It’s not just environmentalists that have elevated sustainability to the top of the agenda, but business and recently business studies in higher education, which has woven the topic through its high-level post-graduate courses to ensure that commerce is cognisant of a ‘triple context’.
Last week, Coega’s safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) team hosted 30 of Rhodes University’s brightest minds as part of an outreach to profile sustainable practice in the corporate world.
Rhodes University Masters of Business Administration (MBA) candidates spent the day with Coega Development Corporation (CDC) experts in the fields of environmental management and planning, corporate social investment (CSI), corporate governance and finance.
“Coega’s vision – and we are hard at work to achieve this – is to create a corporation that at all times considers the triple context of environment, social responsibility and financial sustainability and how these factors interact with one another,” said Johann Brink, Coega SHEQ manager.
“We welcome the Rhodes initiative to expose their MBA students to practical examples of how sustainability is considered in a real corporate environment. At Coega we are at a critical intersection, unseen by many companies, where we manage upstanding corporate practice in the context of maintaining environmental integrity in an industrial zone, ensuring financial sustainability and socio-economic development, while also giving back to communities.”
According to Brink this is putting the CDC in the class of “breaking new ground” and the organisation wants to share its insights and processes broadly for the benefit of others. “That’s why we are so open to hosting universities and people who are interested in adopting this approach and understanding the practicalities of it,” he said.
The students and lecturer said the experience was eye-opening and valuable to their studies and professional practice.
Leticia Greyling, MBA lecturer at Rhodes, commended the CDC for their efforts towards a more sustainable future – despite the various pressures from an increasing stakeholder base.
“Although the IDZ still faces many sustainability challenges, they seem to be increasingly focussed on the triple bottom-line and also ensuring improved governance in their strategic outlook, operational activities and now also transparency in their reporting efforts,” she said.
Greyling highlighted it was encouraging to see a growing number of national and international players particularly taking up the challenge associated with integrated reporting – one of the key focusses of the MBA course on “Principles for Sustainability”.
“Although higher education institutions – especially in the business and management education sphere – need to start looking at their teaching, learning and research approaches to incorporate sustainability from its triple context (increasingly also viewed as the quadruple bottom-line, which also includes ethics/governance), students also need to be exposed to the practical challenges, considerations and dilemmas,” she said.
“Visits like these to the Coega IDZ assist students in placing theory and practice together, for a more comprehensive learning experience. Although sustainability requires improvements around managers and leaders’ competency in this field, we also need to look at building and developing character that is grounded in ethics and responsible leadership – the Rhodes Business School’s focus.”
Brink said the CDC would continue working with institutions of higher learning to expand their real life experience of sustainability in the corporate sphere.
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