Time to walk the talk : investigating the incorporation of sustainability at Lund University School of Economics and Management

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Business and management are key in the transition toward a more sustainable world. Educating leaders of tomorrow, business schools bear a profound responsibility to endow students with the right tools and knowledge to successfully manage the challenges of tomorrow. As students and staff recently raised the question if Lund University School of Economics and Management (LUSEM) does justice to its responsibility regarding sustainability, this thesis examines the incorporation of sustainability into the degree programmes of LUSEM and the underlying reasons for the status quo. In doing so, this study employs a sequential explanatory strategy. First, a content analysis of 174 course guides, 12 programme overviews and curricula has been conducted. Having found that only two out of twelve programmes feature a mandatory sustainability course, four programmes offer at least an elective course, while the rest of the programmes do not have any course in which sustainability is taught, this study concludes that sustainability has only been incorporated to a marginal extent. Secondly, in search of explanations to this finding, eight key informant interviews have been conducted. Using the Burke-Litwin model of Organizational Performance and Change as a diagnostic tool to identify barriers and drivers, it has been found that externally, pressures from companies, conservative journals, the university financing system and a lack of research funding impede the incorporation of sustainability. Even though government authorities provide most of the funding of LUSEM and sustainability has been integrated in the higher education act, they have not been named as a progressive actor. In contrast, the EQUIS accreditation system seems to be a major driver for the inclusion of sustainability into the public appearance and core documents of LUSEM. However, since internally LUSEM’s leadership does not prioritize sustainability, most of the staff lack in knowledge of sustainability and there are no incentive structures in place to stimulate changes in favour of sustainability, only a few faculty members have created sustainability courses out of their own motivation based on their academic freedom. Finally, to advance the incorporation of sustainability, this paper proposes the dismantling of barriers to interdisciplinary work at Lund University and the creation of positive incentive structures for the incorporation of sustainability in the educational programmes both by the leadership of LUSEM and Swedish Government Authorities. Only by making sustainability a real vision for LUSEM and Swedish higher education institutions, not just fine words on letters of intent, the envisioned change will become possible.

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