Developing the Entrepreneurs Needed to Make Sustainability a Reality: an ESCP-UNEP Symposium

In July 2022, ESCP Business School and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) jointly hosted the symposium “Teaching and Curriculum Development in Sustainability Entrepreneurship: Progress and Prospects” at ESCP's Berlin Campus. It focused on how business schools are educating tomorrow's leaders to integrate sustainability as a guiding principle to develop the new business models we need to live better and lighter.

Professors Florian Lüdeke-Freund and Robert Sheldon, as the Academic Director and Co-Director of ESCP’s MSc in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI), hosted the event with Garrette E. Clark, Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer at UNEP. 

Over two days, 25 invited guests and virtual global participants discussed the state of business schools’ curricula in the emerging field of sustainability entrepreneurship and explored effective, collaborative ways to accelerate its advancement. Throughout visionary and expert presentations, panel debates, and workshops, leading practitioners shared experiences, reflected on progress and challenges, and facilitated conversations around co-creating future pedagogy and practice in sustainability entrepreneurship.

The term sustainability entrepreneurship has a nice ring to it, but actually it's a very new concept that is still taking shape, …

… said Prof. Sheldon, who introduced the idea of the symposium. “There's certainly no textbook for teaching it — yet— and my sense was that many of the people working on it were like us, in that they were developing a lot of new methods, tools and approaches on their own.”

The symposium kicked off with visions of sustainability entrepreneurship by the hosts, and a keynote address which centered on how to foster a convergence of educational approaches to sustainability management - the current teaching paradigm. The introductory sessions were followed by a panel discussion that addressed the competences sustainability entrepreneurs need to be successful. Workshops covered topics ranging from social media as a catalyst for sustainability education to the benefits of co-innovation between students, businesses, universities, and other organisations.

The Symposium is one activity of the partnership between UNEP and ESCP to partner together to co-create and share globally cutting-edge approaches and insights on fostering sustainability entrepreneurship. The evidence on what should be done for the planet crisis needs to be ingrained into the education of tomorrow’s business leaders to increase sustainability understanding and invoke action. “We need a sustainability compass to guide what business models of the future should look like”, said Garrette Clark. 

We are committed to making sustainability a pillar for these new business models that allow future entrepreneurs to meet all our needs with sustainable choices and help everyone to live better and lighter.

ESCP and UNEP have collaborated on such topics since 2020 in an academic partnership in the MSc in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme. Every year, first-year MSEI students start the Sustainable Lifestyles Venture (SLV), a three-term project course that explores how to develop and manage commercially driven enterprises that will give consumers more sustainable choices.

The symposium concluded with current MSEI students pitching their sustainability venture business plans which offered exciting visions and reflected sustainability driven convictions of what can be done. 

Group photo of the ESCP-UNEP team  in the courtyard of the Berlin campus

Programme: Day One

Opening Remarks

  • Dr. Florian Lüdeke-Freund, Academic Director, ESCP MSc in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Dr. Robert Sheldon, Co-academic Director, ESCP MSc in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Garrette Clark, Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer, United Nations Environment Programme

Keynote Address

  • Dr. Stefan Schaltegger, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Panel | Erasmus+ research project on Teaching Entrepreneurship for Sustainability

  • Dr. Siri Jakobsen, Nord University
  • Dr. Tom Long, University of Groningen
  • Dr. Emma Folmer, University of Groningen

Workshop 1 | Collaborative Green Venturing

  • Dr. Klaus Fichter, Oldenburg University
  • Dr. Olof Hjelm, Linköping University

Hybrid Roundtable | Educating sustainability entrepreneurs for the new business models of tomorrow

  • Moderated by Garrette Clark (UNEP)
  • Dr. Carlos Trujillo, Universidad de los Andes
  • Brock Dickinson, University of Waterloo
  • Dr. Sirasa Kantaratanakul, Thammasat University, Thailand

Programme: Day Two

Workshop 2 | Social Media and New Business Models

  • Garrette Clark (UNEP)
  • Laura Astudillo (UNEP)
  • Francesca Berardi (UNEP)

Workshop 3 | How to encourage students to become entrepreneurial change agents?

  • Dr. Antonieta Alcorta de Bronstein, University of Vechta
  • Dr. Jana-Michaela Timm, University of Hamburg

Workshop 4 | Getting the Sustainability Compass right: What sustainability entrepreneurs need now for tomorrow

  • Garrette Clark (UNEP)
  • Laura Astudillo (UNEP)
  • Francesca Berardi (UNEP)

Pitch Event
ESCP MSEI students present their sustainable lifestyle venture business plans

Two MSEI students present their sustainable lifestyle venture business plans during the ESCP-UNEP Symposium