In all its facets, sustainable development has been a boundary spanning concept for the last 300 years. Looking back at Hans Carl von Carlowitz’s publication, Sylvicultura Oeconomica in 1713, his notion of sustainable forestry has spanned physical and temporal boundaries. In more contemporary political and scientific understandings of sustainability, countless actors have continued to step over national, cognitive, and temporal boundaries by pursuing the goals of inter- and intragenerational equity, social justice and ecological sustainability. However, many boundary spanning activities can hardly be labelled as sustainable. From excessive automobile and air travel to the international transportation of goods around the world, globalization comes with its pluses (value creation) and minuses (environmental and social burdens). In order to deliver added value while minimising negative impacts, sustainability management continually aims at encouraging “out of the box” thinking, while leaving the ivory tower for practice-oriented solutions and spanning its own boundaries with transdisciplinary approaches.
This newsletter presents a variety of boundary-spanning approaches that the Centre for Sustainability Management has embarked upon recently. Several emerging keywords in this boundary-spanning edition include “new frontier”, “pioneering”, “application-oriented”, “cross-sector”, “interdisciplinary”, and most recently, “transdisciplinarity”.
A definition of transdisciplinarity and its role in future sustainability management research and practice are provided on the following pages (pages 4 & 5). While transdisciplinarity has been mostly portrayed as a knowledge-building process within the confines of academia, it is universally applicable in corporate practice as well. Through cross-functional collaboration and the inclusion of external stakeholders, more sustainable solutions can flourish. In addition, transdisciplinary practices call for cross-sector participation from various industry practitioners and societal actors.
One of the MBA ‘Sustainability Management’ programme’s outstanding features is the constant spanning of classroom boundaries through various teaching and learning formats. These formats include student-practitioner workshops dealing with “real life“ company cases (pages 6 & 7). More than ten real life cases have been organised with partners of all sizes and in various industry sectors.
The importance of spanning researchers’ boundaries has been highlighted in the subsequent two reports. First, an ongoing exchange of ideas and personnel (including Professor Roger Burritt and myself) has become a hallmark between the Centre for Accounting, Governance and Sustainability (CAGS) and CSM (page 8). Second, Professor Marcus Beckmann is spanning his boundaries, moving from CSM in Lüneburg to establishing CSM Nuremberg at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (page 9).
The remaining reports provide additional testimony how sustainability management has spanned boundaries between theory and practice around the world.
We hope that this newsletter inspires readers to continuously span their own boundaries in the collective effort towards sustainable development.
Prof. Dr. Stefan Schaltegger