Given that sustainability is a topic of study that is inherently diverse and interdisciplinary, its connection to IB will also be diverse and interdisciplinary. While sustainability can be considered the main theme of the SIG and hence the name of the SIG, we propose four subthemes (which we label as ‘knowledge exchange hubs’ (KEHs)) underpinning the main theme of sustainability and its current scope, namely Teaching/Learning/Research, the Circular Economy in an IB Context, Sustainability Through the Value Chain and MNEs/SDGs/CSR. The identification of these four subthemes and establishment of four corresponding KEHs, act to facilitate the initially encapsulation of how the Sustainability SIG can better find that connection between IB and sustainability. These hubs represent common areas of interest and expertise that were identified in a questionnaire sent to those AIB members who indicated interest(s) and area(s) of expertise relating to this SIG. They should not be considered in any way as subdivisions within the Sustainability-SIG. Rather, they indicate areas of knowledge activities that will together drive how the SIG will engage with the AIB in its initial year(s). Nor should they be considered exclusionary; AIB members will join the Sustainability-SIG, not a KEH, and we expect that the SIG members will have shared interests across multiple hubs over time. These hubs are not formal organizations within the Sustainability-SIG nor they are driven or represented by certain members of the SIG; instead they exist to serve as exchange platforms that allow any member of the Sustainability-SIG to seek, learn, share knowledge and experiences in the form of organizing relevant and useful activities for all members of the SIG. We thus find the term – KEH – to be self-evident and informative of its purpose to both SIG members and the wider AIB community. It is anticipated that new KEHs may emerge as membership in the Sustainability SIG increases and the relevance of the initial subthemes, as well as any new ones, will be evaluated annually. Moreover, these KEHs are neither insular nor stand-alone; they will serve to influence and be influenced by each other, leading to greater within-SIG synergy creation. The scope and focus of each KEH has been defined (many thanks to contributions made by sixteen Founding Members of the SIG – identified in the Appendix 2) and detailed below:
KEH1: Teaching/Learning/Research (TLR)
The Teaching/Learning/Research (TLR) hub emphasizes that teaching and learning about, and research on, sustainable development in the IB community is evolving and often affected by developments outside traditional IB pedagogy or research. It is increasingly observed that sustainability as a subject area is integrated into IB programs across universities worldwide. Similarly, the rapid growing research interest in IB and sustainability, as evidenced by the interests in this SIG, is observed. The call for research-informed teaching across universities emphasizes further the importance of IB and sustainability research across, but not restricted to, the other three KEHs. Established and new and innovative teaching and research practices in this area can not only benefit SIG members but the wider AIB community.
KEH2: The Circular Economy in an IB Context (CEIBC)
The Circular Economy in an IB Context (CEIBC) hub is informed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition of a circular economy as one that is based on three principles: designing out waste and pollution in economic activity; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. As a result, such a circular economy will redefine growth and focus on positive society-wide benefits. While the idea of a circular economy has been gaining more interest (e.g., the European Union’s Circular Economy Package), much work still needs to be done to engage with the private sector, policy makers and civil society in determining just how to implement a circular economy, particularly in an IB context. And because MNEs can act as change agents for their industries, understanding how they can leverage their power, networks and globally dispersed competencies to use processes and materials in a more sustainable, circular manner is valuable.
KEH3: Sustainability Through the Value Chain (SGVC)
The Sustainability Through the Value Chain (SGVC) hub centres on the role of value chains in achieving sustainability across borders. The concept of value chains describes the full range of activities carried out by firms and workers across industries to produce goods and services. The global value chain perspective provides a useful framework to analyze multiple dimensions and interconnected complexities pertaining to sustainability. Moreover, partnerships between different entities, such as governments, the private sector and civil society, again as they relate to IB, are also essential to promote sustainability locally and internationally, as well as to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, the purpose of the SGVC KEH is useful for promoting interdisciplinary approaches to the challenges posed to sustainability through the lens of GVCs.
KEH4: MNEs, SDGs & CSR (MSC)
The focus of the MNEs, SDGs & CSR (MSC) hub is on theory advancement in sustainable and responsible IB-focused organizations and the relationship between MNEs, global organizations and sustainability. Given the significant development role MNEs have played in economic development and are expected to play in sustainable development, IB scholars have underscored the need for firms to behave ethically, responsibly and sustainably. It therefore is important for the AIB community to advance theory and practice in this area. By advancing research, teaching and engagement in the area, it contributes to the development of global sustainability leaders who understand the interaction of business and sustainability issues. These issues are embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as organizations such as Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and therefore contribute to how the Sustainability-SIG is positioned in the IB community.