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Leadership for a Sustainable Future
ABIS GlobalEventsLeadership for a Sustainable Future

Leadership for a Sustainable Future

Business-Academic Collaboration on the UN SDGs for Long-Term Success

16th ABIS Annual Colloquium | Brussels | 15-16 November 2017

Date 15-16 November 2017
Host ABIS - The Academy of Business in Society
Venue MCE Conference and Business Centre
Focus Business-Academic Partnerships for the UN SDGs


Since their adoption in 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have rapidly become the leading supranational framework to tackle the increasingly complex societal, economic and environmental challenges we are facing today through to 2030. One of the most important aspects of the SDGs is that they provide long-term scope and incentives for business to play a central role in driving progress. Private sector champions are committed to leading the way but will require strategic support as they work to align sustainability impact with value creation, and markets with sustainable development outcomes, such that business leaders can truly become the architects of a better world.

Business schools and universities will play an essential role as strategic partners for companies to provide relevant research and data to inform strategic decision making on the one hand and on the other hand provide the right kind of education that will nurture corporate leadership & talent development linked to the achievements of the UN SDGs.

The 2017 ABIS Colloquium will feature a range of sessions which promote critical reflection, dialogue and ideation on how business-academic partnerships can build stronger corporate capabilities in strategy and innovation for sustainability. It will also examine how companies and academic institutions can work together more effectively to inspire systems change in global business education, define future talent and skills requirements, and reframe the future knowledge development agenda around mutual value creation, not conventional academic incentives. 

Purpose of the Event

  • Demonstrate how Business-Academic Partnerships can contribute to the UN SDGs
  • Showcase how innovating current partnership approaches lead to more sustainable long-term business performance
  • Share the potential impact of the SDGs on new educational frameworks for business schools
  • Explore how business-academic collaboration could inspire current and future youth to become the sustainability leaders of the future
  • Discuss how to measure SDG progress and impact


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Event Programme

Download the Official Programme.


Eventbrite - Leadership for a Sustainable Future: Business-Academic Collaboration on the UN SDGs for Long-Term Success





(All times local)




12:30 – 13:30


13:30 – 14:00


Welcome from Alfons Sauquet Rovira – Chairman, ABIS

14:00 – 14:40


Indicative Title: Delivering the UN SDGs - A unique opportunity for business and society

Focus: The UN SDGs provide a vision for the world and a positive agenda to ensure future prosperity by addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. From a business perspective, they not only offer the chance to develop innovative solutions, but also create real value for all stakeholders. Implementing the SDGs will open up new business opportunities, build competitive advantage, strengthen supply chain resilience, help talent recruitment and retention, build trust within investors and other stakeholders and generate sustainable value for consumers and society. Aligning corporate strategies with longterm goals of society and achieving the SDGs will require changes to the way we do business, education as well as responsible and inclusive leadership. It will also require a renewed focus on impactful partnerships and collaboration of all stakeholders. In this context, business-academic collaboration can make a unique contribution to drive progress towards the SDGs.

14:40 – 16:00

Indicative Title: Partnering with Academia – a strategic choice for companies

 Focus: The choice to partner up with academia will form a key part of the “strategic support” for corporate leadership in pursuing the UN SDGs. In this high-level panel session, corporate sustainability champions will reflect on how innovating current partnership approaches will lead to more sustainable long-term business performance and accelerate their progress towards SDG targets and what the key criteria are for an impactful collaboration.

16:00 – 16:30



16:30 – 17:30



Indicative Title: Capacity Building through Partnerships

Structure & Focus:  Three parallel dialogues which explore various dimensions of business-academic collaboration to strengthen strategic human capabilities inside companies as the drivers of sustainable business innovation.


Session A

Indicative Title: The Future Board – Stewardship for Sustainable Success

Focus:  The ABIS-Mazars “Future Board” initiative (2016-2017) identified a range of strategic challenges and organizational pressures that will define whether boards of directors can (re)take a vital stewardship role in charting long-term sustainable success for their firms. It also assessed the implications for business schools and the significant growth potential which lies in a more strategic engagement in this domain. This session will draw on the headline insights from the initiative to identify concrete partnership ideas and models that will open up and develop this incredible opportunity space.

Session B

Indicative Title:  Making SDG Performance Relevant to General Management and Leadership Pipelines

Focus:  The ABIS Global Talent Forum has revealed the challenges that corporate HR / Talent / Leadership functions face in translating sustainability priorities to mid-level management and high potential development frameworks. This raises important questions about business-academic collaboration to strengthen corporate capacity building. Above all, there is a significant opportunity for more creative partnerships to drive new ways of defining and developing future leadership profiles, aligning business performance with values / purpose / vision / creativity, and more.

Session C

Indicative Title:  SDG impact through Investment – the role of investors

Focus: Investors and banks work on the SDGs and generate impact through the investments of their clients and tie long term results both financially and societal. In this session, we would like to understand the selection of companies and partnerships.



17:30 – 17:45

Short Break & ROOM CHANGE

17:45 – 18:30


Title:  Sustainable Business and Development – Can the SDGs Truly Become a Global Game Changer?  

Focus:  The Colloquium needs to bring in a more diversified perspective on business-academic partnerships and delivery of the SDGs.  The majority of the Goals are targeted towards progress in emerging and developing markets. The closing session of Day 1 is therefore an opportunity to bring in a respected authority in sustainable development to provide a view on whether the SDGs can really transform markets and societies in all parts of the world, and how the more developed world and its corporate & academic institutions can contribute effectively to that process.

