Sustainable International Business
The knowledge domain of the research centre is focused on supporting internationally-oriented small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and multinationals in Limburg in making their ambitions more sustainable. The goal of the research centre is to give SME managers tangible insight into both internal and external sustainable aspects, which they can take into consideration in the strategic decision-making of their business.
On Friday 20 May 2022, Dr. Ir. Nikos Kalogeras was installed as Professor (lector) of the Research Centre for Sustainable International Business (SIB) of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.
Here you can read the inaugural speech “Cooperate to Transform”: Understanding SMEs’ Sustainability Transition.
Vision and mission
Overall, the vision of SIB is to achieve transformation and innovation for the sustainable business in education and SMEs with the aim to contribute to “health and well-being” of SMEs and citizens in the Euro-region, now and in the future.
The mission of SIB is to contribute to the economic development of the region by using innovative applied research and education in the field of sustainable business and to encourage IB graduates and businesses to further develop their ambitions in an effective and sustainable manner. This mission will be realized by means of applied research and education in collaboration with students, regional, national, and international stakeholders.
Relevance and objectives
Aligned to the strategic vision of ZUYD, the center's research is focused on areas related to the challenges faced by managers of internationally-oriented businesses in the Dutch province of Limburg with an ambition to grow and at the same time to take sustainable aspects into consideration. SIB will take an applied research-based approach to investigate specific questions in the field in cooperation with research centre members, IBSM students, IBSM lectures, and supporting companies in the region in creating innovative knowledge in the field of sustainability.
The general objectives of the SIB are:
- To conduct research to further improve knowledge development;
- To use applied research to structurally strengthen the existing connections between IB and the regional business sector (through knowledge exchange);
- To disseminate research results to the learning path Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) and to business cases within the study programme IB (curriculum development);
- To enhance research capacity and research-informed teaching within the IB team (professionalization of lecturers).
- To substantiate collaboration with the work field and enhance the internalization and sustainable development of SMEs, particularly in the EU.
Businesses in the region are increasingly focusing on expanding their markets in order to sell their goods and services to international customers. The Dutch government offers support in this regard through organisations such as LIOF and the Chamber of Commerce. The Dutch government and these NGOs increasingly promote consideration of sustainability in business. In follow up to the United Nations Paris Agreement on combatting climate change, European and national regulations have been adopted to guide this transformation to sustainable forms of doing business. Sustainability in business is often described as corporate social responsibility (CSR). Businesses also have a role to contribute to society and have to consider a wider range of values. For example, the triple bottom line concept of three Ps concept – see People, Planet, Profit – sets out several ways of formulating new values. A solid social policy can give rise to new values in a wide variety of policy issues, after which the organization can create value by maintaining good relations with all stakeholders. Value can be created in four areas: environmental, financial, and social. Each of these values areas will contribute to the value creation of the organization by means of cooperation networks.
It is vital that businesses keep in mind how their choices and management methods affect the environment, and society. This relates to matters such as working conditions, human rights, and corruption. The business itself could also profit greatly from this in terms of an improved reputation and credibility. This is also an ever-more important condition for government funding.
The topic of sustainability is of great relevance for the labour market. During the last reassessment of the national professional profile International Business discussions were held with representatives from the field whereby the importance of sustainability was emphasised and identified as one of the final competences that students need to attain (NQA/NVAO, 2019). The outcomes of the national discussion align with the framework for Global Competence of the Organization of Economic Development (OECD). Global Competence as defined by the OECD is currently applied within the IB programme as the leading framework for the intercultural business pathway (or leerlijn). This framework includes ‘taking action for collective wellbeing and sustainable development’ as one of the five dimensions of global competence (OECD, 2018, pp.11). Global competence relates to ethical and social responsibility across and within communities, locally and globally, and therefore is directly linked to the broader theme of corporate sustainability. Businesses are demanding International Business graduates with greater knowledge of and skills in this field and acquiring a “sustainable mindset”.
Research framework & themes
The integrated research framework of SIB accounts for the impact of six interdependent types of capital (natural; physical; economic; human; social; and cultural) that drive community’s mobilization and of inter-cultural awareness on the design and development of sustainable business strategies (organization & management; marketing, finance, and supply chain).
The implementation of these strategies is expected to influence and enable a holistic transformation (re-defining and engineering) of businesses’ strategic, tactical and operational focus. The aim of this transformation will result in the formation of innovative champion strategies that will enhance the IB academy’s pedagogical approach and curriculum design as well as support the economic, social, and environmental fabric of SMEs’ sustainable behavior.
