ESG - Just a buzzword or the way forward?

13 July 2022

Full-time MBA participant, Chhavi Nayak, highlights how the programme has helped her explore the importance and meaning of ESG and Social and Environmental Sustainability in relation to businesses and organisations. 

"Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during COP26 

Before the MBA, I worked in the infrastructure and real estate industry for a decade. I am part of the generation that has witnessed the technological revolution across all sectors, including traditional industries like Real Estate. The pandemic accelerated the paradigm mental shift from profits as the highest responsibility of businesses to responsible business for shareholders or owners, customers, employees, government, society and environment

My experience in commercial spaces familiarised me with real estate's progressive metamorphisation into the human experience and sustainability-focused developments - how the investors, occupiers and developers are seeking to opt for more sustainable investments and construction. ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria, as we now know, is pivotal to the way businesses operate today. Once perceived as a buzzword (due to lack of understanding and sensitivity), ESG has now become a mandatory standard.

I was always determined to work towards sustainability. However, I knew I needed to acquire more knowledge and a holistic view in this domain. What I knew was just the tip of the iceberg; hence, while selecting which school to study my MBA at, one of the crucial considerations was to target a school that would offer me this.

After exhaustive research and discussions with previous MBA students across the various comparable schools, Warwick Business School became an obvious choice as it was not only consistently coming first in the best school for sustainability but also offered the entire MBA core modules embedded with Social and Environmental Sustainability-based components.

During term one, modules like Operation Management, Strategic Thinking and Marketing required either our group assignments or individual assignments to be based on any societal or environmental challenge relevant to the current times, which made us see ESG and Social and Environmental Sustainability from the lenses of a marketing, operation and strategic manager.

Term two deepened our knowledge about burgeoning collective efforts at the geopolitical, international policy makers’ and regulatory realms. The core module, Managing in the New World, covered these aspects and kick started with a simulation exercise that illustrated the reciprocal and interdependent nature of industries and economies across the globe. 

One of the most differentiating modules that WBS offers is LeadershipPlus. It was highly beneficial in understanding our leadership responsibilities and how they intertwine with ESG goals. The module was transformative, both from a theoretical knowledge perspective and from a personal discovery perspective. This module beautifully weaved the discretely treated facets into a holistic philosophy and compelled me to view sustainability as a continuous process across decision-making stages.

One of the highlights of my MBA and sustainability learning curve was our international study trip to Portugal's top business school - Nova School of Business and Economics, with the theme ‘Sustainability - Mastering Conscious Capitalism.’

A range of topics were covered in the curriculum over the course of the week spent at Nova, which included Green Solutions for Construction, Leadership for Sustainable Impact, Advanced Conscious Capitalism, Innovative Ecosystem and Sustainable Finance.  In addition to enhancing our understanding of quantitative aspects of ESG metrics, it also educated us on the roles of organisations such as the EU taxonomy, B-corporations, and a variety of other groups. 

As business students we are always looking for economic feasibility. The Sustainability Finance session at Nova, followed by electives like Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation and Entrepreneurial Finance, contributed a thorough combination of sustainability and its financial implications on businesses. They proved exceedingly revelatory to realising that sustainability and economic feasibility are not at odds but integrated. They emphasised that ESG is not compromised of returns; instead, it is the opposite, no matter what size the business is, ESG must be prioritised for both short-term and long-term benefits, and the business must keep adapting to evolving compliances, standards and demands of various stakeholders.

I deliberately chose to devise nearly all my assignments on ESG principles. Hence, I selected topics such as waste management consultancy, building upgrade to sustainable buildings, circular economy in footwear industry, and building materials from waste products.

The client group project I was assigned under LeadershipPlus centred on leather apparel and sustainability, and was a great experience for me. I am also incredibly enthused about my project and dissertation with an IT consulting firm, which focuses on Future of Work and its interconnectedness to electronic economy, as this is a perfect opportunity for me to learn more about digitalisation, relevant ESG features, short-term and long-term impacts on sustainability.

One of the most thought-provoking quotes by British naturalist David Attenborough during the COP26 session was "In my lifetime, I've witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery."
My goal is to become a part of the “recovery team”, and I am confident about taking on roles in corporate sustainability developments and formulating strategies for integrating sustainability. I owe this deep sense of responsibility and conviction to WBS. I hope this will inspire other students to choose the right school, like I did, as the steppingstone in their sustainability-warrior journey.

Find out more about the Full-time MBA programme here.

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