Sustainability and Responsible Leadership: Topics and Subtopics

With 193 MBA students, 7 topics, 50+ subtopics, and 20 potential corporate, non-profit, and social enterprises partners in place, I am ready to kick off the first Sustainability and Responsible Leadership Course at CEIBS next week.  Already, I am happy to say, I have been speaking with students who have “heard” about the class and are excited to get moving (2 group are already working on small 2 week projects).

Before I launch though, I would like to invite comments on the topics and subtopics.  I want to make sure that I have my bases covered.

So, if you have any suggestions on topics or subtopics where you feel China faces challenges in sustainability or responsible leadership, please send me an email or put up a comment.

Also, if you are an NGO, corporation, or social enterprise who could benefit from a team of 5-6 MBAs in developing a socially responsible business plan, product, or service, send me an email.

7 Responses to Sustainability and Responsible Leadership: Topics and Subtopics

  1. You’ve put together a very comprehensive list….you might also wish to consider desalination and EVs as sub-topics….although easy to see where these are already incorporated in other areas. I see that packaging is listed under manufacturing….it might be interesting to consider product message and marketing wrt packaging….how can green consumers use objective criteria vis-a-vis green washing concerns….all in all though, a very good list.

    Looks like this will be an interesting course….good luck with it and enjoy!

  2. Thanks Darnoc.

    Some of these issues were hard to separate (your comment on packaging highlights that), and one of my greatest issues was with the role of consumers… and PR/ Media. It is a HUGE issue (I often say we PRed our way into this mess, and we will PR our way out), but I was not as clear on this issue when it came to the second semester.. and the business plan.

    Any suggestion on that? Its in economics now, but the more I think about it.. maybe consumerism should be part of a different category called “personal responsibility”?


  3. Hi Rich:

    You may also look at The Earth Institute of Columbia University, whose primary focus is also on sustainable development and addressing nine global issues including climate and society, water, energy, poverty, ecosystems, public health, food and nutrition, hazards and urbanization.

    One area that I feel China is facing great challenges and it touches a few topics on your list is the patent issue. I just read that China has great initiatives to re-engineer its development and urbanization. For example, the government supports to build 3000 man-made islands along the coastal line with 12,000-15,000 high-temperature superconducting generators. The capacity of electricity generated by wind will be equivalent to 50%-70% China’s current total power generation. Or, in the construction of and conversion to green buildings, the Chinese also want to replace cement and steel with carbon fiber.

    But often times, the patents of such technologies, the 10MW to 80MW superconducting generators or carbon fiber, are in the hands of the US, Japan and other developed countries. This becomes a big hurdle to the sustainable development of China, because it’s not only new technology and efficiency; it’s also national security and strategic deployment for the balance of world power. And as such the difficulty in the negotiation at the Copenhagen summit.

    I am not sure if this is beyond the scope of your course. It seems the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the financial crisis have brought the world to a pivotal point to re-write the past 300 years of industrialization and growth. To think sustainability, we will also have to look at our fundamental values and the form of world order.

  4. Hi Jean.

    Earth Institute is an interesting group, and I have referred to them on occasion before.

    With regard to the patent issue, I encourage you to read my previous posts US Fears China Cleantech Dominance. Why? and Should Cleantech be Socialized?. I address the IP issues there, but I urge you to get beyond the “who” owns a patent “where”, and look at how the system can be improved upon structurally.

    Personally, I do not see it as a developing vs. developed issue so much as it is about a structure whereby the pimary driver for innovation is profit, which (as this article speaks of) at times is not the best manner to improve the environment.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. Rich:

    I read all those posts, and I couldnt agree with you more that, although the progress towards sustainability is to reduce our impact on earth and on humanity, everything is still purely profit driven, which brings us to the root cause of the problem and how to solve it?

    I agree that the issues shouldnt be about developing vs developed. But sadly, thats the reality we live in and how the world operates right now, especially as the world is going through a transition from uni-polar to multi-polar and forming a new world order. Neither US or China, or anyone else for that matter I think, is willing to let go the up-hand easily.

    So, how do we address these problems when the fundamental structure is flawed? If we take profit out of the equation, is there a new economic model that we can base our development on and measure against? Or, maybe the Happy Planet Index (HPI), developed by the New Economics Foundation, offers a good sample?

    And actually may I ask the nature of the projects you want to do with your MBA students? Are those just business plans or do you hope to address more fundamental issues?

  6. Jean

    1) I think that it is theoretically pretty easy to solve some of these issues. The problem is that politically and operationally it would be very difficult. Example – if China as a state wanted to use “cleantech” as a way to address larger issues (water safety or SOX emissions), it could as a state purchased the IP rights from the leading firms, socialize that cost, and contract the manfacturing of the equipment, implementation, and servicing through a bidding system. Manufacturing costs would drop significantly through the bidding system, and the removal of IP related price inflation, while increasing the scale.

    Would take a fund, legal structure, and a lot of political will because in taking that step China would (as a state) through the VC industry into a tail spin.

    2) you do not need to remove profit from the picture. Manufacturers can make their money just like always, but the “branding” and “IP” costs would be born by the State. This would essentially restructure the economic picture as it becomes a volume play, and while the margins would be reduced.. the gross would increase.

    … and I would argue the net profit would also increase as firms would no longer have to invest in R&D, or fail to achieve results through R&D. they would become contract manufacturers who focused on quality, service, and scale.

    3) Political stalemates between the US, China, and other countries have no place in the climate debate, and I think the media does more to create a perception of drama than really exists.

    4) I hate indexes.. happy or otherwise… primarily because those who are responsible for measuring are either (1) part of the system and biased or (2) outside the system and ignorant of the intricacies. I will admit that over the short term the impact can be quite positive, but there are few cases of where over the long term (10+ years) much can be made of them.

    5) Students will spend 3 months researching an issue, 3 months working in partnership with an external org (profit/ non), and will deliver a business plan that is (a) socially beneficial and (b) benefical to the external org. Goal is to enlighten students to issues, create understanding that they have both responsibility to address issues and means to do so (c) give them a chance to develop socially beneficial business plans.



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