Sustainability in the curriculum for responsible management education

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This year, the UWE Student Union introduced for the first time ever the ‘Sustainability Teaching Award’ as part of their student experience award scheme. This is also a demonstration of their quest for integrating sustainability in the University curriculum at large. A member of BLCC, Dr Svetlana Cicmil,  was among the 6 academics shortlisted for this award following the nominations by UWE students. An educational activist and scholar passionate about responsible business and management education, Svetlana experiments with pedagogies which address, in a critical and participatory way, the global sustainability agenda and international development. The ultimate aim is to offer the students a truly multidisciplinary dialogical learning experience in the class which is, in turn, a mix of UWE masters students from different fields (MBA, Environmental Management, global political economy,  sustainable development) . A student’s comment illustrates this :

“…. As an MBA student, … I had little to no exposure to sustainable development, … theory, perspectives, models or initiatives that were in this field. Not only has Svetlana shone a light and provided knowledge of sustainable development …, she has provided me the space to develop my own growing perspective, interpretation and definitions.”

Reflecting the spirit and the ethos of BLCC, Svetlana is convinced that we “cannot develop global leaders without addressing in the curriculum some of the most pertinent issues of our time, such as: ecological crisis, global ethics, and corporate responsibility related to equitable sustainable development. Being a complex and multifaceted concept, a mixture of technological, moral, political and sociological concerns, sustainability is relevant and can be linked, to every aspect of the business and management curriculum”.

More information about this award and the related UWE SU initiatives.


Beyond Unsustainable Leadership

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By Dr Neil Sutherland.


What do we think of when we hear the term ‘Sustainable Leadership’? Perhaps you picture a lush green planet, environmentally friendly practices and cutting-edge products. Perhaps you focus on organisational practices that lead to social good and just outcomes that end power imbalances across society. Perhaps you see it as another managerial buzzword. Indeed, the term is one that is commonly referred to but rarely defined or understood, which has led to a particularly disappointing advancement of sustainability outcomes in recent years.

Concerned with this lack of clarity, Dr Neil Sutherland, Jem Bendell and Richard Little have been working on a Special Issue of the ‘Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal’ to advance thinking about leadership, sustainability and wellbeing. They begin by framing Sustainable Leadership as an ethical process that “has the intention and effect of helping groups of people address shared dilemmas in significant ways”. From here, they are able to offer advice on how organisations may go about re-thinking leadership practice in order to solve contemporary issues.

Central to their work is challenging the idea that leadership is just the responsibility of one heroic and seemingly-superhuman individual. They follow other critical scholars to suggest that, in fact, this reliance on the ‘power of one’ may have been the root cause of unethical and unsustainable practices within the last decades. We do not have to look far to see how this is playing out on our current stage: narcissistic individuals in positions of power who seem more concerned with personal gain than societal good. In other situations, the desire for organisations to pin all of their hopes and dreams on one person may leave that individual wracked with guilt and anxiety when they find themselves incapable of making wide-scale changes alone. For many reasons then, it is clear that this individualistic conception of leadership is not serving us, our organisations or the planet.

But what is an alternative to the call for bigger and bolder individual leaders? The answer, Sutherland, Bendell and Little suggest, is to “shift attention from formal leaders and their influence on followers to the relational processes that produce leadership in a group, organisation or system” (Ospina and Foldy, 2015: 492). Essentially: we need to focus on building collective leadership capacity rather than individual. In doing so, our authors suggest, we can create more efficacious forms of leadership where discussion and deliberation are considered of utmost importance, as every person takes on a level of accountability and responsibility for sustainability practices – whether this be environmental, social or ethical. In reconsidering leadership as something that an organisation collectively does, we will be more able to tackle complex contemporary issues and restore, reform or revolutionise how sustainability is approached.

This move toward more distributed and collective forms of leadership has been gaining increasing attention in recent years, and something that Neil Sutherland has published on previously. Oddly, it is simultaneously a blindingly obvious and simple idea, yet one that it surprisingly difficult to fully grasp in practice. Indeed, adopting a more collective and less centralised approach requires an element of humility on the part of all organisational members, as well as the ability to share ideas and information, and to avoid seeking to dominate others. For some this sounds like a step too far toward an unrealistic utopia, but modern-day research suggests that with just a small tweak to our taken-for-granted assumptions about the hierarchical nature of humanity, we may be able to construct a new generation of organisations that aren’t precariously reliant on sole individuals. 

The Special Issue on ‘Leadership, Sustainability and Well-being’ will be available from September. Please visit for further details.

Studying Leadership – an exciting new publication from Doris Schedlitzki & Gareth Edwards

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‘Studying Leadership: traditional and critical approaches’ is a fantastic new book by our very own Doris Schedlitzki and Gareth Edwards, here at UWE!

The book includes:

A unique timeline structure to develop students’ knowledge of leadership theories through time

Contemporary topics including ethics, sustainability, authenticity, toxicity, followership and gender & diversity to ensure students are up-to-date with the latest research

6 long integrative case studies to encourage students to relate theories to the real world

Over 140 reflective questions to develop students’ critical thinking skills

A companion website which includes video links and SAGE journal articles to develop  students’ understanding. There’s also a tutor guide, experiential exercises and  PowerPoint slides for lecturers

Check out this link for more details and to order your inspection copy now!

…and congratulations to Doris and Gareth from all of us here at UWE!