On 21 January, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s International Business School Suzhou (IBSS) won the top place at an international sustainability initiative competition judged by CEOs and other leaders from major institutions around the world.

The Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA) presented XJTLU with the gold medal for Best CSR and Sustainability Initiative 2022 at their annual Excellence Awards ceremony.

Judges from companies including IKEA, Google, and Rolls Royce and the conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund deemed XJTLU's entry in the corporate social responsibility and sustainability category the best over other short-listed business schools from Spain, Germany, Italy, India, the UK and Portugal. XJTLU was the only university from China that had been short-listed for the sustainability initiative award category.

Students practice planting

IBSS’s winning 15 Ways in 15 Weeks initiative encourages individuals to take micro-actions to reduce their carbon footprints which then contribute to macro-changes that help protect the environment.

The 15 ways included activities such as meat-free meals, growing food on dormitory balconies, crochet lessons to promote "slow fashion" rather than "fast fashion", taking the stairs rather than elevators, and lectures on ethical investing.

The initiative resulted in the setup of the Sustainable Future Talents student association who each week worked with the IBSS Sustainability Committee to promote a lifestyle swap.

Yi Tang, a Year Four Business Administration BA student, is one of the founders of the initiative and Haina Sang, a Year Three BSc Economics and Finance student, helped to organise the programme. Both say they are proud their School is on the world stage for shaping a sustainable future through education.

“15 Ways in 15 Weeks represents a new era in China’s responsible and sustainable business education. I hope IBSS can keep leading the progress in this discipline in China,” says Tang.

Sang adds: “We are very honoured and happy that what we have done can be seen by the world and popularised to other universities in the world. This sets a good example to others and is a small but important step in promoting sustainable development.”

A lasting impact

More than 4,000 lecturers, students and building staff adopted these lifestyle swaps, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the participants and the building as well as improve participants’ well-being. Organisers planned the initiative to have ongoing impact, says Dr Ellen Touchstone, Associate Dean for Responsible and Sustainable Business Education at IBSS.

“15 Ways in 15 Weeks recognises that lifestyle changes are more likely to be permanent if they are fun rather than feeling like a chore,” says Dr Touchstone, who led the initiative.

Students who participated report they are maintaining their lifestyle swaps, making healthier life choices every day.

Sang estimates that since the initiative began, increased carpooling among students has saved more than a tonne of carbon dioxide.

Yanfei Li, a Year Three Media and Communication Studies student, leads the Sustainable Future Talents student organisation and says for some participants, the impact likely will grow over time.

“I think for the personal participants, this initiative is more like a seed that is planted in the heart. Maybe, they think it is a good idea and immediately water it so that it germinates, or maybe, it inspires more people to learn that there are existing ways for us to reach sustainability. Then, one day, when the conditions are right, the seed eventually becomes a more influential idea and gives an opportunity to totally change those participants’ lives.”

Leading the way

Dr Touchstone says that the initiative will continue to bear fruit not only at XJTLU, but also in other locations.

“We will be providing the 15 Ways in 15 Weeks programme to other universities and organisations through the Creative Commons platform, in a sense paying it forward just as the UN Environment Programme and the UnSchool of Disruptive Design had done when they provided open access to the Anatomy of Action project – the project which we adapted,” she says.

The results at XJTLU are clearly paying off, she says: “Working together over an entire semester with the Sustainable Future Talents, the IBSS Sustainability Committee, our Campus Management Office and other community members to raise awareness of how each of us in IBSS could do our part to decrease our individual carbon emissions was a major undertaking, but so worthwhile.”

The Best CSR and Sustainability Initiative was one of nine awards presented at the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards this year. The awards recognise AMBA-accredited business schools and students that have used their qualifications and creativity to have a positive impact on business, education and society.

The AMBA is the impartial authority on postgraduate management education. The BGA is an international membership and accreditation body of world-leading and high-potential business schools. AMBA & BGA’s rigorous assessment criteria ensure only the highest-calibre schools – which demonstrate the highest standards in teaching, curricula, and student interaction – achieve accreditation.

IBSS's joint accreditation by AMBA & BGA in 2020 made it one of just over 100 business schools worldwide to achieve a prestigious triple accreditation, which also includes the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) accreditations.

Members of the Sustainable Future Talents student organisation include:
Yi Tang, Year Four, Business Administration; Yanfen Li, Year Three, Media and Communication Studies; Yuwei Wang, Year Three, International Business with a Language; Jiaman Li, Year Two, International Relations; Yue Shen, 2021 graduate, International Business with a Language; Jingyao Zhang, MSc Operations and Supply Chain Management; Yixuan Jing, 2021 graduate, Economics and Finance; Yuting Liang, Year Two, Urban Planning and Design; Qingqing Li, Year Three, Financial Mathematics; Xingyan Nan, Year Two, Media and Communication Studies; Bubu Wang, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Yunqi Yang, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Dongman Li, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Haina Sang, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Xinyi Xu, Year Two, Information and Computer Science; Songzhuo Zhang, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Keyi Yang, Year Three, International Management and Information Systems; Yixuan Guo, Year Three, Financial Mathematics; Murou Liu, Year Two, International Business with a Language; Yutao Jiang, Year Three, Business Administration; Jiangyu Yan, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Zixin Zhang, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Yijia Li, Year Three, Economics and Finance; Ruiting Xi, Year Three, Economics; Lihan Zhang, Year Three, International Management and Information Systems; Jian Shi, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Yuhua Zhang, Year Two, International Business; Mengtian Qin, Year Two, Information Management and Information Systems; Yuqi Li, Year Two, International Business; Jiaan Qin, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Luyue Wang, Year Two, Information Management and Information Systems; Fanghua Liu, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Xinyue Hu, Year Two, International Business; Jiaqi Yao, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Chenfei Zhao, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Zeren Zhaxi,Year Four, Business Administration; Yiying Fang, MSc Project Management; Chen Pan, Year Two, Accounting; Beining Yang, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Qiyue Zhang, Year Two, Accounting; Yijia Zhao, Year Two, Economics; Yuzhe Zhou, Year Two; International Business; Sufan Zhong, Year Two, Economics and Finance; Ao Shen, Year Two, Economics and Finance.

By Catherine Diamond
Edited by Tamara Kaup
Photos courtesy of IBSS

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