Sustainability
Opinion Article
March 31, 2021

Impact on sustainability: a shared mission

To create a more sustainable future, it is now up to each of us and each of our companies, social organizations, and public sector institutions to measure and report how their activity allows them to achieve each of these objectives. And also, to universities ...

Nova SBE has just published its 2019/20 academic year impact report, describing, through quantitative metrics and case studies of projects and initiatives, the school's contribution to sustainable development goals. With this publication, Nova SBE is accountable for the impact of the activities developed by our community of faculty, staff, and students, in collaboration with our alumni and other institutions. As an international business and economics school, we produce knowledge and develop talent that, increasingly and explicitly, contribute to a more sustainable world. But the involvement with the territory of our campus, in the municipality of Cascais, and our organizational practices, from an environmental and social point of view, are equally critical dimensions of our impact on sustainable development.

The annual disclosure of this report makes us even more accountable to society. The base is concerned with the impact and sustainability in the school's operation, strategy, and values. It is a concern that transcends reputational risk management or marketing positioning. As we believe that impact and sustainability must be transversal to the organization, in 2020, we made an effort to integrate all community members in this approach and be accountable internally and externally. There is still a lot to do: to adjust academic strategy and practice and deepen metrics and innovate in the approaches to be followed. But this focus allows us to start early on a path that the world requires of us all, and with the avant-garde approach that has always been part of the school's values.

This is the indispensable path which will ensure, if successful, the survival of our planet and our society. I am convinced that, in the long run, this is the path that we will all have to take; that, in the long run, all universities will be compelled to produce a similar testimony. And not just in universities.

The path of human societies towards sustainability requires, among other changes, a radical change in the governance of organizations and institutions. Five decades after Milton Friedman argued that companies should focus on profit, and after three decades when the stock price was defined as a metric of company value and the CEO's assessment, the leaders of almost all major companies worldwide recognize today that responsibility for sustainability is part of its objectives and its mission. With the SDGs becoming a metric, this responsibility will require a clear and explicit measurement of each organization's impact for these objectives and, in the long run, for the accountability of managers and organizations for this contribution.

The challenge that arises today is defining and measuring this contribution and how to incorporate it into corporate governance objectives. The focus on profit and market valuation has the merit of being simple to understand and easy to measure. Without an alternative, we will open the door to “greenwashing”, where we will not evaluate the effective contribution to a better world but only the competence of the communication teams. Nova SBE's impact report is an experience in institutional accountability for the impact on sustainability. We want to improve and deepen, but we are sure that this is the way forward. On our side, we started the walk, and we don't want to do it alone.

This article was originally published in Jornal de Negócios, in Portuguese.

Daniel Traça

Dean, Nova SBE

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