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Recent Events

1st STaR Research Conference on Responsible Innovation (November 22-23, 2019)

The 2-Day conference brought together internationally recognized scholars from various fields and disciplines to further our knowledge of the nature, drivers, and outcomes of Responsible Innovation.

The world is facing economic, social, and environmental challenges of huge proportions. It is clear that tackling the Grand Challenges of our time, such as the ones reflected in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), requires concerted efforts by national governments, policy makers, research institutions, business organizations and civil society. Achieving the ambitious targets set out in the 2030 sustainable development agenda will not be possible without innovations in science, technology, law, and other fields on a scale commensurate with that of the challenges we face, as well as transformation of economic systems, business processes and, perhaps most importantly, individual mindsets.

The theme of the 1st STaR research conference was Responsible Innovation (RI). The term responsible innovation was initially used in a rather narrow way to explore the responsibility of science with respect to issues such as research on human subjects, intellectual property, research integrity, etc. However, more recent conceptualizations have taken a broader perspective by considering the variety of actors inside and outside the scientific system that might be involved in innovation processes that contribute to doing good and avoiding harm in the environmental, social and economic domains.

The breadth of the issues concerning RI was reflected in the conference program, in which different aspects of the institutional, economic, legal, and organizational environments were addressed by scholars from disciplines as diverse as international business and management, ecological economics, finance, legal studies, information technology, psychology, and philosophy.

The conference program can be downloaded here.

Written by Günter K. Stahl, Christof Miska, Milda Žilinskaitė

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: Why Should They be Your Business? (November 20, 2019)

SDGs Matter at the WU Matters -STaR hosted its first event at the WU Matters WU Talks series.

When we originally proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda as the topic for our event at the WU Matters WU Talks public lecture series, we were not entirely sure how the evening would unfold. Although the SDG framework was set by the United Nations back in 2015, the EU’s polling agency Eurobarometer1 has shown that on the average, only one in ten EU citizens is familiar with it. Our own informal survey among 940 WU Vienna students in spring of 2019 revealed similar results. Roughly 11% of the students asked said they had heard of the SDGs, and fewer could name one or two aims of the 17 goals and their 169 targets.

As an academically-rooted sustainability center, we consider it our core responsibility to raise the SDG awareness on and beyond the WU campus. The WU Matters WU Talks event was part of this ongoing effort. STaR Co-Director Günter K. Stahl gave an opening note on the opportunities that the SDGs create for companies. The innovation potential these goals offer also resurfaced in the panel discussion following the keynote address. The panel of experts (coincidentally, first time all-female panel at the WU Matters) included: Co-​Director of STaR, ecological economist Sigrid Stagl; Director of Social Innovation at Deloitte Consulting, Elisa Aichinger; Senior Advisor for Environment at OMV, Brigitte Bichler; and the Founder and Managing Director of the virtual farmer’s market Markta, Theresa Imre.

The issues tackled by the panelists concerned the ways in which SDGs can be embedded into different business models, the differences between the SDG framework and other means of fostering corporate responsibility, SDG communication, measuring SDG impact, and the thorny topic of “SDG-washing”. There were, expectedly, differences in opinion as well as healthy disagreements. There were also many concrete best practice examples and useful recommendations.   

One question that we as the organizing team ask ourselves after each STaR Center event is whether (and if yes, to what extent) the discussion went beyond scratching the surface. Has it generated thinking, exploring and discovering? In this case, did our WU Matters matter?

Of course, we could not pin this down in numbers, but it did seem that the discussion could have continued for much longer than the allocated 45minutes. The questions from the audience kept coming long after the panelists were off the stage, and of the nearly 340 attendees, many stayed around to continue informal discussions late into the evening. It is greatly rewarding to witness a sense of shared interest within a highly diverse audience of college students (as we learned, from at least four major universities in Vienna), faculty and staff, business practitioners, locals and internationals… Keeping in mind that the SDG17 is “Partnerships for Goals”, we at STaR hope that some of these conversations have created a positive momentum that will continue to propel into the future.

Written by Milda Žilinskaitė, manager and senior scientist at STaR. 

1.Special Eurobarometer 445. (2017). 27,929 individuals surveyed across 28 EU Member States. (Fieldwork: 11-12/2016)

Diversity and Inclusion in a global business environment (June 19, 2019)

WU Executive Academy and STaR co-​hosted WU Executive Insights: an evening event with Learning & Organization Behavior expert Josefine van Zanten.

