From Corporate Responsibility to sustainable business: taking stock & the next ten years

EABIS Decennial event Hosted by Nottingham University Business School
31/01/2012 - 01/02/2012

This conference is a major milestone in the 10 year anniversary of the founding of EABIS - The Academy of Business in Society. It brings together over 100 experts and thought leaders from around the world with twin objectives: 

  1. To assess the progress that has been made in mainstreaming corporate responsibility and sustainability in management practice and development;
  2. To launch a global consultation and dialogue on a new consensus for sustainable enterprise and the future contribution of business to sustainable development.

 As such, the Nottingham conference will constitute the first step in a process whose outcomes will directly shape the future strategic direction and focus of EABIS. It will come to a close at IMD in Lausanne on July 2, on the eve of EABIS’ Annual Colloquium. 


The debate in Nottingham, however, is not about EABIS – it is a broader, deeper reflection rooted in a belief that the next decade will be critical for the global sustainability agenda. This applies directly to business opportunity, strategy and capability, as well as the potential value that business schools and universities will bring to their collaboration with companies through research and education.





Background Context


EABIS – The Academy of Business in Society was launched in 2002 as a unique partnership between multinational companies and business schools. Today, it is established as one of the world’s leading platforms for corporate-academic action in response to global sustainability challenges. 


It was forged by two epochal events at the beginning of the century: (1) the collapse of Enron and global consequences for corporate governance, ethics and transparency; and (2) the emergence of the European Union’s Lisbon Agenda for a more competitive, sustainable economy and society.


Both events generated a normative response. The Enron scandal led to business schools worldwide teaching more courses on business ethics and CSR, while the EU policy framework placed moral pressure on companies to invest in CSR as a “voluntary contribution to sustainable development”. 


The founding mission of The Academy was to mainstream corporate responsibility (and later on sustainable development issues) into business education and management development, supported by new collaborative research around corporate priorities and knowledge gaps. This was defined in consultation with a number of CEOs and other senior executives – a process led by EABIS’ Chairman, Viscount Etienne Davignon, and enacted by EABIS’ Founding President, Gilbert Lenssen.


Since the crisis of 2008, events in the global economy have underlined that the original CR agenda has passed, and that it has moved on to global sustainability challenges at the level of the firm (including the inherent unsustainability of the financial system). As EABIS celebrates its tenth anniversary, it is consulting global business leaders – as it did 10 years ago, but through this new lens – to shape the pathways and expectations for our second decade. 


The exercise is therefore underpinned by a view that there is a pressing need for a new definition of sustainable enterprise – one which unites the ecology-based norms of “sustainable development” and the society-focused concepts of “shared value creation”. 


This implies a consensus on a range of “non-negotiables”: environmental, social, governance and economic factors that will have the greatest impact on the global business context in the next decade, and which will require a collective corporate response, regardless of industry sector. 


It will in turn provide a framework to engage business schools, universities and corporate academies to define the leadership, skills, competencies and learning agenda for the next ten years.



The event is a milestone in the celebration of The Academy of Business in Society’s decennial. The outputs will be captured in a Corporate Governance Journal special issue and inform development of the programme and content for our Decennial Colloquium to be held at IMD Lausanne on July 3 & 4. 



Background reading