(List#97) Tips on writing sustainability award applications

Nine tips and a question, to be precise.

(List#97) Tips on writing sustainability award applications
Photo by Giorgio Trovato / Unsplash

Good morning and welcome back to List! My sincere apologies for the delay since my last post. As some of you may remember, I have been working on my latest book and just needed some extra space to finish that off. Now that that is under control, I'm back and excited to share with you all the great examples I have collected in the meantime.

Late last year, I was honoured to be invited to join the jury for the Financial Times Responsible Business Education Awards. There were a lot of reports to go through, but it was a fascinating read. Next week I'll share a few examples from the winning schools, but first I wanted to share this. Whenever I judge, I always write down quick takeaways from the process for my own use, and I thought that some of these might be useful for those of you thinking of submitting to these, or other awards. If anyone has other tips, feel free to send them over and I'll share them next week.

  1. It doesn't matter how amazing you are, unless you can communicate that, you aren't. Take the time to tell us your story. You want to engage your reader, whether that is a jury member, a student, local business owner, alumni, faculty. Will this really tell me what I need to know?
  2. Answer the question. Just because you received other recognitions, that doesn't automatically mean you will receive this one. Assume your reader doesn't know who you are and what you are doing because they most likely don't. "Winners" aren't necessarily better than you, they may have just answered the question better.
  3. Define your terms. Different schools and different reports use different terms, whether that be ESG, ethics, social impact, responsible leadership. Whatever it the term your institution prefers, define it for your reader. What does it mean to your institution? Does everyone there know that?
  4. You aren't the first or only one doing something. I assure you other schools have thought of or are doing something similar. This came up quite a few times in reports. I'm less interested in who did it first, rather who built on it and kept it going.
  5. I'm curious about culture, but no one else seems to be (or at least they don't report on it). Is sustainability something that a couple of people are trying to push in their spare time, or does the institution live and breathe it? More concretely, is it part of training for new staff? Ongoing training of existing staff? Part of the incentives? Individual roles and responsibilities? Is it communicated daily and are the messages consistent?
  6. It isn't just what you are doing for students, but also what students are doing for you. How are students pushing responsible leadership topics on campus, in the curriculum, in research? What opportunities have you put in place for them to do so and how do you support them? What about alumni?
  7. Don't forget your material issues. Are you reporting on the issues that are most material to your institution or to management education more generally? Volunteer work in the community is important, but what about the core curriculum in your flagship MBA programme?
  8. Beware of quantitative metrics. I love a good SDG visual, but the number of times the term water shows up in a course outline is not going to tell you whether that course is aligned with SDG 14 or not, nor whether your students are learning about water issues.
  9. Don't be afraid to be imperfect. No business school has this all figured out. You don't have to write a report that makes it seem like you do. Explore where you are, where you would like to go and why, acknowledge challenges, mistakes, lessons learnt. If we can't do that at school, then where can we do it?
  10. What happens when it is embedded? This is more of a question than a comment. If sustainability is truly embedded in everything that you do, then it would be very difficult to write up a report just about how you are engaging in sustainability. But then if that's the case, how do we know for sure?

One year ago today this was posted here on List...

(List #85) Faculty Collaborations around Sustainability
Faculty collaborating within their institutions and across borders around sustainability and the SDGs

and two years ago this day...

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Carbon stores, pharmaceutical, defining success, worldview, acknowledgement, circles and music.

Welcome back and see you next week.