Josefine van Zanten has a long, impressive list of leadership positions:Executive in Residence at IMD Business School, former Global Head of Learning and Organization Behavior at LafargeHolcim, former Global VP Diversity and Inclusion at Royal Dutch Shell, to name just a few. However, she opened the evening by talking about very different leadership titles, those we do not tend to hear listed as often in executive events: mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, risk-taker, team builder, passionate proponent of authentic leadership… As several attendees commented later that evening, this personal touch created space for an exceptionally engaging audience discussion, and it was also the perfect way to approach the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in organizations.

The terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are often applied interchangeably. However, as discussed by Josefine van Zanten, they differ in important ways. The concept of inclusion means moving beyond the targets and measures of demographic representation associated with the notion of diversity. Inclusion is about providing fair access to resources (for example, sponsoring and not just mentoring women or ethnic minorities), decision-making and career opportunities. It engenders a personal sense of belonging reflected in perceptions of individuals. It is subjective – yet, very importantly, measurable. 

Global companies that seek to fully reap the benefits of diversity inevitably focus on inclusion. At the same time, however, it is a highly complex, sensitive topic. Not surprisingly, many of the questions from the audience were about the contradictions and dilemmas that characterize D&I programs across companies, industries and cultures. Key takeaway? Simple but powerful: creating an inclusive workplace is not a destination but a continuous journey.

Comments by event participants:

“Josefine gave a comprehensive overview of Inclusion and Diversity, starting from the clear differences of the terms. The session was not only insightful, but had exercises where groups of participants would be able to challenge their perceptions.” Mari Ono, WU Executive Academy, GEMBA 2018/2019

 “One of the best event during the GEMBA 2018/2019 program, very inspirational and insightful thanks to Josefine. Josefine is an excellent female leader, who empowers women and men, able to give them another perception and open door for exceptional inclusion and diversity topic discussion.” Karin Apjarova, WU Executive Academy, GEMBA 2018/2019

“Josefine van Zanten captured the audience with deep practical and easily translated key input of how diversity and inclusion matter to improve each organization's results in the bottom line. She managed to transfer highly complex insights in an exceptionally quick and personal way and gave clear advice how to successfully implement diversity and inclusion strategies in different surroundings.” Christa Gschweitl, Female Leadership Network of WU Executive Academy

If you have additional comments, best practice examples, or ideas of how to move things forward please do not hesitate to email us at star@wu.ac.at.

Written by Milda Žilinskaitė, manager and senior scientist at STaR  

ChangEDucation: 6. WU Nachhaltigkeitstag / Sustainable Transformation Day (May 14, 2019)

The WU Nachhaltigkeitstag / WU Vienna Sustainable Transformation Day took place for the 6th consecutive year on May 14, 2019, under the title ChangEDucation. It was a collaborative initiative, organized by STaR, WU Umweltmanagement, and representatives of several student organizations: ÖH WU, oikos Vienna, össfo, and forum n. Though a long standing tradition at our university, this year’s event had several new features: it was longer (a full day, with six specialized Workshops), more inclusive of non-German speakers, and it introduced a thematic focus around the UN Agenda 2030 SDGs, namely – SDG4 (Quality Education).

The SDGs are at the heart of the work of the over fifteen non-profit and student organizations represented at the all-day ChangEDucation forum. They were also the focal point of small-group discussions (“Kamingespräche”), moderated by Helene Dallinger (oikos Vienna), where forum participants and event visitors had the opportunity to share their views and concerns regarding sustainable development, ask critical questions, and propose creative solutions. Some spoke about frustrations, others expressed optimism, and not surprisingly, many shared both.

The above, and other related issues, were further tackled during the panel discussion at the end of the day. Our diverse group of panelists included: Viola Christian (Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens), Jesus Crespo Cuaresma (Head of the WU Institute for Macroeconomics), Gillian Joanne Foster (Researcher and Former e-Developer at the WU Institute for Ecological Economics), Benjamin Seyer (student representative, sustainability unit of ÖH WU), and Johanna Warm (staff member at WU Vienna Teaching and Learning Development). The panelists discussed the importance of critical thinking, transferrable skills, role-modeling, and the integration of sustainability awareness into business school curriculum, within and beyond the classroom experience. The core of discussion is well reflected in an email from a member of the audience (external to WU) that STaR team received the day after the event. The letter reminded us all that: “Target 4.7 of the SDGs is for each and every person, and in order to achieve sustainability and regeneration (in a very holistic sense), they have to permeate deeply into all fields of study and inquiry, not only making them part of our way of thinking but more so of being a sustainable/ regenerative human.”

