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Message from Morsing The Need for Climate-specific Academic Programs
03 December, 2021 New York, United States

The Need for Climate-specific Academic Programs

It is time to flick the “green switch”. We have a chance to not simply reset the world economy but to transform it. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (COP26, Glasgow, 2021)

It is fair to say that COP26 was anticipated with quite some hope and quite some skepticism. In the midst of a global pandemic, it was a remarkable effort to host more than 22,000 attendees in formal talks and side events, as well as attract more than 100,000 people marching for Global Day of Action for Climate Justice in Glasgow. The Covid logistics were in place: everywhere a self-tester kit was available, and a negative result was a criterium for attending sessions in-person. 2021 was an unusual COP year with the pandemic still setting a dire context for the debates, but the high number of attendees deciding to discuss in-person the climate change challenges is a good indication that governments, businesses, international organizations, NGOs and civil society agree about the need to speed up collective action.

Over the past three decades, the United Nations has invited the global COP meetings, calling upon almost all countries in the world annually to discuss and agree on progressive, collective goals to work for the betterment of the environment and the reversal of climate change. COP stands for ‘Conference for the Parties’ and this year we reached the 26th event.

Since the first global COP in Brazil many years ago, the vocabulary and urgency to take action with regards to ‘climate change’ has moved from an exotic peripheral idea into a business strategy for the executive board room and firm company policies.

In preparation for COP26, world leaders worked to reach agreements on how to best tackle climate change. An endeavour filled with high economic and political sensitivities. While some progress was reached over the many days of debate and discussion, a lot of issues still remain unresolved.

At the same time, scientists tell us that we have the knowledge, expertise, and skills to tackle the challenge and reach the 1.5 degrees necessary. But it still seems that our global leadership cannot agree on making this happen at the needed pace.

The PRME community’s actions in the coming decade towards 2030 will be crucial. Management schools and universities are the educators of our future leaders who will make those business decisions that can transform the world with a long-term sustainable perspective. Management school action is needed more than ever to generate future leaders who are knowledgeable about the global climate challenges and how to make markets and business ‘a force for good’ and reduce the dire effects of climate change.

Therefore, it is a special privilege for PRME and for the PRME Champions Program to have been the early ‘hub’ for nurturing the idea of training business school faculty on how to reduce CO2 emissions – as individual faculty and role models for students as well as nudging action at the business school-level. The Carbon Literacy Training for Business Schools (CLT4BS) was co-developed by Professor Petra Molthan-Hill and the Green Academy at Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, the PRME Champions group, oikos international, and the Carbon Literacy Project. With an ambition of training business school faculty to better understand how we ourselves may contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions and the betterment of the environment around us, locally and globally, the program also aims to stimulate an entrepreneurial spirit, imagining how we may take both our individual and group climate actions to the next level. This may include how we engage our operations toward such endeavours as waste management, student canteen operations and transportation to international conferences.

This is no trivial matter. Personally, I am full of respect for what Professor Petra Molthan-Hill and her team have achieved and as many of you will remember, Petra was deservedly a Runner-Up for PRME Faculty Award at the 2021 Virtual PRME Global Forum in June and I am truly delighted to see how she and her team are receiving many international recognitions for their exceptional efforts.

My main message here, following COP26, is that while climate change may not be the subject of any undergraduate or graduate program in your school, now maybe is the time to consider how to make it so. Climate change is not only a subject for students of engineering or biology or oceanography. At COP26, it was excellent to see how a small group of 8 European business schools – 5 of which are PRME Signatories (INSEAD, HEC Paris, IE Business School, IESE Business School, and International Institute for Management Development) – created an alliance, Business Schools for Climate Leadership (BS4CL.org), and launched a BS4CL climate leadership toolkit, signaling significant commitment from these institutions’ Deans to integrate Climate Change as a core subject in leadership education.

Seen from a PRME leadership education perspective and building on the COP26 outcomes, it is indeed promising that a group of business school Deans are stepping up and committing to integrate climate change into the curriculum. And that the PRME Working Group on Climate Change has developed a program and a certificate for faculty to engage.

So far so good. One of the major pending issues is still how to engage faculty in teaching climate change. Many of us were never trained to do so. So, the big question remains for us as educators of the next generation of business leaders: how do we engage our not-already-convinced) colleagues about the importance of integrating climate change development into the curriculum? We will need to call upon governments, ministers of education, business needs for knowledge and skills, as well as upon Deans to make climate change a central dimension of the incentive structure to climb the ladder of tenure track promotion.

As always, there is much important work ahead of us. I look forward to working more on these important matters.

Warm regards,

Mette Morsing

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