Business schools take action at COP28 (Q&A)

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The number of core participants at the UN COP28 climate summit in Dubai reached a whopping 65,000, as a large number of observers and guests joined it for the first time, the Financial Times reported. In 2022, nearly 36,000 core participants were at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which reflects a remarkable 80 percent increase, as well as growing interest in the ever-pivotal issue of climate change.

“The success of this edition would not have been possible without the effort exerted at the COP27 edition,” said Sherwat Elwan, associate professor of operations management at the School of Business at The American University in Cairo (AUC). She is also the chair of the UN Global Compact Principals of Responsible Management (PRME) Chapter Africa, and was a participant at COP28, representing AUC and PRME at the world-famous event.

Business Forward sat down for a quick interview with Dr. Elwan to talk about her participation in COP28, her observations, interesting insights and outlook. She attended the Africa Business Leaders Coalition panel “Driving Africa’s Just Transition” at COP28 and the launch of BS4CL Middle East at the Greening Education Hub.

For those of our readers who don’t know, could you briefly explain to them what PRME Chapter Africa is?

PRME is a UN initiative that comprises the largest network of schools globally, with 18 chapters affiliated with the United Nations Global Compact. PRME is short for Principles for Responsible Management Education.

The mission of the PRME is to achieve the sustainable development goals through implementing these seven principles which include: purpose, values, teach, research, partner, practice and share.

PRME Chapter Africa was initiated in 2021 and the first full three-year term Chapter Steering Committee was appointed in June 2022. The Chapter is led by a nine-member Chapter Steering Committee (CSC).

As at July 2023, the Chapter has 24 communicating members in eight African countries, including Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, and South Africa.

How did you find the general ambience at COP28 UAE? What was your impression?

I found the organization of the event to be outstanding, and the attendance rate was remarkable. I believe the proximity of the blue and green zone during the conference has made it easier for a lot of people convene and get together in this edition. It is always great to see this growing interest and keenness on addressing the issue of climate change. This attention has undoubtedly been growing over the years.

I’d like to quote the words of Kevin Keane, BBC’s Scotland environment correspondent “The road to Dubai has been a long and winding one, which two years ago ran straight through the center of Glasgow [at COP26]”. The numbers show that not as many people were part of COP26, but to reach this destination in UAE, the journey of COP26, and certainly COP27, were indispensable.

Additionally, coming out of COP28, I see that there is a clearer vision of the coming steps, and that was not the case before. I believe I’m seeing true improvement and a real roadmap in progress here. Scaling who should be involved, inviting more people to the discussion, and good organization has all made the interweaving smoother in this edition of COP.


As the chair of PRME Chapter Africa, could you describe how COP28 was a chance to get a step closer to making a difference to education and climate?

This is a good question. I believe that by sharing the learning in BS4CL with our peers in the PRME network, which prioritizes climate leadership and education, there’s a lot to learn from each other. We’re building on accumulated efforts and knowledge rather than starting from scratch. Every school is already working on something. The trick for meaningful and fruitful climate action is having the right partnership and coordination, and that is the case with us.

We also realize the needs and nature of the Middle East region is different from Africa in terms of the climate action approach. For example, in Africa we prioritize the adaptation agenda, loss and damage, and mitigation.

There is special focus on everyone’s unique needs and a true understanding of the importance of tailoring curricula in a way that matches the audience we serve.

What is the next big step for PRME Chapter Africa in your opinion?

I’m looking forward to more climate action following the COP28 participation in PRME launched. For instance, the I5 project is coming into action. It’s a Pedagogical approach on how to teach sustainability in the classroom.

How is “i5” applied in AUC as a way to design curricula so they’re stirring towards climate action?

The i5 project represents a powerful initiative, driven by the ambition to cultivate a comprehensive skill set within business school education, designed to equip future leaders with the capabilities required to responsibly lead their organizations. i5 is a LEGO foundation five-year initiative. We’ve already spent two years designing and measuring it.

It been in the making for the past period, and this year it’s finally in dissemination. We are in the phase where we are “training the trainers” so it’s actually a reality in our classrooms.

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