18:30 – 22:00






08:45 – 09:00


Summary of headline take-aways and insights from Day 1, plus highlights and objectives for Day 2

09:00 – 09:55



Research and Innovation Partnerships in Pursuit of the SDGs

Focus: In this session, invited panelists will reflect upon the broad vision of science, technology, and innovation as important drivers and means of implementation of the SDGs and why supporting and endorsing partnerships, especially between business and academia, in the field is essential.

09:55 – 10:00


10:00 – 11:00


Supporting and developing a relevant Research agenda for the SDGs

Structure & Focus:  Three parallel dialogues which explore areas where business-academic collaboration could boost relevant research, capacity-building and knowledge transfer in pursuit of the SDGs.


Session A

Open Data and Open Science for the SDGs

Focus: The capacity to access, use and analyze data is deeply significant and transformative for a range of research fields especially in natural and social sciences, and will be key in realizing the SDGs given their interlinked nature.

Session B 

Business Model Innovation for the SDGs

Focus: The achievement of the SDGs raises the need for a more holistic view of value that integrates social and environmental goals, to ensure balancing or ideally alignment of all stakeholder interests to deliver sustainable value creation”.


Session C

Interdisciplinary research approaches in the UN SDG era

Focus: This session will focus on the challenges and opportunities of business-academic collaboration across disciplines and sectors.


11:00 – 11:30


11:30 – 12:25


Partnerships for better education and learning in the SDGs era

Focus: Business school education is an integral part for generating the innovation that is necessary to achieve the SDGs. This calls for partnerships between universities and businesses to change current approaches to business education and to help students develop the right skills for the upcoming years in which digitalisation, adaptability and the awareness of socio-ecological issues play an ever more important role.

12:25 – 12:30


12:30 – 13:30


Structure & Focus:  Three parallel dialogues will explore areas where business-academic collaboration could focus and leverage for developing SDG-relevant business education.                                                                                                                                                               


Session A

Embracing the Millennial Challenge – A Source of Organizational Transformation?

Focus:  Recent surveys have indicated that the millennial generation places increasing emphasis on future employers’ sustainability performance and the opportunity to create positive societal impact in their careers. In parallel, the ABIS Global Talent Forum has highlighted that companies are struggling to adapt current systems and policies to respond to these expectations.

Session B

Digital Innovation & Challenge-based Education

Focus:  This session will explore how new partnership models can fuel corporate sustainability innovation, through case study competitions, challenge-based education, and more.


Session C

Redefining the Business Curriculum for the UN SDG era

Focus:  This session will explore how industry and academia can engage more effectively to agree on a new process for education and learning that equips millions of future business graduates to lead organizations with sustainability at the core of purpose, strategy, and operations.

13:30 – 14:30


Business-Academic Partnership for Sustainability – Showcasing Success Stories

Focus & Format:  Large-scale poster session for ABIS members (and non-members) to display their credentials and success stories around sustainability-based partnerships.

14:30 – 15:25


Measuring Impact and Progress – How New Collaboration Models Can Inspire Better Research and Data Analytics

Focus:  The panelists will debate about measuring progress and impact – and how business and academia can work together more effectively to model, collect, analyse, interpret, and authenticate wider societal impacts of corporate initiatives to address the SDGs.  

15:30 – 16:30


Focus & Format:  A key part of this year’s Annual Colloquium is its award ceremony, where ABIS under the patronage of Viscount Etienne Davignon will award ABIS members who have successfully contributed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through business-academic partnerships.

Download the Call for Initiatives

16:30 – 17:00


17:00 – 19:00




Prior to our 16th ABIS Annual Colloquium, ABIS is hosting a series of research workshops linked to our Special Issue with Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society.

09:30 – 12:30


Governing the SDGs: From Universal Agenda to Local Action

ABIS invites you to send your Paper Proposal until 7 September. Selected papers will later be published in a special issue of Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society

Guest Editors:

  • Esben Rahbek Gjerdrum Pedersen, Copenhagen Business School
  • Manuela Brusoni, SDA Bocconi School of Management
  • Joan Fontrodona, IESE Business School
  • Ivo Matser, ISM School of Management
  • Alfons Sauquet, ESADE


Download the Call for Papers




Call for Papers

For our Special Issue with Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society, we welcome high-quality submissions which advance our knowledge on relevant topics related to SDGs. The special issue does not favour any special theoretical perspectives or methodological approaches and is open to conceptual as well as empirical contributions. 

The objective of this Special Issue is to explore the various manifestations and usages of SDGs across organisations, sectors, and national borders. SDGs can be addressed from a number of different perspectives, ranging from the negotiations leading up to the formulation of the global themes to the individual sensemaking and sensegiving processes at the local level. In particular, we welcome contributions cutting across levels (micro, meso, macro) and/or perspectives (governance making, taking and breaking), as academic research is often biased towards one-level/one-perspective analyses of organizational phenomena.

Guest Editors 

  • Esben Rahbek Gjerdrum Pedersen, Copenhagen Business School
  • Manuela Brusoni, SDA Bocconi School of Management
  • Joan Fontrodona, IESE Business School
  • Ivo Matser, ISM University of Management and Economics
  • Alfons Sauquet, ESADE


Download the Call for Papers

ABIS Award

Under the patronage of Viscount Etienne Davignon – Belgian Minister of State & Honorary Advisory Board Chairman of ABIS – we will award the best project/initiative that has successfully contributed to the UN SDGs through a business-academic partnership.

Submitted projects or initiatives should be clear about which of the targets under the UN SDGs they contribute to as well as outline the nature of their business-academic partnership.

Important Dates

  • September 30, 2017 – 1 page abstract to be submitted to
  • October 15, 2017 – feedback and acceptance finalized 


Download the Call for Initiatives






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