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Socially responsible Business School - Compliance or commitment

By professor Kiran Fernandes - January 2020

Durham University Business School develops and enthuses leaders and entrepreneurs who create, share and use knowledge to deliver equitable and sustainable futures around the world.

This idea of publicly committing to share and use our knowledge to create global sustainable communities is a shift from being a Corporate Social Business School to a Business School with Social Responsibility. This new model ensures Durham University Business School delivers social, economic and environmental changes with regional, national and global partners.

Powerful technology disruption is changing how we live and work. The rapid spread of digital technologies is creating new forms of economics and helping developing economies achieve powerful and sustained long-term growth. Despite this fourth digital industrial revolution, there are significant global challenges that need urgent attention. The UN ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or SDGs, highlights the global challenges we face including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

At Durham we have created several strategies to address some of the key tensions of today’s society, where challenges are between individual–collective, national–global, privacy–open systems access, where businesses and governments are placing a much greater premium on resource use and sustainability. This fourth industrial revolution will put immense pressure on the world’s resources, which will lead to major configurational changes in operations, processes and supply networks, as well as firms themselves.

As a socially responsible Business School, we have directly responded to these challenges as follows:

  1. Research Centres as world-class global interdisciplinary hubs: The re-organised research centre structure within the School bring world-class faculty, Professors of Practice (industry experts) and senior policymakers together to address key global challenges.

The El Shaarani Centre for Ethical Finance, Accountability and Governance conducts observational research on Ethics, Finance, Governance and Accountability by promoting intelligent debate and understanding of ethical finance, socially responsible investment, governance and accountability. For example, Professor Adams has supported the development of an integrated reporting system to ensure social and environmental accounting along with sustainability reporting can help organisations address sustainable development.

The Centre on Organisations and Society studies organisational and societal challenges by combining business ethics, Employee relations and marketing and consumption as a collaborative and inter-disciplinary research challenge. For example, Dr Hardey has analysed the impact of the development of smartphone apps to protect users from domestic violence and abuse.

On the technology front, the Centre for Innovation and Technology Management focuses on the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on organisational systems. For example, Dr Mogre has developed a decision support system to mitigate the supply chain risks in the offshore-wind industry by choosing appropriate governance structures.

These global world-class research hubs not only aim to address some of the global challenges, but the outcomes of this high-quality research translates into the global business environment and the everyday world.

  1. Global Debates on future challenges: School has launched a series of debates called the Durham Global Debates. These debates are hosted with local partners in some of the world's most influential urban centres (e.g. Shanghai, Paris, New York, and Washington DC). They celebrate and showcase some of our key research projects via ‘TED-style’ talks and discussions on some of the leading global challenges.

For example, in June, Durham and emlyon business schools hosted a Global Debate on the Role of Cities in the Smart Mobility Economy. This debate brought together experts from companies and organisations including; Airbus, City of Amsterdam, Durham County Council, ENGIE, Maas Alliance, and PwC to discuss the role of cities in the urban mobility challenge. The event was supported by French electric utility company ENGIE, and ERTICO – ITS (Intelligent Transport and Systems) Europe, a European Commission and industry supported partnership.

Another Global debate with Dartmouth College in Washington DC and New York happened in December which addressed issues of how businesses and governments can prepare to protect digital assets from the threat of cybercrime, without having to compromise on innovation and creativity and do so at a reasonable price. These debates built were built around cutting-edge research from both Durham and Dartmouth on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). They also highlighted the importance of Cyber Security in today’s digital society with a focus on the creation of robust systems for reducing the risk of cyberattacks.

  1. Delocalisation of the education process: The School is focused on improving global education, including access to world-class education to under-represented groups and to equip students to transition successfully to the next stage of their lives, as alumni and citizens.

As part of this agenda, the Business School has several flexible programmes, and in some cases free, to deliver immediate results for the individual and organisations. An example is the use of a state-of-the-art virtual learning environment, students can have 24/7 access to all learning materials including videos, industry insights and articles. The School has also partnered with FutureLearn to deliver free online courses, subjects include Change Management and Innovation. As part of our social involvement, the School provides free access to several regional and national businesses via the Institute of Director’s Business Hub in Durham. There are also several scholarships and special tuition fee discounts for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to distance and online education, the School has developed a Global Citizenship Programme that fosters the importance of sustainability and responsible consumption in society.

As a socially responsible world-leading Business School, Durham is committed to both the value-creating opportunities and the intensely competitive and societal challenges we all face in this era of technological change.

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