The University of Bradford School of Management recently hosted an event that discussed sustainability in the workplace and what skills, attributes and characteristics people would need in the future. In the first of a series of blogs analysing the event and the issue, student Celeste Suess, who is studying MSc Applied Management and Sustainability, shares her thoughts.
The Working in the Context of Sustainability, Ethics and CSR event was unique as it paired expert advice and insight with an interactive cross discipline workshop where students, academics and professionals worked together to establish what was important.
A key aspect to be taken away from the event was that to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage, an integrated triple-bottom line must be adopted by organisations.
The integrated aspect of what is formally considered as a CSR department was a unique stance as it highlighted the importance of embedding sustainability and ethics within every department rather than considering it as a disconnected add-on. This was highlighted in talks from CSR and sustainability industry experts from Morrisons and Sedex.
Skills for sustainability
In the Morrisons presentation a brief background was given on the supermarket retail industry and the importance of lean supply chains and the circular economy was discussed. Furthermore the talk from Sedex gave invaluable insights on what sort of career path would lead to a job in CSR and discussed the dynamic and flexible nature of the job description.
Perhaps the rapidly changing environment of CSR, sustainability and ethics makes the research area elusive, which became apparent in the subsequent workshop session where many contrasting views and opinions were shared and discussed.
This was hugely beneficial as it enabled a group of people with different opinions and approaches on sustainability to share ideas in a common environment. By highlighting key skills and attributes that CSR, sustainability and ethics practitioners would ideally possess within the group, we were able to identify the areas of disparity and overlaps.
This process quickly underlined what is universally deemed as important and what seemed to be more subjectively important for CSR practitioners.
Through the discussions it became clear that what is seen as important is highly reliant on personal opinion, age and profession, with some seeing personal traits as highly valued and others considering strategic expertise as more important for practitioners.
Building sustainability into business
The bottom-line that was easy to take away from the event was that CSR, sustainability and ethics are international issues and the interdependence of global markets demands universal efforts to conserve finite resources, especially in light of the imminent environmental impact of emerging economies.
By adopting a holistic approach to issues of sustainability, it is possible to satisfy what the majority deemed as important aspects of CSR; which was mainly a knowledge of current affairs, international business, strategic business skills and an innovative personality.
Although there was disagreement on the terminology used, depending on the school of thought each individual belonged to, it was agreed that CSR, sustainability and ethics is vital for the future and that it should dominate modern discourse in the business world.