10 Years at the Crossroads of Business, Society, and our Planet

The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the crossroads of business, society, and the planet. A tribute.
The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the crossroads of business, society, and the planet. A tribute.

The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

The month of June 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the Council on Business & Society (CoBS), founded by four Deans and four schools in 2011. In many ways, the alliance was visionary. And certainly ahead of its time, the founding higher education institutions pledging to do two things: strive for excellence in educating the future generations of responsible managers and leaders among their students, and bring together different perspectives and standpoints in the form of academics, business practitioners, policy-makers, NGOs, students and community leaders to tackle the world’s major issues. Today, this is called stakeholder theory. At the time it was more of a pragmatic, ethical and common-sense approach to get to the root of a problem through offering the possibility for various actors to contribute their views.

Issues that have become key for business, society and the planet

In the early days, the Council’s coverage included the major themes of Leadership and Governance, and health and healthcare at the crossroads of business and society.

In the case of leadership and governance, several corporate scandals had hit the headlines at that time – Siemens, Lehman Brothers, the BP oil spill, Wells Fargo – and protest found its expression in the stance taken to ensure that students left their schools not only with a top degree, but also possessing the notions and behaviours of responsible managers and leader. A thread that is inherent to the CoBS to this day.

The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the crossroads of business, society, and the planet. A tribute.

The choice of health and healthcare was also, ten years on, an insightful choice of topic to tackle. How can our society and the business ecosystem within it cater for ageing populations? What do and how to capitalise on the skills and knowledge that older employees have amassed during their careers? How to ensure wellness at work with the stress and strain of digital transformation? And finally, how can our healthcare systems be ready to deal with major crises such as the appearance of new illnesses, new viruses?

In 2015, the CoBS once again maid a subject on the table – one which has since become a key focus for many international organisations, corporations and the wider public in our attempts to turnaround the negative impact of business and society on our climate and environment: energy and renewables.   

Some of the answers to these questions and challenges, provided by leaning international experts, can be downloaded in the Council’s White Papers. They offer not only food for thought but also many practical strategies for addressing them.  

Towards a better future

In more recent years, the Council on Business & Society has enlarged its membership and now counts seven member institutions across four continents, recognised leaders in their countries, and all triple-crown accredited. More than a network, the Council is an alliance and counts our fellow member schools as close allies and good friends, in many instances co-developing bi-lateral and multilateral initiatives for the mutual benefit of our schools and the alliance.    

But we have also taken an approach of reaching out beyond the communities of the member schools by making the practitioner – the managers and leaders in the field – a focus of its efforts and a beneficiary of the thought leadership and international research generated by the schools. Weekly research-based and opinion articles are offered through our online platform CoBS Insights. A series of downloadable books was launched in March 2020 which so far cover the themes of sustainable finance, social enterprise and leadership in times of crisis. This was followed in September 2020 by a collection of condensed learning capsules for managers and leaders – the CoBS Research Pod series. All of these available on the downloads page of our website.  

The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the crossroads of business, society, and the planet. A tribute.

In May 2020, our faculty, jointly with leading professionals and also with our students, launched a series of online masterclasses on themes such as the New Normal, the purpose and future of business education, social entrepreneurship and the future of business and society from a student perspective – the future leaders of tomorrow. And our faculty also offers joint workshops in leading research seminars such as the IABS and SASE.

Lastly, the students of the seven member schools are increasingly the focus of our efforts, with an annual CSR article competition that has revealed some incredible talent and which has gained international recognition, contributions to CoBS Insights and the focus of our traditional high-summer issue of our quarterly magazine Global Voice. More innovations will come in 2021-22.

Together

So, ten years on from 2011 and the Council’s creation, we believe we can justifiably consider that the alliance was visionary in its concept. Indeed, in the last three years or so there has been a very noticeable interest globally in the issues traditionally covered by the CoBS: diversity and inclusion, sustainability, ethical leadership, the necessity for social and environmental accounting, sustainable finance, stakeholder cooperation and co-creation, sustainable business practices. We have witnessed the creation of many establishments, centres and institutions – or indeed existing ones – taking on a CSR and sustainability dimension. In many cases, the CoBS happily co-exists with these peer organisations and in some cases, most notably the UN PRME, GBSN and OECD, has very close and regular working ties.

So join us in celebrating our 10 years and let us contribute together to striving for a world in which business plays a positive, responsible and major role in creating innovation, wealth and knowledge for society, humankind, and our planet.

The Council on Business & Society Celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the crossroads of business, society, and the planet. A tribute.

Acknowledgements

With warm thanks to everyone involved in the Council on Business & Society over these ten years of commitment to a better, more ethical, more responsible and fairer world. You are many to have contributed, too many to include here. Though special mention can be made of some of the key contributors to the alliance – from its beginnings to our ongoing adventure:

Former Deans and CoBS founding fathers Pierre Tapie, Hirokazu Kono, Juergen M. Schneider, Paul Danos, Maria Tereza Fleury, Jean-Michel Blanquer. Present Deans Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi, Luiz Brito, Xiongwen Lu (present from the creation of the CoBS), Martin Boehm, Takuro Yoda, Andrew Burke, Andrew Lockett.  

