In 2012-13, the University of Minnesota Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) hosted its second-annual professional development program on sustainability in a Scandinavian context. Seventeen business faculty from across the United States journeyed to Denmark and Sweden to visit corporations at the forefront of innovative sustainability and corporate social responsibility practices. Participants represented research institutions, community colleges, and historically black colleges and universities.
The 12-day course showcased firms in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Gothenburg, Sweden. These countries demonstrate the strongest and most balanced macro-economic, environmental, and societal performances in the world.
Participants began their journey at an academic conference hosted by the Copenhagen Business School, where they connected with fellow researchers. They then visited the headquarters of Coloplast, IKEA, Maersk, Carlsberg, Volvo, and other companies to learn about sustainability practices in action.
“The program is designed to provide something of value to all of the participants,” says Abby Pinto, managing director of CIBER. “Our goal is to help faculty incorporate current, relevant sustainability content into their classrooms and research agendas.”
“I intend to use examples from the companies we visited to help students move beyond the model of enhancing shareholder wealth as the sole purpose of business,” says John Wendell, professor of accounting at the Shidler College of Business, University of Hawai’I at Manoa. “I’m also interested in doing follow-up research in the area of assessing risk of non-compliance with CSR and sustainability policies in the supply chain. This seemed to be an area where many of the companies were struggling to find an effective and efficient model.”
Suman Niranjan, assistant professor of operations management and supply chain management from Savannah State University, forged new relationships that will further his research. During the program, he connected with the Danish Fashion Institute and plans to collaborate with the organization on a reverse logistics project in conjunction with H&M and the University of South Denmark.
The program has grown by 50 percent since last year, and shows no sign of slowing. In recruiting participants for the course, CIBER realized its mission to serve researchers and educators from across the country and from a range of institutions. CIBER hopes to include practitioners from the business community in next year’s programming.
CIBER is one of 33 centers across the country with a shared mission to increase U.S. economic competitiveness and capacity for international understanding.