Can you tell us a little about the School of Business, Economics and IT at University West?
We have seven different programmes in the social sciences, economics and IT and conduct research in the field of digitalisation and what it means for the public and private sectors. We work closely with our regional industries.
What exciting developments is your school working on around work integrated sustainable development?
We are seeing the transition from being citizens of individual countries to global citizens. This means we need to understand each other in different ways, to be more open-minded and culturally competent in ways we didn’t need 20 years ago, back when we shared one culture and one thought pattern with our co-workers.
The School of Business, Economics and IT has 19 PhD students focusing on how mobility is affected by Industry 4.0, an era that embraces digitalisation and sustainability. This research shows how we need to reorganise our way of working and producing things.
Our Master in Sustainable Development students can be involved in this research. They will work on real case studies and field studies. This involves collaboration with Swedish, American and English companies that we have corporate research projects with. Students will interface with researchers and companies as a part of the work integrated learning component.
For example, on a project around electric vehicles, we’re focusing on how to implement self-driving/autonomous vehicles in cities safely. That is a big effort for the engineers – including how to design the new city from a safety perspective.
Another example is examining how we can use mobile phones to bypass the banking system from both an economic and environmental perspective. There are many global industries connected to our research.
How does this work factor into climate change and/or the circular economy?
As a part of social sustainability, we have to understand global mobility and how to utilise the strengths in our differences rather than trying to make everyone the same. We need to be more intentional in how we work, taking care of each other and the environment. Sustainable business involves viewing the economic aspects of everything we do from a sustainability perspective. Sustainability and profit are in balance, not opposition.
Businesses are understanding this, but educational programmes have lagged behind. Education hasn’t truly changed for 20 years. Of course we need people with competencies in things like economics, computer science, IT, etc., but the education itself must be more international and with a sustainability lens. The Master in Sustainable Development can show you how to take your computer science skills, for example, and lead with them. You will have advanced skills in seeing the possibilities instead of being trained simply as a cog in a machine.
As an example of this need for forward-thinking leadership, take Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla. Musk had originally approved bitcoin as a form of payment for Tesla. He did not consider the terrible implications of bitcoin for the environment. Only now has he revoked bitcoin as an approved form of payment.
Those who have worked with developing digital infrastructures like blockchain have not thought about sustainability. Of course it is possible to have bitcoins that are produced in green ways, but previously no one asked about or understood it. This is an example of the need to look ahead and see possibilities. This ultimately helps build a world where there are no oppositions between long-term economic profitability and environmental sustainability.
Will students have a chance to connect with companies?
Absolutely. This isn’t a programme where you only sit on campus and read about things. You read and then go out into the world to be a part of the solutions. You will have the chance to build your own relationships with important people and businesses that will be helpful to your future working life. This will make it easier for you to get an interesting and important job anywhere in the world.
Is there anything you want students interested in sustainable development to know?
We work on case studies based on our surrounding society as well as advanced international projects. There are so many possibilities created when people of different cultures meet and work together. There are many industries in Trollhättan, and it is a hub for the car manufacturing industry as well. These industries are transforming, which means everyone is searching for employees with new competencies.