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Responsibility & Sustainability

at the University of St.Gallen

The University of St.Gallen is committed to contributing to a socially and environmentally sustainable economy and society.

We aim to deeply embed sustainability in the HSG culture and all our core activities including research, teaching, and our campus.

Happening now

NZZ Prize for best HSG EMBA master thesis on Carbon Circular Economy

Dr. Helmut Leibinger won the NZZ Prize for his thesis on Carbon Circular Economy

Supervised by Prof. Dr. Moritz Look at the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ-HSG), Dr. Helmut Leibinger wrote his final thesis for the EMBA on Carbon Circular Economy. His work showed how Carbon Circular Economy will help us to meet the Paris Agreement by developing a Network-Business-Incubator. The thesis was recognized with the NZZ prize in July 2021.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 22. July 2021

New Podcast: oikos and Student Impact won the International Green Gown Award

Congratulations to the two student organizations oikos and Student Impact who won the International Green Gown Award 2021.

oikos was rewarded in the category of Student Engagement. The judges were “blown away by the extent of student engagement and leadership from a truly ground-up student sustainability programme” and found our projects “impressive, with clear benefits to the students involved as well as the wider sustainability community”. The work of Student Impact was recognized as a “Highly Commended” initiative in the category “Next Generation Learning & Skills”, which focuses on “achievements in the development of academic courses, skills and capabilities relevant to sustainability”. The judges specifically lauded the “longevity and lasting impact of the project experience on students”.

Check out the HSG Student Podcast with oikos and Student Impact to learn more about their activities: https://hsg-student-podcast.captivate.fm/

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 22. July 2021

Interview with Prof. Dr. Martin Kolmar

Martin Kolmar is Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute of Business Ethics at the University of St.Gallen. Martin was awarded the Credit Swiss Teaching Award by the student body in June 2021. In this interview, he talks about the relevance of sustainability in economics and shows how he takes up and integrates topics like the climate crisis and sustainability in his teaching.

What role do sustainability issues like climate change play in economics for you?

In terms of the history of ideas, issues like climate change are found in four areas of economics. (1) In market failure theory, which identifies externalities as the main cause for inefficiencies and looks for ways to internalize them. Here, there are major overlaps with the field of public economics. (2) In government failure theory, which identifies the main cause of inefficiencies as misaligned incentives of political actors and looks for possibilities to internalize them. This area has a great deal of overlap with the field of political economy. (3) In growth theory, which searches for the causes of long-term economic development. (4) In environmental economics, which builds on but is more applied than the first three research areas mentioned above. The normative criteria applied to evaluate market- or, more generally, institutional outcomes are usually Utilitarianism and Pareto efficiency, tailored towards intergenerational allocation problems. One can, in principle, integrate normative concepts such as sustainability into these theories. It remained, however, alien to normative economics for a long period of time. The reason is mainly methodological, because phenomena like the collapse of ecosystems were ruled out by assumption in traditional growth theory; the assumptions regarding the structure of the production technology alone ensured sustainability. Nevertheless, economic theory can identify key aspects such as externalities, the role of collective action at the national or international level, or, in recent years, the role of cognitive and affective biases in explaining some of the main causes of the climate- and biodiversity crises. It also proved to be very effective in developing possible solutions like markets for CO2.

Why is it important for you to integrate these topics into teaching?

Historically speaking, pretty much every generation has had to deal with huge challenges, be it natural disasters, diseases, or wars. The climate and biodiversity crises are the central challenges facing our generation and probably the generations to come. And the resulting changes encompass almost every aspect of our lives, whether we act decisively or not: either our lives will change because we want to change them, or they will change because we don’t want to change them. Climate change affects the spreading of diseases, generates migration, changes everyday life in many facets. Our humanistic self-image will be put to the test. There will be political and cultural feedbacks, and our ethical standards will change in this process. We will have to rethink how we want to live, what is important to us.

Therefore, there is no meaningful alternative to dealing with these issues comprehensively in research, teaching, and as a citizen.

How do you implement this this in your own teaching?

I do not offer a course that is fully dedicated to the topic of the climate or biodiversity crisis. Rather, these topics are addressed within my courses and from the perspectives of the lectures’ topics. It is best if I give a few examples.

