In a world haunted by scare scenarios from “climate change” to a variety of Malthusian melodramas, corporate leaders attuned to the microeconomics of their individual industries have started asking questions about the macroeconomic notion of business sustainability. Moving far beyond an “environmentally aware” approach to business, sustainability is quickly becoming a 21st century imperative. The problem, of course is that sustainability remains a mystery to many of the men and women responsible for delivering return on investment to their shareholders.

Stepping into this breach, responding directly to the needs of business, the IEDC-Bled School of Management in Bled, Slovenia partnered with the Coca-Cola Company in 2010 to establish The Coca-Cola Chair of Sustainable Development, a relationship renewed last week. Thanks to this partnership, IEDC, a leading management education provider, has made sustainable development a key theme for its entire curriculum. Through related research, teaching and outreach efforts, the Coca-Cola Chair has served as a linchpin, proactively developing a culture of sustainability in Central and Eastern Europe, emphasizing “real world” sustainable development best practices locally, regionally, and internationally.

Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva, IEDC Faculty member

Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva, IEDC Faculty member and Vice-President of the United Nationals Global Compact Slovenia, was re-appointed as holder of the Coca-Cola Chair. Zhexembayeva points to the business challenges of declining resources, calls for greater transparency, and the need for improved environmental accountability, as underscoring sustainable development – an approach to value creation that harmonizes long-term profitability and growth with sound social and environmental performance – as a key strategic concept, essential to how companies compete and win in the marketplace.  

Professor Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, shares with The Coca-Cola Company in its commitment to a sustainable future for Central and Eastern Europe. According to Purg, renewal of the Coca-Cola Chair of Sustainable Development will make possible a number of new initiatives, with “the next big step” being to strengthen “global transformation efforts to be showcased at the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (UN PRME World Summit) 25-26 September 2013, co-organized by CEEMAN and IEDC, hosted by IEDC.”   

Results of this partnership to date include a new course in sustainable innovation developed by Dr. Zhexembayeva and now part of IEDC’s long programs, the Executive MBA, General Management, Young Management, and Discover Management Programs.  Also, IEDC has co-founded Challenge: Future engaging nearly 15,000 students ages 18 to 30 from 90 countries through the means of open collaborative innovation in a global student competition addressing global sustainability challenges.

Philip Ellison is Public Affairs & Communications Manager at Coca-Cola Austria.