In line with the rationale of this multidisciplinary and integrated framework, SIB intends to work on the following three research theme lines (RTLs) that are interconnected in scale and position in the IB environment:
Theme Line 1: SMEs’ Sustainable Behaviour
The SMEs’ sustainable behaviour line aims at the development of a knowledge framework that will focus on the (empirical) study of innovative ways to strengthening the SMEs’ economic, social, and natural types of capital. The emphasis of this research line is thus placed upon designing, implementing and monitoring sustainable systems that improve the continuity in terms of SME’s efficiency, productivity, growth, performance, and, hence, profitability. A prominent decision context in commodities and services markets is the (voluntarily) cooperative business schemes (i.e., user-owned and user-controlled companies that distribute economic, social, natural and marker-related benefits on the basis of their membership’s use of their services and systems. Within this research line relevant research questions regarding the development of competitive sustainable strategies are addressed.
Theme Line 2: SMEs’ Intercultural Awareness & Internalization
This research theme line aims at the development of SMEs’ knowledge transfer, internalization and intercultural awareness through the multidisciplinary (management; finance, supply chain, and marketing) study of human, physical, and cultural types of capital that enforce the development of sustainable communities’ mobilization across boundaries. The emphasis of this research line is, thus, placed upon the connection of the concepts of intercultural and global competence and sustainability to the behaviour of various market participants (e.g., employees, managers, consumers, producers, traders, investors) and SMEs. Improving physical capital relates to community (tangible and intangible) assets such as public facilities (e.g., hospitals and schools), transportation, telecommunications and infrastructure, while increasing human capital relates to decision contexts such as health, education, nutrition, and improved workplace dynamics. The diversity across borders and cultures should capitalize on efficient governance, competences- and capacity-building, participatory planning, access to information, collaboration, cooperation and partnerships (e.g., creation of business clusters). Within this research line relevant research questions regarding the development of global competences of business leaders and employees (human capital) in order to ensure sustainable business are addressed.
Theme Line 3: Didactical Innovation in IBSM Community
The aim of this research line is the design and development of an innovative didactical approach to teach sustainability-related subjects in the IBSM community. Such an approach is expected to add value and produce the intercultural and global intended learning outcomes for the students and faculty members of the IBSM. That is, in this research line, SIB’s ambition to contribute to the IBMS’ teaching on ERS-related topics using the highly interactive and practice-based “Student in the Lead” didactical approach will be realized. The inclusion of learning outcome ‘living in the world’ in the Dutch Framework for International Business at bachelor level is an example of the joint approach of Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) and Research Universities (RU). Moreover, in order to ensure that internationalisation contributes to the quality of education, Dutch UAS and RU have further invested in realizing inclusive communities aimed at academic and social integration of students and staff, language policies and teacher training for teaching in the international classroom (Cf. 'Internationalisation Agenda for Higher Education’, 2018). Through the development and application of models that rely on the RIT framework, SIB has been and will deal with (evidence-based) studies focusing on how to promote IBSM coaches/experts/applied researchers-students’ collaboration, to integrate research-based learning across domains of Zuyd UAS, and how to utilize self-reflective learning to promote excellent teaching through the offering of scholarships of teaching and learning both for students and lecturer/researchers in the field of sustainable community mobilization.
The lector (professor)
Prof. Dr. Ir. Nikos Kalogeras holds the chair of Sustainable International Business at International Business School Maastricht (IBSM), Zuyd University, and he also serves as an associated and visiting professor at CORMEC-Wageningen University & Research (NL), MAICh-CIHEAM (FR), Neapolis University Pafos (CY), and Maastricht School of Management (MSM/NL).
His professional interests are heavily inspired by business challenges regarding sustainable cooperation in contemporary product/services markets. Fascinated by managerial questions of how to invest, produce and market sustainable products/services in complex value chains in agribusiness, food, financial, and tourism markets, he enjoys developing new courses/seminars, embarking on innovative (applied) research projects, co-authoring research-based consulting reports, and collaborating with industry stakeholders.
Prof. Kalogeras is passionate about (international) triple-helix sustainable cooperation involving universities, industries, and governments. His participation as a researcher and partner in consortia as well as regional subsidy initiatives enables him to transfer and validate his scientific knowledge and offer public and consulting services to various market participants.
Moreover, Prof. Kalogeras is an experienced commissioner of large product/service organizations, governmental agencies in the US and EU, cooperative firms, and SMEs.