A series of 18 videos about SDG business cases, available free online and created by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), has been highly commended by the Financial Times in the teaching cases category of the Responsible Business Education Awards. The awards recognise the best business school teaching cases published in the past three years that have sustainability and tackling climate change as a key learning objective.
A further article in the FT this week, ‘Teaching cases award: a world of eco-dilemmas’ comments that RSM’s focus on teaching cases that show corporate engagement with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is an ‘unusual approach’.
However, the SDG teaching cases come from a sound academic source. They were produced over 24 months to demonstrate the power that management expertise can have for organisations that deal with the global challenges presented by the SDGs, and were based on a framework developed by Prof. Rob van Tulder, professor of international business-society management at RSM. Prof. Van Tulder also contributed as a writer, co-writer and editor to many of the cases.
The teaching cases can be downloaded from RSM’s Case Development Centre.
Important for students to be aware
In their first few months after publication, 1600 copies were downloaded and used by teachers, students and practitioners in Europe, North and South Americas, Asia and Pacific. One case in the series, "Managing Lean Success: A Warehouse Balancing Act", won the 2020 EFMD Case Writing Competition in the category Continuous improvement: the journey to excellence. Eva Rood, Director of RSM’s Positive Change Initiative, said: “The more people use these materials, the bigger the potential impact they have. And we’re looking for that impact, since we only have 96 months left before it’s 2030, a crucial year.
“This series discusses all SDGs and brings a variety of perspectives from all disciplines of business and management areas: from logistics to marketing to leadership, and so on. Besides that, all cases have a ‘zoom in’ and a ‘zoom out’ approach: students are encouraged to first focus on a solutional approach to one SDGs, and then look at the broader picture, identifying interdependencies, trade-offs, and dilemmas. There’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to grand societal challenges and it’s important that students are aware of that.”
An important contribution to change
RSM Dean Ansgar Richter said: “Business is in the midst of transformative change towards greater sustainability – and so is business education. Nevertheless, we are still at the beginning of this journey. The teaching materials used at business schools, but also our pedagogies, are often steeped in old ways of thinking. We are very happy that our case writers and many other colleagues at RSM are making an important contribution to change, and that this contribution has been recognised by this award. Yet we are also humbled by the magnitude of the challenge ahead.”
Part of the transformation of business education
Specialist writers from RSM’s Case Development Centre were involved in producing the study materials, with the assistance of businesses and organisations who contributed their experiences and examples. Managing Editor Tao Yue said: “I hope our SDG cases – through open access – will reach beyond business schools. Companies and governments, for example, can use these cases for discussion and reflection. I also hope more organisations will work with us to develop new SDG educational materials. Business education is shifting from a shareholder orientation to a stakeholder orientation, from a specialised functional approach to a holistic one. RSM is at the forefront of this transformation. Our SDG cases can be exemplary for other business schools working to embed sustainability in their curricula.”
Still more to be done
Dr Bas Koene, Director of the RSM Case Development Centre said: “Having our SDG case collection win this prize highlights the rich complexity of the issue of sustainability. We are really happy that the jury appreciates the relevance of our integrated treatment of all 17 SDGs.
“The key importance of the SDG cases is that they present sophisticated business challenges in all fields of management and show how the professional specialist perspective of, for example, marketing, finance or supply chain management is required to address these issues, but also needs to be complemented by a critical contextual awareness that is crucial for success. We of course hope many people will find our SDG case collection interesting and useful. Even better would be if we inspired other academics, practitioners and stakeholders to get together as we did, and take the opportunity of developing SDG teaching cases to explore the complex reality of sustainability issues and their resolution. For us it was both a sobering and a stimulating experience. There is still much to be done. At the same time it feels we are with the right crowd to do it.”
More free resources
RSM’s series of SDG video business cases is part of a collection of free resources for improving the practice of business and management through education, research and collaboration. They enable RSM to fulfil its mission to be a force for positive change in the world using the UN’s 17 SDGs as a framework for action and expanding its mission beyond its own community. The full set of free resources for any student, professor, institution, or organisation to use includes the 18 SDG teaching case videos as well as books and MOOCs, one of which is award-winning. Teaching notes are available to teachers on request.