Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics

Corporate Environmental Management celebrates its 20th anniversary

From end-of-pipe to eco-innovations – Celebrating 20 years of Corporate Environmental Management teaching

Corporate Environmental Management celebrates its 20th anniversary: Harvard, Yale, University of Jyväskylä…

The Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE) celebrated the 20th anniversary of Corporate Environmental Management by organising an anniversary seminar on a beautiful autumn day on 24 October 2015.

The keynote speech was given by Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament. The other speakers were graduates from the Master’s Degree Programme in Corporate Environmental Management (CEM): Timo Huhtisaari (North European Oil Trade Ltd),Tiina Kähö (leading expert, SITRA), Kaisa Kurittu (Solutions Agency Vinha) and Susanna Horn (Outotec).

CEM 20th Anniversary SeminarThe master’s degree programme in CEM is a specialty of JSBE and offers a cross-disciplinary perspective to environmental issues. The programme prepares students to deal with corporate environmental issues when working in expert and management duties for companies, public organisations and non-governmental organisations. The programme takes 20–25 students a year. In total 13 doctors and more than 200 masters have graduated from the programme.

The corporate environmental management programme was started in 1995 when Finland joined the European Union.

- The University of Jyväskylä contemplated how it could be possible to utilise the EU funding possibilities that opened through the membership. The University decided to apply for EU funding to establish master’s degree programmes and succeeded well. Corporate Environmental Management was among the winners and that’s how its story began, says Professor of Corporate Environmental Management Hanna-Leena Pesonen.

In 1995, the world was very different from what it is now. Finland was recovering from depression and the policy was to invest in education. Corporate Environmental Management was something new in Finland and in the Nordic region. Therefore, there was a lot of interest towards it. Along with the EU funding, Jyväskylä got renowned international visiting lecturers and this further enhanced the reputation of the discipline. At the beginning of 2000s, it was decided to offer the master´s degree programme fully in English.

One important milestone was reached in 2001, when the degree programme of Corporate Environmental Management was selected among the top five in the rankings of the World Resources Institute and the Aspen Institute.

- The University of Jyväskylä was at the top of the list with, for example, Harvard and Yale. We also were the only European university. After that, we were known all over the world and the number of applicants increased rapidly. And the good reputation has remained the same, says Hanna-Leena Pesonen.

What feels self-evident and natural in 2015 may not have been that in 1990s. Then companies considered environmental matters as an expense item and corporate environmental management had to defend its position and explain its existence. By now legislation has developed, consumers are more aware of environment and companies see corporate environmental management as a business opportunity. The alumni of the University of Jyväskylä have ended up in central positions in the business world and have enhanced the development in Finland.The keynote speaker of the seminar Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament

- We have had wonderful students throughout our history. They have been very committed to their studies and have found their place in the working life excellently. Our first graduates paved the way and now we are really well known.

When considering current and future trends, Pesonen names the sharing economy. Instead of buying, resources are used with others through renting or joint ownership. A good example of this is the taxi service Über.

- For us, it is very interesting to see China’s awakening to environmental issues. The country has lately taken big environmental steps and the speed is increasing, for example, in the use of solar panels and led lights.

However, from the perspective of corporate environmental management, the world is never complete. The stir caused by Volkswagen’s emission manipulation makes the expert of the field to ponder awhile.

- It makes me rather angry. It is a good example of fraudulent means when trying to achieve environmental friendliness. I have said to our students that in some ways I would hope that the discipline would make itself redundant, but it seems we still have a long way to go, says Hanna-Leena Pesonen laughingly.

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