways the Business School aligned its teaching, research and operations to the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) from 2020-2021.

Professor Greg Whitwell, Business School Dean, acknowledged that despite the challenges and setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Business School is more focused than ever on inspiring action that advances the SDGs.

"While the global pandemic may have significantly and negatively affected the university sector, like so many others, we never lost sight of our ambition," Professor Whitwell said.

"In this report, you will see how we are increasingly engaging more staff and students and inspiring action towards a more systematic integration of the SDGs into our processes, and in doing so trying to secure a better future for all."

I cannot imagine a role more vital for a Business School at this time.
Professor Greg Whitwell, Dean of the University of Sydney Business School

Lead author of the report, Dr Anna Young-Ferris, said, "The past two years have not been without challenge, largely brought about by the global pandemic."

"However, amongst this we have remained committed to our PRME vision, that has itself evolved into a journey of inspiring action, from our virtual classrooms and research sites to our ongoing work with the businesses we partner with."

The 'From Narrative to Action' report demonstrates how the Business School has genuinely started moving from "the talk" – the narrative – to "the walk" that is all about inspiring action, Dr Young-Ferris said.

"Action in the form of innovative research and pedagogical design that challenges assumptions and promotes critical reflection as to the extent to which management education and business can be transformed to contribute to a more sustainable and conscious capitalism."

The report outlines the School's achievements in relation to each of the Principles for Responsible Management Education and details future action.

It also highlights specific activities reflecting the School's commitment to the SDGs, including:

  • A new core unit for the Master of Commerce program, BUSS5220 Responsible Business Mindset, that engages 1,500-2,300 students per semester in the transformation of the business narrative from the stronghold of shareholder primacy towards a narrative of business that is interconnected with and interdependent on society and environment.
  • The Rural and Remote Enterprise (RARE) program, which enables students to collaborate with remote, rural and Indigenous social enterprises such as Black Duck Foods.
  • Critical research on climate action, such as how the Australian fossil fuel sector has sought to maintain its political dominance in the face of growing social critique.
  • A guide to help employers hire refugee workers while advancing business strategy.
  • The COVID-19 Business Impact Dashboard from Sydney Business Insights (SBI), curating timely, relevant insights on how COVID-19 might impact the future of business.

Co-founder of ground-breaking digital circular economy start-up Mercularis, Dr Gobinath (Gobi) Rajarathnam, chose to partner with the Business School due to its strong reputation and shared goal of working to benefit society and the planet.

Master of Commerce students collaborating with Mercularis in the unit of study SIEN6004 Innovation Ecosystems worked to explore various markets, as well as develop strategy and an appropriate business model for the start-up.

"I am genuinely glad the world has a new batch of students equipped with insight into a field of critical importance to the well-being of the world," Gobi said.

"They genuinely care about our global shared future and are clearly inspired, which further motivates our efforts at Mercularis in creating new metrics, and harnessing cutting-edge AI to empower architecting well-connected circular economies at any scale."

However, there is still much work to be done and the Business School will now look to build on its current achievements to progress an expanded set of PRME commitments for 2022-2023.

Related articles