On June 16th-17th, the International Conference on Business, Policy and Sustainability was held at Copenhagen Business School with speakers including Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, R. Edward Freeman, Professor at The University of Virginia, and Annette Stube, Director of Group Sustainability at Maersk. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present at this conference during the session ‘Sustainability in University Education and Operations’ on June 17th alongside Jonas Haertle, Head of UN PRME, and Peter Jonasson, former University Director at CBS. Jonas’ focus was on what PRME is doing to integrate sustainability in business schools, Peter discussed the challenges of integrating sustainability in university operations, and I was there to present what students are currently doing to drive change towards sustainability, and how we see the role of business schools.
As some of the attendees at the conference were not aware of oikos, I started by presenting oikos international in order to give an insight into our organisation’s history and engagement. I was proud to present the fact that we currently have more than 1200 members and over 200 projects annually worldwide – clearly demonstrating how sustainability is an interest amongst students across both borders and cultures, and reflecting the global movement that it has truly become. I also gave an overview of the engagement and activities in our local chapter, oikos Copenhagen. Here, focus was put on how we try to inform, educate, inspire and engage students in Copenhagen through our three main projects: oikos Academy, Green Week and Develop Prize. Our oikos Academy is a project based on 5 sessions on a sustainability related topic each semester, which is available to all students. Former topics have included ‘Urban Sustainability in Copenhagen’, ‘Sustainable Food Consumption’ and ‘Sustainable Business Models’. Our Green Week, which we do in collaboration with CBS, is a week at CBS focusing on sustainability. It consists of lectures, workshops and different events such as a sustainable business fair and fashion show, and this year we had more than 20 different companies participating including Accenture, Unilever, DriveNow and H&M. Finally, our Develop Prize is a social entrepreneurship competition that brings together students to create and develop solutions that work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, I was able to present some of the challenges and ambitions that we have in oikos Copenhagen. As a student organisation, we face several challenges of how to engage students, businesses and universities, how to get funding and how to actually make an impact.
We believe a way to make a strong impact is to really push the sustainable agenda in education, which is why an ambition of oikos Copenhagen for the coming year is to collaborate and contribute to develop a stronger focus on sustainability and sustainable management in the education at CBS. A way we are trying to do this is through our new project ‘oikos Education’ – a project that will integrate a lecture and a workshop on concepts within sustainable management in the new Bachelor student’s intro week. By doing so, we hope to create a strong interest amongst students throughout their studies for sustainability issues and solutions. We believe that it is absolutely essential for business schools to integrate sustainability principles into their education because, as Albert Einstein once said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
After the presentation, I had the opportunity to join a panel debate together with Jonas Haertle and Peter Jonasson, where we further discussed the role of business schools as not just educational institutions, but as norm setters and thought leaders – and how they need to work with their most valuable resource: the students. Overall, it was a great opportunity to get the student voice out there and show all the work that we do in oikos – on both the national and international level.
Written by Julie Andrea Jungen Jensen, oikos Copenhagen