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Working Group on Climate Change and Environment – An Introduction and Overview

This post first appeared on the PRIME time blog by GISELLE WEYBRECHT

The PRME community has a number of Working Groups that aim to deepen collaboration in and across institutions on specific issues relevant to corporate sustainability and responsibility. They also aim to connect the work of the PRME network further with the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). Working Groups are proposed and led by Signatories and membership to the groups is open. Each group work in different ways but all produce research and guidance materials on their chosen topic.

The Working Group on Climate Change and Environment was configured at the Global Forum 2015 in New York to focus on SDG 13 on Climate Action but also many of the other SDGs that include climate change. I spoke with the Co-Chairs of the Working Group, Petra Molthan-hill, Associate Professor of Sustainable Management and Education for Sustainable Development at Nottingham Business School and Alex Hope, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Business and Law at Northumbria University, about the work the Group has been doing, as well as what they have planned next.

Why Climate Change?

The UN PRME Climate Change and Environment Working Group was convened to focus primarily on SDG 13 ‘Climate Action’ however there are several other SDGs that naturally fall under the broader remit of the group such as SDG 12 ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. The issue of Climate Change in particular is of key importance to all organisations and will impact on all sectors of business, including education, in terms of new threats as well as new opportunities. Business Schools will experience the same operational impacts as other organisations, but also have an obligation to produce business managers and leaders who can assist the business in which they will work in meeting the challenges that climate change will bring and contribute to climate change mitigation.

The Working Group has three main objectives:

  1. Policy/Strategies: This section provides business schools and universities with policy templates on how climate change and other environmental issues can be integrated into operational policies/strategies but also into learning and teaching policies/strategies.

  2. Teaching: Sharing of good ideas, best practice and innovative training methods on how to integrate climate change and other sustainability issues into management education and training within universities and beyond. A special focus is on how to encourage student to work towards sustainable solutions.

  3. Cooperation: Explores the dialogue between business schools and private/public sector organisations especially through Global Compact in order to work together on solutions to climate change and other environmental challenges. The vision is that companies put up ‘wicked ‘ problems and the best brains across the world will contribute to solving them.

What has the Working Group done in the past?

Policies and Strategies for Business Schools: The working group has collated a range of template policies and strategies relating to climate change that business school can use as starting points for developing their own policy documents. A few examples in this resource include:

  • Carbon management plans: Coventry University’s Carbon Management Plan outlines the University’s commitment to creating a low carbon and sustainable learning environment. The plan also includes their carbon baselines, performance since 2010 and future plans.

  • Carbon/energy management policy: Lancaster University’s energy and carbon management policy outlines its commitment to be as efficient as possible in its use of energy and natural resources. Its policy includes carbon reduction, local generation, supply chain as well as academic application.

  • Sustainable procurement policy: The University of Birmingham recognises that its procurement activities have a significant impact on the environment, society and the economy and accepts that it has a responsibility to strive to effectively manage and minimise those impacts. Their Sustainable Procurement Policy is a two page document that outlines their actions.

We encourage other business schools/universities to share their policies and strategies with us, which we can then upload as examples of best practice.

Global Repository: We have also developed a learning and teaching repository which provides examples of best practice, innovative teaching ideas and suitable projects for integrating climate change and environment focussed topic into management education. You can browse the repository by subject/discipline area such as accounting, marketing etc. Additionally, you can find resources related to each of the relevant Sustainable Development Goals. A few examples include:

  • Non-profit Management: The Association of Climate Officers, a professional development organization and cross-sector community of practice for individuals addressing climate change in their organizations’ operations and mission.

  • Accounting: The Repository includes links to case studies such as “Making water count: water accountability change within an Australian university (Egan, M. 2014) and Energy accounting for regional studies: Case study of Canada and its provinces (Houssauni, N. and Hewage, K. 2013).

  • Economics: In “Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage” UNESCO presents twenty-six case studies from selected natural and cultural World Heritage sites in order to illustrate the impacts of climate change that have already been observed, and those that can be expected in the future.

We encourage Academics and Professionals to take ownership of one discipline for example ‘Operations’ or one as the SDGs in our Global Repository to populate this area with interesting case studies and other teaching material. They could also organise webinars and other events to share best practice.

What is the Working Group currently working on?

Carbon Literacy Training: The first Carbon Literacy Training project seeks to work with senior management teams within business schools and higher education institutions to develop their understanding of climate related threats and opportunities. In doing so the project aims to inspire university leaders to take action within their institutions. We are also developing packages for each discipline such as ‘Carbon Accounting’. If you are interested to contribute, please contact

Global Climate Change Education Survey: The second project comprises a Global Climate Change Education Survey. The aim of the survey is to establish where, when, how and indeed if climate change related issues are being taught in business and management schools. The intention is to develop a baseline for the state of climate change education and identify areas of good practice and examples where instructions are incorporating Climate Change into their work through curriculum, research, events, student engagement etc. The survey is still open to responses here

What is next for the Working Group?

At the moment we are developing the Carbon Literacy Training, which is also a PRME Champion Project. We invite specialists or interested Academics/Professionals in ‘Carbon Accounting’, ‘Sustainable Finance’ and ‘Energy Efficient Operations’ to contact us in order to be invited as we will collect and share best ideas on three International Webinars this summer with the aim to develop the first three discipline specific training packages for the Carbon Literacy Training.

We are also involved in developing Carbon Literacy Training for the screen industry and the public sector, please contact us if interested.

We have been running research seminars related to Carbon Literacy, the next one will be in Copenhagen Business School in March 2019.

This year we will complete and publish the results of the Climate Change Education Survey and we are finalizing a chapter on climate change education in a SAGE handbook. We are also planning to edit a book on ‘Climate Change Education’, so please contact us if you would like to share your ideas and write a chapter.

What can signatories do if they are interested in joining?

If you are interested in joining the working group, please complete this registration form.

For more information about the working group’s activities please contact Co-Chairs:

Petra Molthan-Hill, Nottingham Trent University,

Alex Hope, Northumbria University,

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