Academia is a vital bridge

23 September 2019

Business schools must act as a bridge between sustainably minded students and businesses in need of changemakers. That is the message from Inge Jan Henjesand, President of BI Norwegian Business School.

Today’s generation of students are driven to create positive societal change. Today’s generation of businesses are committing to positive change. Universities, and especially business schools, must act as a bridge between them, says Inge Jan Henjesand, President of BI Norwegian Business School.BIs President Inge Jan Henjesand

“We believe that today’s students - the future generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders - can be a driving force in the fight against climate change. Today’s generation of students have more of a drive to create lasting sustainable impact. More than any generation before them” says Inge Jan. Sustainable impact is often one of the driving factors in choice of career path. BI Norwegian Business School (BI) aims to give their students the understanding of business, the knowledge, and the strategies needed to make enduring sustainable change in business and society.

Equipping graduates with mindset, knowledge and skills 

With increased recognition among governments and businesses for change to align with the 1.5℃ scenario, comes an urgent demand for new mindsets and strategies in employees. This is why science-based targets are important and why the BI strategy aligns with the Norwegian government’s commitment to the 1.5℃ scenario. We are developing knowledge and skills in students that today’s leaders need in order to bring business and society forward” says the President. In order to do this, BI has integrated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the learning goals for all programmes and also offers specialised lectures, courses, and study programmes within sustainability.

This inclusion of the SDGs throughout BI aims to equip students with knowledge and skills on how the business school disciplines can be a force for good. BI also integrates concepts from the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) - a United Nations-supported initiative created to equip business students with the understanding and ability to deliver positive change. Students leave BI not only with a desire to make positive change, but also with the tools to make it happen. “Transforming the approach to traditional business disciplines is key to create the mindsets and strategies in the next generations of graduates from BI,” says Inge Jan Henjesand.

As the second-largest business school in Europe, BI has a significant effect on the next generations of young professionals entering the workplace. Graduates entering businesses not yet aligned with the 1.5℃ scenario may provide the force needed to create change from the bottom up. Graduates entering businesses already aligned with the 1.5℃ scenario, will be well placed to help business leaders embed their ambitious visions and strategies throughout the organisation.

Addressing operational footprints 

In addition to equipping students with mindsets, knowledge and tools, BI has also integrated the SDGs into their operations. Special attention is on Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender equality and Goal 13: Climate Action.

To deliver on the 1.5℃ scenario, BI is working towards reducing emissions by 40-50% by 2030, through increasing use of renewable energy and supporting greener mobility solutions. The largest shares of emissions currently come from business travel, commuting, and food and beverage services.

There are a number of ways BI is targeting emissions reductions across their Eco Lighthouse certified campuses. All are located close to public transportation hubs, reducing the need for private transportation options, and are continually assessed in annual climate reports.

BI is targeting both energy demand reductions and renewable generation. The Oslo campus has reduced electricity demand by 30% from 2006 to 2018 (2.4 million kWh), and heating and cooling is partly powered by geothermal energy.

At the new campuses in Trondheim and Stavanger, the buildings have solar panels on the roofs and receive cooling from seawater. Heating is delivered locally and partly generated from bioenergy. It is expected that BI´s campuses during the first full year of operations will have reduced the need for energy from the energy grid by 85%, and the business school is continually looking at how to further increase the use of renewable energy in the years to come.

“BI is also aiming to increase our material-recycling rate to 65% by 2022, and remove unnecessary use of plastic and single use wrapping. With this focus on strong environmental performance, we hope that the new campuses will be inspiring for students to spend time in, both in and out of the classroom,” says the President.

As academic institutions like BI continue to bridge the gap between youthful desire for change and business in need of new strategies and mindsets, businesses can truly become a force for good.

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