Sustainability: How European Business Schools are Helping Tackle Climate Change

There is increasing pressure for higher education institutions to remain socially responsible and help tackle climate change – and business schools are rising to the challenge.

Through research, education and sustainability initiatives, schools are working together to help individuals and organisations achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

POLIMI Graduate School of Management, EDHEC Business School and ESMT Berlin: INNOVA Europe competition

INNOVA Europe, a competition aiming to tackle societal, economic and environmental challenges, was launched by three leading European business schools: EDHEC Business SchoolESMT Berlin and POLIMI Graduate School of Management.

Supported by Microsoft Italia, INNOVA Europe invited students from bachelor to master’s level to submit innovative proposals that address any one of the specific challenges outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The institutions that hosted this competition wanted it to generate new products and solutions that target a particular problem relating to at least one of the 17 UN SDGs – the teams competed against each other in the final last month.

Tommaso Agasisti, Associate Dean for Internationalization and Quality at POLIMI Graduate School of Management, said“Technology and innovation are the key forces behind tangible action on environmental and social sustainability.

“This challenge was launched precisely to provide skills and guidance to young students and entrepreneurs who are committed to devising effective solutions to address the challenges that the European Union has identified as fundamental for the coming years and to shaping a better future for all.”

Hult: Sustainability lab

As a business school that is ‘made for doers,’ Hult International Business School champions sustainability across the curriculum and is dedicated to meeting the UN’s SDGs. Sustainability is integrated into each of Hult’s business courses, which immerse students in today’s most pressing global political, economic and environmental issues.

In March this year, Hult International Business School launched Hult Impact Research, a renewed research strategy that supports the school’s purpose of making an impact that matters and driving innovation and engagement around broader societal issues.

As part of Impact Research, Hult created the Sustainability Lab. This research lab is dedicated to accelerating the changes needed to achieve the UN’s SDGs. It will connect practitioners and researchers to help advance our understanding of sustainability and achieve action on the complex, interconnected challenges at the heart of the UN’s SDGs.

EHL Hospitality Business School: New sustainable campus in Lausanne

At EHL Hospitality Business School, there’s a focus on the interconnectivity of sustainability and technology. The school’s new campus in Lausanne incorporates these elements, using technology to create a sustainable campus.

Launched in 2022, the Minergie-P© certified EHL Campus Lausanne encourages students to live a sustainable lifestyle. Renewable technology is integrated throughout the campus grounds and buildings, with 80% of electricity and heating powered by renewable energy sources. There are more than 300 trees on campus and 5,500 shrubs of local species.

Of course, the construction of any new campus creates carbon emissions, but EHL is actively striving to offset these carbon emissions. Currently, 58% of the carbon emissions produced during the construction have been offset, with the goal of reaching 100% by 2024.

ESMT Berlin: FUTURE Institute for Sustainable Transformation

ESMT Berlin’s goal is to help its students create a better tomorrow. The school helps tomorrow’s leaders get involved in projects today that positively affect the world’s most disadvantaged communities and create a positive impact on the environment.

In 2021, ESMT Berlin launched the Sustainable Business Transformation Initiative. The goal of this was to increase ESMT’s academic footprint in research and education on critical areas with an impact for business and society.

This initiative was the first step towards the establishment of the FUTURE Institute for Sustainable Transformation, which was developed by ESMT Berlin in partnership with the non-profit Werte-Stiftung and the innovation platform Futury. The FUTURE Institute for Sustainable Transformation’s purpose is to develop and communicate innovative sustainability solutions and support individuals, industries and organisations in having a more sustainable impact.

To achieve this, the institute will strengthen partnerships with external stakeholders and expand faculty expertise in areas related to sustainable business. These include professorships in sustainable finance and accounting impact measurement, circular business, and energy markets and transition.

Frankfurt School of Finance and Management: Global Shield Solutions Platform

The Frankfurt School of Finance and Management is deeply committed to ‘green finance’ and promoting sustainable practices within the finance industry.

Climate change is having a visible effect on the world, particularly in the form of extreme weather conditions which cause wildfires, heatwaves, floods and droughts. Often lower income countries and vulnerable communities are bearing the brunt of these conditions.

The Global Shield Solutions Platform, introduced in June 2023, and managed by the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management assists vulnerable companies in effectively tackling loss and damage brought on by climate change. Through its various financing methods, the Global Shield aims to provide cohesive and sustained financial protection against climate risks, offering comprehensive support to vulnerable countries.

The platform will also provide funding for the development and execution of climate and disaster risk finance and insurance solutions, significantly contributing to the financial protection of vulnerable nations.

Nyenrode Business University: ESG Innovation Institute

Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands is shaping individuals to be responsible leaders, to work towards a sustainable future. Together with KPMG, Nyenrode has established the ESG Innovation Institute, the first sustainability-focused, academic collaboration between a major accounting and consulting firm and a university in the Benelux.

The idea behind the initiative is to start a movement among managers and other professionals by inspiring them and encouraging innovative sustainable leadership. To do this, KPMG and Nyenrode are jointly setting up an ESG chair as well as developing a study programme, research and scientific publications.

Professor Koen Becking, Rector and President of Nyenrode Business University said: “Sustainability and corporate governance are an important part of our portfolio. Our goal as a university is to create a positive social impact by training responsible leaders through education, research, and knowledge sharing via our network.

“With KPMG’s 40 years of experience in sustainability together with our relevant academic knowledge, I’m convinced that together we will fundamentally contribute to progress in our society.”

Vlerick Business School: Sustainability short programme

Vlerick Business School in Belgium has recently launched a sustainability short programme which looks at how to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance factors into business strategies.

This eight-week, online programme teaches individuals how to develop and implement a sustainability strategy in their organisation. This will increase the positive impact and performance of their company and help to drive organisational engagement, innovation and change.

Imperial College Business School: Leonardo Centre’s sustainability dataset

Imperial College Business School is also taking active steps to tackle climate change. Through collaboration between academics and practitioners, it is advancing the understanding of the impact of climate change policies and strategies on firms’ innovation, competitiveness and performance.

Imperial College Business School’s Leonardo Centre on Business for Society (Leonardo Centre) has developed a GOLDEN dataset, a unique digital database of over 900,000 sustainability initiatives. These initiatives are categorised by the UN SDGs and were extracted from over 45,000 corporate sustainability reports published by over 9,000 companies spanning the last 30 years.

This data will be used to provide extensive business expertise and offer unique learning opportunities for students and businesses.

Stephanie Mullins
A formally-trained journalist, Stephanie is now a Director at UK communications firm BlueSky. Utilising her personal experience as a reporter, she has extensive experience in managing communications outreach for business schools and universities around the world, working with recognised names such as; HEC Paris, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, ESMT Berlin, the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, University of Edinburgh Business School, NEOMA Business School, King’s Business School, Durham University Business School, ESCP Business School, UCL School of Management, and many more across the world.