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A ‘fishing expedition’ for sustainability at SBE

MAASTRICHT. A lot is happening in the field of sustainability – in the broad sense of the word, so including issues such as social equality – at the School of Business and Economics, but what exactly? And by whom? To discover this, a Sustainability Research Theme was set up from within the Graduate School. Co-ordinator Rob Bauer, professor of Finance, organised a brainstorming session last week, where sixteen researchers presented their projects.

It is a ‘fishing expedition,’ says Bauer beforehand. This afternoon is mainly intended to find out what everybody is doing and to bring people in contact with each other. Not just within SBE, but also elsewhere in the university. Staff members from ICIS and UNU-Merit are already present today, Bauer hopes that in the future representatives from all faculties will join in. This could lead to collaboration and joint projects. “Sustainability in education and research is an important theme, also for students and the accreditation.” After mapping out what is already being done, the Sustainable Research Theme team have the ambition to set up more projects – with or without partners form other faculties and beyond – and to create a clear message for the outside world.

Starting at the beginning appears to have been a good idea, it seems during the afternoon. Almost every presentation elicits the same reaction from the audience. They see connections with their own research, that of their PhD candidates or students. Some speakers have been dealing with sustainability for a long time, for others it is new. Paul Smeets, assistant professor at Finance, has been doing research since 2007 into how to get investors to put money into social enterprises, while Yannick Bammens, associate professor at Organisation and Strategy, has recently turned his focus on green innovations in his research into innovation management in family businesses.

Many promises are made to meet again and share literature. “We would like to have another session like this in autumn and then also invite PhD students,” says Smeets, who is a member of the Sustainable Research Theme team. “We would then like to create subteams, for example, one for education and one for research. We also want to set up a good website, which would contain everything that the UM does in the field of sustainability. I think that we do much more than other Dutch universities, but with the occasional exception, we communicate this message poorly.”

Sustainability is one of the five main themes in SBE's new strategic plan, which was published earlier this year. The other four are Behavioural Policy Design; Conflict, Cooperation and Diversity; Data-driven Decision Making, and Human Capital Development and Employability. A brainstorming afternoon will soon be organised for those themes as well.

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