If you have additional comments, concerns or ideas of how to move things forward please do not hesitate to email us at star@wu.ac.at.

For the readers of this post, thank you for your attention, and for all of those who have been involved in ChangEDucation: we know it is not always easy, but keep the hard work up!

Event coordinators: STaR Fellows Marlene Gruber and Laura Bauer

Core organizing team: Gregor Bauer, Sarah Beranek, Marius Brand, Sebastian Bruckbauer,Beata Boor, Helene Dallinger, Clara Hofer, Christian Hütter-Schrottenbaum, Daniel Preglau, Renata Krenn, Livia Regen,  Benjamin Seyer, Susan Üstün Eva Wagner, Ulrich Weber, Rainer Wicke.

We would also like to extend a special thanks to our on-site volunteers and to Josefine Schulze (for her creative graphic recording during the panel discussion)!

This text was written by: Milda Žilinskaitė, manager and senior scientist at STaR  

ChangEDucation: Workshop Feedback

Here is some participant feedback from the ChangEDucation Workshops:

  • "It was fantastic!"

  • "Great start for a reflection on myself and a reminder that I can have an impact. Would be intereseted in a follow-up"

  • "Interesting facts and good exercises with enough time for discussion"

  • "Very informative, lots of points and perspectives"

  • "I'd like to suggest an international project to exchange experiences with South American NGOs (in Brazil). I would like to invite WU students to get to know our work better" (if you are interested in such collaboration, STaR is happy to put you in contact with the author of this message).

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Skilled Migrants in Austria: Needed but Unwelcome? (April 10, 2019)

The public panel discussion “Skilled Migrants in Austria: Needed but Unwelcome?” owes its inspiration to the ongoing research on migration at WU Vienna, where several groups of investigators across different academic disciplines are working on topics related to this important issue. The open-to-public event on April 10 was followed by a two-day specialized academic workshop on global migration, co-hosted by STaR and the WU Vienna Department of Management, in cooperation with the Journal of World Business.

We are delighted that the panel discussion brought together an incredibly diverse audience, and we would like to thank all of those who attended! We also appreciate individual email inquiries and encouragement for future endeavors we received following the event.

The evening was opened by WU Vienna International Business department professor Günter Stahl, who as of January 2019, together with professor Sigrid Stagl at the Ecological Economics Department, are academic directors of STaR.

An introductory note was given by Aida Hajro (Brunel University London and WU Vienna). Hajro pointed out to some of the pressing issues surrounding global labor migration, including wrong-headed immigration and integration policies at the state level, and societal misconceptions regarding immigration. She further addressed immediate implications for international business and trade, describing the increasing pressure by intergovernmental and non-profit organizations for the private sector to ensure greater adherence to migrant employees’ human and labor rights.

The evening’s panelists came from highly diverse cultural and professional backgrounds [for more on speakers’ profiles, please click here] and offered many valuable insights into the challenges skilled migrants face in Austria. For example, WU Vienna professor Wolfgang Mayrhofer discussed the socio-historic context of Austria as a not-traditionally immigrant receiving country and described the difficulties with labor market entry, over-qualification, and higher social acceptance of some migrant groups over the others, in relation to the broader societal context. HR expert Martina Ernst listed the major challenges for skilled migrants from the industry perspective. She also commented on the needs of firms that seek to hire qualified migrants (e.g., meeting potential candidates in their home countries, dealing with administrative obstacles, lack of collaboration between private sector and the government). Finally, we are particularly thankful to Kaiser Ahmed and Bruno Campos –successfulhighly qualified migrants who live and work in Austria – for providing real-life examples illustrating the bureaucratic hurdles, societal-level obstacles, career difficulties, but at the same time, also opportunities and personal success stories. Overall, all four panelists agreed that concrete infrastructural improvements have to be made in order for Austria to meet its current economic demand for highly qualified workforce.

One major impression, voiced not only by the panelists but also by several people in the audience, is that it is critical to raise more public awareness of the topic. On this note, STaR will seek for the conversation to continue, and we invite anyone interested in skilled migration (whether or not you have experienced it yourself) to contact us at star@wu.ac.at.

Author (event moderator): Milda Žilinskaitė