Sustainable business practices

Into the Future: Embracing Sustainable Business Practices

The role of future business leaders will be a lot different from what it used to be. What made me, and most of my classmates, choose the Copenhagen MBA was its focus on sustainable business practices, writes Magda Michaliková.

“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.”

Such were the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, spoken on 2 December 2020. In his address, he spoke about environmental challenges, progressing climate change and the danger of future conflicts resulting from climate related displacement. It can be argued that economic activities of organizations are the chief cause of climate change and environmental degradation, and it is therefore their moral responsibility to address these issues. The question is how.

The concept of sustainability is broadly understood as a way of meeting our needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. In other words, finding the “sweet spot” where human population leads an existence that isn’t detrimental to the environment. Over the last decade, “sustainability” has become something of a buzzword in corporate language. Some companies view sustainable business practices as a real challenge and an impetus for genuine change in their MO, while for others it’s more of an elaborate PR stunt. Either way, the need for change is starting to be universally acknowledged.

Before commencing my full-time MBA at Copenhagen Business School, I worked on a circular packaging project for a large beverage company. During my time on the project, I realized a couple of things that are essential for successful implementation of sustainable business practices.

  1. When aiming for real impact, baby steps are not enough. It is therefore essential to have the board of directors’ full support. The company’s decision makers need to understand the benefits of being a sustainable company and sustain a long-term vision to support the implementation of big changes.
  2. Collaboration is key. Sustainability projects are complex and to implement them, one needs to collaborate with the government, non-profit sector, academia and even competitors. If there’s any chance to build a new, sustainable system, it has to be done collectively.

What made me, and most of my classmates, choose the Copenhagen MBA was its focus on sustainability. The role of future business leaders will be a lot different from what it used to be. They will need to achieve global carbon neutrality within the next three decades, transform business models and find their place in this new reality. That’s why “Managing Sustainable Corporations” is a part of our curriculum, taught by Andreas Rasche and Steen Vallentin, and why it is spread throughout the academic year.

In the very first week of our MBA, we encountered the first two days of the course. We discussed the fundamentals of CSR, individual and organizational responsibility, as well as the role of the United Nations. We will meet again before Christmas to debate some of the social aspects of sustainability: labor rights, corruption and the management of relations between businesses and NGOs. The final chunk of the course will take place in March and then we will dive deep into the circular economy, sustainable finance and sustainable business models.

The fact that Copenhagen is home to companies that are at the cutting edge of sustainability innovations gives us a unique opportunity to meet interesting speakers from the likes of Novo Nordisk, Maersk or Ørsted, and the ability to see industrial symbiosis in Kalundborg (planned for March).

Needless to say, studying in the midst of a world pandemic is risky, challenging and uncertain. Nonetheless, I see it as real-world preparation for what we’ll be facing during the climate crisis, which will only be much more taxing. I hope we can all learn from our pandemic experience and use it as the springboard for the restoration of our planet. As for myself, I’m planning on utilizing the newly obtained knowledge upon graduation to make this change happen by helping companies become the solution instead of the problem.

Magda hails from the historic city of Prague but considers herself a European. Her work sits in the field of sustainability and the circular economy and she decided to pursue the Copenhagen MBA to expand her business skillset.