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Corporate – stakeholder collaboration as a means towards sustainability: an academic perspective

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.

Picture 1: Getting ready for 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

“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

[endif]--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 panelists 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.

In the following picture, you can see one of the moments during the discussion, and![endif]--![endif]-- all the excellent panelists (from left to right): the Chair Dr Hannele Mäkelä, and the panelist 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).

Panel discussion on CSR and sustainability in business 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.

During the seminar, the team of the B2N research group introduced the Kampusluonto Demo Project. The RESPMAN Research Group and the B2N Research Project at the Tampere University are preparing a great new project: a Campus Nature in our university stay tuned! In the following picture, you can see some initial ideas for the Kampusluonto Demo Project.

Kampusluonto Demo Project.

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.

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!

This blogpost has also been published on the Vaikuttaja (The Influencer), a blog published by the Faculty of Management and Business, Tampere University. You can find a link to the Vaikuttaja blog here.



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