  • In my assessment lecture “Introduction to Economics,” I look at the crises from the perspective of externalities and market failures. This focus helps students to understand central causes of the problem, so that they can then take an informed approach to potential solutions such as CO2 pricing, etc.
  • In my course “Economy of Happiness,” I look at different theories and ideas about what it means to have a good, flourishing life, and how those ideas influence our perception of the economy. Our actions are an expression of our view of what it means to live a fulfilling, happy life. But how do we know what it is and what it takes to live such a life? How do we know what our interests are, and where do our ideas about them are coming from? And are they correct? The lectures cover a wide range of topics from empirical happiness research and positive psychology to Greek virtue ethics and Buddhism, all supported by empirical research. In the process, one automatically comes to questions regarding our treatment of ourselves, other people and animals, as well as “nature.”
  • In the course “Modern Theories of Justice,” I deal with contemporary theories of justice. This includes topics like population growth and the rights of future generations, or theories on animal and ecosystem ethics. Furthermore, I am covering questions of international justice. This is a key aspect in the context of the climate crisis, as the costs will vary greatly from region to region. There, we also take a closer look at how economists evaluate the costs and benefits of climate change in their simulation models and how this, in turn, can be evaluated from an ethical point of view.

But the topic also plays a role in my other courses.

What do you wish for the future in terms of teaching at the HSG in general and specifically in terms of economics?

Tackling the climate and biodiversity crises does not allow for silo solutions. We cannot find reasonable solutions if we look at them from an exclusively scientific, economic, managerial, legal, or political point of view. And the pandemic has again reminded us that questions of social acceptance do play a central role when we are discussing policies. And there is probably also a need to reflect on the ideological causes of our behavior. Therefore, I see the great opportunity of the HSG in the fact that we can combine at least some of the aspects mentioned above to make our contribution to a comprehensive and socially as well as ethically acceptable way of dealing with the crises. In doing so, we are in principle well positioned because of the integrative approach that we live at this university and our emphasis on contextualization of knowledge. We should take advantage of this strength.

Many people are afraid of the changes ahead or shy away from decisive reactions. Do you also see positive aspects of the crises?

Although the challenges are enormous, it is essential to accept them and to react with a positive attitude. We should remind ourselves that there are also opportunities in the transformation ahead, because otherwise change processes will not succeed. The great translator of Chinese philosophy and poetry David Hinton once put it this way: “If anything is going to alter our destructive path, it’s a shift in consciousness. Until people start feeling a connection between their own body and mind and the rest of “nature” – until they come to understand this as a continuum—they’re not going to care.” And this is where I see the great opportunity hidden in the crises: We can grow beyond ourselves and our everyday problems and prove that we can solve a global problem without giving up on humanitarian values. We can understand that we are a small part of a sublime, beautiful, and precious network of life and that we cannot lose but only gain if we get on our way to protecting it.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 27. June 2021

The student union launches the HSG Sustainability Charter

The HSG Charter Community (HCC) is a coaliation of clubs aiming at tackling the great challenges of our time.  At the kick-off event in May, the Student Union at the University of St.Gallen (SHSG) united more than 30 accredited clubs at HSG in order to develop synergies and create impactful projects. It is a strong signal to external stakeholders that HSG students are comitted to sustainability.

Through the General Assembly, the Council & Task Forces, the SHSG wants to build a platform that enable discussions and bring important matters forward. The project is open to any student initiative that agrees to the charter structure and wants to participate in the discussion.

The SHSG is committed to sustainability through their new corporate values. Not only does the SHSG support sustainable initiatives such as the Charter or the student initatives related to the carbon challenges in the certificate programme “Managing CLimate Solutions”, the SHSG also reformed one of its fonds, the Social & Cultural Fonds into the Social & Sustainable Impact Fonds. This represents the SHSG’s commitment to financially support student initiatives with great potential on the social, sustainable and cultural topics.

If you want to learn more or want to get engaged, please contact (Irina Kopatz).

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 8. June 2021

Finalists in the International Green Gown Awards 2021

Project from the student organizations oikos St.Gallen and Student Impact are finalists in the International Green Grown Award 2021

oikos St. Gallen has been shortlisted as a finalist in the category of student engagement with their project “be informed, get involved, make a difference!”.

Student Impact is under the finalists in the category of student engagement and next generation learning and skills with the projects “Walk the climate action talk – together: Towards a net zero strategy jointly developed by students, faculty, and staff” and “Be the change – the student consultancy of a different kind“.

The winners will be announced on on 7th July 2021 as part of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum.

These awards seek to identify those universities around the world undertaking empowering sustainable initiatives and bringing us closer to achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 1. June 2021

HSG Impact Award 2021

Three research project received the “HSG Impact Award 2021”

This year, the University of St.Gallen (HSG) is conferring the HSG Impact Awards for the fourth time. HSG researchers will receive awards for the valuable contribution they make to society through their projects. Three awards are being conferred to the research projects:

  • “An integrated approach to generate higher impact portfolios” by Prof. Dr. Sebastian Utz;
  • “Monitoring Consumption Switzerland” by Prof. Dr. Martin Brown and Prof. Dr. Matthias Fengler;
  • “Staying on Top of the Crisis: Tracking the Economic and Social Impacts of SARS CoV 2 and Future Disasters to Improve Global Disaster Management and Response Efforts” by Prof. Dr. Charlotta Sirén, Research Associate Michael Hudecheck, Prof. Ph.D. Joakim Vincent and Prof. Dr. Dietmar Grichnik.

