Panel discussion on global sustainability goals – nothing will happen without companies and universities!

On Thursday, April 12, the Competence Center for Corporate Governance & Business Ethics (CGBE) of the Research Cluster SMEs & Family Businesses of FHWien der WKW hosted a keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Katrin Muff (Business School Lausanne) followed by a panel discussion. An essential task of the CGBE is the promotion of interdisciplinary dialogue with regard to economic and business ethical aspects. A special focus is to enhance the principles of responsible and sustainable management in the awareness and behaviour of our students. FHWien der WKW is therefore also a member of the international network PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) and a pioneer in the integration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into education.

The speaker, one of the worldwide “thought leaders” in the field of responsible and transformative corporate management, illustrated the relevance of the SDGs. These 17 goals of the United Nations are intended to ensure sustainable development on an economic, social and ecological level. Using the gapframe model, she explained the main priority areas for Austria and showed strategy Tools for the development of measures.

SDGs offer opportunities for companies. In order to be able to use these, however, a new mind-set is required. The external perspective has to be integrated into the enterprise and the possibilities of participation and impacts at both the individual and social level have to be considered. Also a new definition of what business success means and how it is measured is necessary.

The education of this new generation of entrepreneurs is the responsibility of the higher education institutions. The integration of SDGs into teaching should also be considered as a criteria in the rankings.

At the vivid panel discussion chaired by Prof. Claus Reitan, representatives from politics, business and education outlined their views. The panel members were:

Marlis Baurecht emphasised that the SDGs have to be a living reality in business practice, not just another point in the CSR report. However, measuring this is difficult.

Julia Ganglbauer addressed the importance of a top-down implementation and explained how Biogena considers the outer perspective by a network of external doctors and researchers.

For Günter Liebel, companies have to be questioned whether and to which extent they are contributing to sustainability. However, SDGs are difficult to regulate via legislation, and bureaucracy is an obstacle to this process, according to the representative of the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism.

Markus Urban-Hübler underlined the importance of constructive stakeholder dialogue. Analysts also increasingly request aspects of a company’s sustainability in their valuations.

Markus Scholz pointed out that interaction between companies and politics and a more focused focus on values beyond shareholder value is required, in order to achieve the needed change in mindset.

Interdisciplinarity is one of the key competencies according to Katrin Muff. It is also vital to show companies where they can start with priority and apply their strengths. At the same time, however, everyone is responsible for themselves and all are asked to make their own individual contribution.

During the panel discussion there were numerous statements from the audience, which led to a lively dialogue. Two contrary positions emerged: On the one hand, it was stated that Austria had already reached a rather high level in international comparison. This was countered by the argument that resting on the status quo is not enough to achieve global sustainability. During the subsequent networking, this discussion was continued and the different opinions were discussed over a snack and a glass of wine.

 

 


On April 13, the issue of integrating SDGs into the teaching at FHWien was continued in specific terms. Within the scope of the Faculty Development Seminar, 17 participants from various study-programs at FHWien discussed how sustainable development goals can be integrated even more effectively into the different education programmes in the future, under the supervision of Ruth Nieffer (Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft HTW Chur), Karin Huber-Heim (csr & communication) and Daniela Ortiz (FHWien der WKW).