Enormous thanks to the people who managed and drove the Council on an everyday basis: Gérard Guibilato, first Executive Director of the Council and in his steps Prof. Christian Koenig. Mrs Penny Paquette for her enthusiasm and commitment.

And ongoing executive management and teams, in addition to our contributing faculty, that include Prof. Adrian Zicari, Executive Director, Prof. Anne-Claire Pache, Yvonne Tan for co-creating CoBS presence in APAC, Denyse Lum for her marcomms advice and insights, Prof. and Deputy Dean Tales Andreassi, Prof. Julia von Maltzan Pacheco, Prof. Mario Aquino Alves, Stephanie Xu, Audrey Tang, Elsa Huang, Marta Perez, Prof. Concépcion Galdón, Mariana Luciano, Hiroshi Takagi, Prof. Tanusree Jain, Ian Dunne, Prof. Sheila M. Cannon, Prof. James Hayton, Warren Manger, Mélissa Guillou, Maëliss Tronet, CoBS Editors past and present – Kunal Ganorkar, Afifeh Fakori, Nicolas Desarnauts, Tanvi Rakesh, Meghana Kuppinakere Mutt, Megha Sureshkar, Guragam Singh – and Tom Gamble.  

And, last but not least, our corporate and institutional partners and, of course, the wonderful students of our seven schools and our wider public to whom we offer our work.   

Some 2020-2021 CoBS highlights:

  • March 2020: A successful test publication on Law, Finance, Sustainability based on the work of ESSEC Professor Hugues Bouthinon-Dumas that paved the way for a subsequent series of booklets.
  • April 2020: The Social Media Research Foundation ranks The CoBS in the top 10 influencers in CSR on Twitter (6th).
  • May 2020: A successful test online masterclass bringing together faculty from ESSEC, FGV-EAESP, IE Business School, Trinity Business School, and Warwick Business School facilitated by Prof. Cédomir Nestorovic, ESSEC Asia-Pacific – The New Normal: Now dawn or new dusk?   
  • June 2020: The publication of Global Voice magazine #14, the traditional high-summer issue of the CoBS magazine that brings together the winning articles of the students of the inter-school CSR competition with those of CoBS faculty. One issue of the magazine published every quarter.
  • June 2020: The CoBS and the student CSR competition cited by King Felipe VI of Spain in the newspaper La Vanguardia.
  • September 2020: Launch of a CoBS Research Pod collection – actionable research targeting practitioners.
  • October 2020: The publication of the CoBS bookSocial Entrepreneurship: A focus on entrepreneurship for the common good followed by an online masterclass Social Enterprise – Challenges and Opportunities in a New World Concept featuring Professors Adrian Zicari, ESSEC, Concépcion Galdon, IEBS, Edgard Barki, FGV-EAESP, Sheila Cannon, TBS, and serial social entrepreneur Paula Cardenau.
  • November 2020: The Deans of the 7 member schools meet online for a strategic seminar led and managed by Dean and President Vincenzo Vinzi and facilitated by Professors Anne-Claire Pache and Adrian Zicari.
  • December 2020: Following the publication of research, an online masterclass bringing together Prof. Mette Morsing, Head of UN PRME, Prof. Tanusree Jain, Trinity, and Prof. Adrian Zicari, ESSEC:  The Purpose of Business Education
  • December 2020: A count of the yearly CoBS statistics gives an all-time high visibility of 1.4m views and reads on its various platforms, with top countries being France, the USA, India, the UK and Singapore.
  • February 2021: The publication of the CoBS fourth book Leadership, Governance, and Crisis
  • April 2020: launch of the 3rd edition of the Student CSR article competition. 210 student registrations from 6 member schools.
  • May 2021: An online masterclass bringing together 8 students from 4 CoBS member schools around the theme of Students! How do you see the world in 2050? And facilitated by Prof. Xavier Pavie, ESSEC Asia-Pacific.
  • May 2021: 4 CoBS faculty jointly deliver a workshop given at the 2021 IABS Conference on co-creating a research agenda for social innovation.
  • 21st June 2021: The publication of Global Voice magazine #18 – a special CoBS 10 Years Anniversary issue featuring the winners and finalists of the international CoBS student CSR article competition 2021, cutting-edge faculty research, and a co-authored Editorial by Prof. Mette Morsing, Director of UN PRME and Prof. Adrian Zicari, Executive Director of the CoBS.  

Learn more about the Council on Business & Society

The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

In 2020, member schools now number 7, all “Triple Crown” accredited AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA and leaders in their respective countries.

The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

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