Find more information on the project here.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 1. June 2021

Dr. Manali Kumar on Biden’s Climate Summit

Dr. Manali Kumar from the Institute of Political Science at the University of St.Gallen assess the US’ track record on climate mitigation and Joe Biden’s climate summit on BBC News with Clive Myrie.

The summit has clearly brought a lot of fresh energy ahead of COP26 this November and it certainly fits into the Biden administration’s “America is back” narrative. But the US has very little credibility when it comes to climate change mitigation efforts. The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Republicans and corporations have consistently opposed climate action for years and actively undermined scientific research on this topic.

The US tends to argue that they will act when other countries do so – but that is not good enough. If we treated the US military as a country, then its emissions would rank higher than 140 other countries. The US has one of the highest levels of per capita emissions in the world. The Biden administration will need to go beyond making ambitious pledges and start formulating and implementing policies if they want to be taken seriously as leaders on climate change mitigation.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 6. May 2021

Careers with purpose: Open online round table

The COVID crisis serves as a clear reminder of the inextricable links between nature, business and society. Previously taken-for-granted norms are radically changing, and new leadership styles and business practices are emerging. What does this mean for students that want to contribute to business solutions for a better world?

Join us on Tuesday, May 4, 12.15 – 13.15 on Zoom, on your journey towards becoming tomorrow’s leaders!

OUR PANEL

In this cross-sectoral online event, we will be joined by professionals from Lindt & Sprüngli, BMW, and the European Commission to discuss personal careers in the post-COVID world.

Our guest speakers will share their reasons for choosing their professional path, their challenges as well as the emerging sustainability-related opportunities. A highly interactive Q&A will follow. Get inspired and learn about what a purposeful career looks like and what it needs to get there.

Tilmann Morata Liebert 

Policy Officer – Sustainable Finance, European Commission Directorate General for Climate Action

Tilmann has joined the EU Commission in 2015 as part of the international carbon markets and aviation team, negotiating the sector’s regulation at UN-level and handling EU policies on aviation’s climate impacts. Previously, he provided policy advice and technical assistance on energy and climate to governments around the world with UN Environment’s Green Economy Initiative and the think tank IISD in Geneva. In 2011, he received his dual-M.A. degrees from the University of St. Gallen & Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Alexander Nick
Lead Climate Strategy and ESG Standards, BMW

Alex is a member of BMW Group’s Sustainability and Mobility Leadership Team, focusing on the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, Circular Economy as well as environmental & social standards in the supply chain. Prior to joining BMW Group, he worked as a Director for SustainAbility   in London, and as a research associate for IMD Lausanne. Alex completed a PhD in strategic management and is a member of various sustainability organizations, including the German Association of the Club of Rome and the Responsible Leaders Network of the BMW Foundation.

Leonie Brühlmann
Head of Sustainability, Lindt & Sprüngli

Leonie has joined the sustainability team at Lindt & Sprüngli in 2017. Since August 2020, she is heading the sustainability department and Managing Director of the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. Prior to these positions, she worked in the areas of financial service advisory and insurance consulting. Leonie also volunteers in different organizations for environmental protection, homeless people, and the integration of refugees. She holds a Master in Business Management from the University of St.Gallen with a specific focus on sustainability and strategy.

Hanna Ebeling
CEO, Social Enterprise Financing Australia (Sefa)

Hanna Ebeling is CEO at Sefa in Sydney where she works closely with purpose-driven organisations on developing capital solutions and capability support to suit their needs. Prior to coming to Australia, she spent two years in the Philippines, managing a social enterprise accelerator program for LGT Lightrock and launching an affordable bamboo housing venture with United Nations and the Hilti Foundation. Before moving into impact investing, she spent six years in banking with HSBC globally, lastly working for the Chief Investment Officer of Group Private Banking. Hanna holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland, and is a CFA charterholder.

Author: Tabea Bereuther

Date: 19. April 2021

Key facts

Our engagement and activites

Research
Teaching
Campus
Our contribution to the SDGs

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon in 2015 by the United Nations provide an overarching framework for addressing the world’s sustainability challenges. Find out more about the University of St. Gallen contribution to achieving the SGDs goals through our activities.

How students are shaping sustainability at HSG

Student engagement has always been a central part to campus life at the University of St.Gallen. There are several student associations that focus on sustainability and help shape the university’s sustainability activities.

Student Initiatives