Corporate-stakeholder Collaboration as a Means Towards Sustainability: An Academic Perspective.

27.3.2019 / Lara Gonzalez Porras

Mid-March, Tampere University hosted the 7th edition of the Responsible Business Research Seminar. This seminar is oriented to discuss and share insights on business responsibility, sustainability and ethics. The seminar was organised by the RESPMAN Research Group from the Tampere University, with the financial support of the Foundation for Economic Education. The two-day seminar took place on March 13th-14th, and involved Finnish and international participants. This year, we had Italian and Lithuanian colleagues to join the seminar.

The seminar started with an interesting keynote speech by professor Giovanna Michelon, University of Exeter, UK. She focused on shareholder activism and discussed how this stakeholder group demands change, transparency, and the disclosure of better information from the companies they invest in. The seminar continued with workshops, including the following topics: social enterprises, stakeholder issues, responsible accounting, responsible communication, and environmental responsibility.

Based on my background and my personal interests in stakeholder theory, I found the workshop on stakeholder issues extremely interesting and thought-provoking. As in previous years, the workshops were organised so that each presenter has 20 minutes for presentation and 20 minutes for discussion and comments. The workshops offered time and place for receiving and giving useful and constructive feedback. Moreover, the coffee and lunch breaks during the seminar were a perfect opportunity to continue the discussions and building networks with other researchers.

Panel discussion on CSR and sustainability in business education

During the second day, we started the seminar with a highly interesting panel on how to include CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability in business education. The panelist highlighted the importance of these topics in education and discussed that these issues are becoming more critical as there needs to be a society-level change towards sustainability. The panelists emphasised how cooperation among universities and multidisciplinarity are needed; universities need to design a collaborative environment for students to be able to engage with the current and future challenges, and to imagine and create completely novel things. To achieve this, educators should create new participatory approaches for students and leave room for open participation

”We need to make the Sustainable Development Goals transformative to make them useful”

– Martin Fougère

“We need to rethink teaching to promote sustainability”

– Johanna Annala

The Chair Dr Hannele Mäkelä, and the panelist (from left to right) Maija Tenhunen (Senior Sustainability Manager at Tieto Oyj), Matti Sommarberg (Dean of the Tampere University Faculty of Management and Business), Marko Järvenpää (Professor of Accounting at University of Vaasa), Martin Fougère (Associate Professor of Politics and Business at Hanken School of Economics), and Johanna Annala (Senior lecturer at Tampere University Higher Education).

After the panel, the second seminar day continued with workshops and presentations both in English and Finnish. The main topics were social responsibility and multiculturalism, leadership and work well-being, and ethical and responsible management.

The feelings after attending this seminar are always great. After so many editions, we organisers and participants felt like a big family of researchers who care about how business can affect the planet, and are willing to work together and promote sustainability -both in the business and the academic world.

The underlying thought for the seminar seems to be that stakeholders, companies and society can work together in the same direction and move towards sustainability. Another way to understand business is possible, and we believe that a world where the natural environment, society and business coexist is needed, and more importantly, possible.

Some gossip for our students at the Tampere University. The RESPMAN Research Group and the B2N Research Project at the Tampere University are preparing a great new project: Campus Nature! So stay tuned!

The next Responsible Business Research Seminar will take place 12–13 March 2020, at the Tampere University. If you are interested in business responsibility and sustainability, you are most welcome to be part of this great family of researchers. We are waiting for you!

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