From Lancaster to Lisbon: Our Path to Sustainability
In October 2019, ten students from across the Management School had the invaluable opportunity to travel to Lisbon to attend the annual meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Written by Petya Stoyanova
The conference was attended by over 500 CEOs, liaison delegates and other representatives of the WBCSD member companies. The WBCSD meetings are held annually and present a chance for the leaders of some of the largest corporations across the globe to exchange ideas and knowledge and advance the sustainability agenda. This is a closed event held under the Chatham House Rule, allowing participants to openly express their thoughts and ideas.
Experiences from the WBCSD Conference
The students who attended this prestigious event worked as session hosts and assisted the events team with smoothly running the meeting. In addition, they had the opportunity to attend sessions on various sustainability topics arranged under six main themes: Food and Nature, Climate and Energy, Cities and Mobility, Circular Economy, Redefining Value, and People. The LUMS undergraduates gained first-hand insights from business leaders and expanded their knowledge and understanding of the topics around sustainability.
Freya Evans (BSc Business Management) said: “Being able to attend talks at the WBCSD gave me an invaluable insight into how global corporations are taking positive steps towards reducing their carbon footprint and how important this is for the future of our planet.”
Jenny Allen (BSc Marketing Management) added: “It was so cool to go further than just a customer's perspective. Coming to understand the future of business was the newest idea to me, which was much appreciated.”
Apart from the keynote sessions that focused on specific aspects of sustainability, the second day of the event was dedicated to plenary talks.
Petya Stoyanova (BSc Marketing and Design) shared: “For me, the most inspiring part was the plenary day. Seeing so many people in positions of power openly discuss the environmental issues we are facing gave me a sense of reassurance that leaders are thinking and acting in that direction.”
Additionally, the students had the chance to network with professionals from different companies, which furthered their understanding of the business perspective on sustainability.
Millie Everingham (BSc Management and Human Resources) commented: “Some of the discussions I had during lunchtime were very eye-opening. I was able to see the problems through a different angle and was introduced to ideas that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Talking to professionals who have dedicated their careers to sustainability was definitely a refreshing and enriching experience.”
“What was extremely valuable to me was the opportunity to meet so many people with different career paths and talk with them about their experiences. This helped me form a better picture of what my plans may be for the future.” shared Krisztina Toth (BSc Marketing Management)
Preparations for the trip
The field trip to the WBCSD conference is a part of the unique module OWT 232 Management and Sustainability – led by Dr Alison Stowell. Before attending the meeting, the students underwent one week of intensive learning. During this period, they explored themes such as Ethics and Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and learned about various environmental problems and their origins. The module takes an interdisciplinary approach where students are exposed to ideas from the natural and physical science, management theory and science and technology studies. Dr Jess Davies, introduced the students to the Earth’s ecosystems and the intricate interconnections between them. By learning more about the soils, fresh waters, biodiversity, air and oceans, students were better prepared to attend the WBCSD conference. Apart from that, students also participated in workshops on employability led by Matthew Howard and Sophia Wu from the LUMS Careers team and team building activities with Darren Axe from Green Lancaster. During their time in Lisbon, the group also attended lectures, where they discussed the topics of Ecological Modernisation, Managing Technology, Consumption and Waste.
Elio Beretta (BSc Marketing) shared: “Sustainability in business is a field in which I wanted to deepen my knowledge for a while. What better way to do this than by enrolling for the Management and Sustainability module at Lancaster University Management School? Not only the preparation week at Lancaster gave me a solid foundation in the field, but also the field trip itself at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development gave me a deep insight into how business leaders collaborate in order to counter "wicked problems". I am honoured of having participated in this event as a session host and of having had the opportunity to attend key meetings with business leaders.”
Lucy Eickmann (BSc Marketing Management) said: “I found the content of the module extremely relevant to what was talked about during the WBCSD conference. Seeing the theory put in practice through attending the WBSCD meeting is what makes OWT 232 so unique.”
Apart from attending the WBCSD conference and working as session hosts, the students had a chance to explore the city of Lisbon through several cultural activities. They attended the Lisbon Aquarium to learn more about the biodiversity in the oceans and in particular around Portugal. Additionally, they learned about the city’s history, culture and economy by participating in a walking tour led by a local tour guide.
“The cultural activities nicely complemented the whole experience and were a well-deserved break after the intense but rewarding days at the conference.” - Arushi Tandon (BBA Management)
Felix Fernandez (BSc Economics) added: “I am very grateful that we had the chance to explore Lisbon. The city has an interesting history but most of all it was intriguing to learn about the city’s advancements towards sustainability. Lisbon has won the 2020 European Green Capital Award because of its actions towards greener urban mobility, reduction of CO2 emissions and the abundance of green city areas.”
This is the 9th group of Lancaster students that have attended the WBCSD conference. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would not have been possible without Professor Gail Whiteman (Director of the Pentland Centre and Professor-in-Residence at the WBCSD) and Professor Rodney Irwin (Managing Director of Redefining Value and Education at the WBCSD) and Dr Alison Stowell (module convenor).
To express their gratitude towards the WBCSD Senior Management and Events team, the students prepared thoughtful gifts – wash bags made from recycled plastic produced by LUMS alumni Alex Stewart (BA Management and Entrepreneurship graduate of 2011) and Entrepreneur in Residence. Alex is the founder of the environmentally-conscious brand OneNine5 and he was happy to meet the LUMS students and provide them with the special bags.
“We are very grateful to Alex for taking the time to meet us and helping us with the gifts. It was motivating and inspiring to meet a Lancaster graduate who has chosen to follow the path towards sustainability and has managed to craft a high-quality product made from recycled materials.” reflected Lucy Szulc-Neild (BSc Management and Human Resources)
Before, during and after the event, the students have written a number of blogs on various topics of their choosing, inspired by what they have learnt during the module and the conference. One of the students has also created a short video diary to better catch the experiences and emotions of the trip.