Sustainability Organization GRONEN: KLU Professor Named New President

Johannes Meuer

The new president of the international research network GRONEN (Group for Research on Organizations and the Natural Environment) is Prof. Dr. Johannes Meuer, Co-Director of the KLU Center for Sustainable Logistics and Supply Chains and Assistant Professor for Sustainability Strategy and Operations. The network focuses on organizations in the context of environmental protection, building a bridge between management and sustainabilit.

GRONEN combines research with continuing education on management and environmental protection / sustainability. How do they fit together?

Meuer: That’s an essential question that the classical business sciences have never really addressed. But if your goal is to make a positive change in how human beings influence the environment, you need to look at companies. GRONEN has been doing exactly that for the past 20 years, making it one of the longest-standing and most prominent research associations in the area of management and sustainability. We bring together different research interests, share our expertise with business and political decision-makers, and work to embed practical know-how in education. The majority of business schools still preach the key tenet of neoclassical economics: that companies have to make profits. Accordingly, graduates of these schools often lack the awareness and tools needed to guide their company onto a sustainable path.

What would you like to achieve as president?

Meuer: I want to continue the wonderful work done by my predecessor, Valentina De Marchi. Especially in the past two years, the community has become very independent and paved the way for various new forms of exchange. We also continue to support good research – in fact, that constitutes the organization’s core identity. We still need many more researchers who can contribute new ideas and approaches, and who can more effectively embed sustainability in their own discipline. One new aspect is that the topic is increasingly gaining attention at companies. Consequently, in the future we want to put ourselves in the spotlight more and transform what began as a grass-roots movement into a professionally operating network. To do so, we need a stable foundation and more resources. With the help of membership fees, we could finance events and a modest office, for example. In addition, we plan to create an expertise database. GRONEN brings together the majority of internationally respected researchers in this area. On the basis of their profiles, political decision-makers, companies and the media will then be able to find the right expert to fit their needs – say, for sustainable finance or sustainable supply chains – at our website. The most important thing: whoever is looking for scientifically sound answers to questions on sustainability and management will have to turn to GRONEN.

How well can you combine your work at GRONEN with your work at KLU?

Meuer: Very well. After all, I don’t just pursue research at KLU; I also head the new part-time degree program Sustainable Management and Operations (SuMO), which will be launched in the spring of 2023. It’s one of the few degree programs to teach sustainability skills – and not just in terms of the fundamental principles, but also with a major focus on practical applications. I feel a translational approach is key, that is, applying findings from basic research to various practical situations, and vice versa. In this regard, KLU’s close ties to the business world are a major advantage, especially because they allow students to directly apply what they’ve just learned at their workplace the next day. The future of corporate sustainability lies in companies not only making their own operations greener and more socially responsible, but also gaining a better grasp of how they are embedded in various supply chains and logistics processes. In these areas, KLU offers outstanding expertise.

Let’s go back to sustainability one more time. It’s something everyone’s talking about, but is still hard to grasp. What do you feel is most important?

Meuer: It’s all about sustainable development. Therefore, the most relevant component is time. For me, the most essential aspect is generational justice – that we try to live in a way that ensures our children can enjoy a similar lifestyle 30 years from now. Also, let’s consider the three dimensions: ecological, social and economic. To date, economic sustainability has been seriously neglected. And in business, consulting and research, there are always two sides: one is more concerned with ecological questions, the other with social questions. But I can’t consider CO2 reduction without taking into account energy justice. Or, as the war in Ukraine has demonstrated: energy policy and peace policy are interconnected. Accordingly, in my view we have to take a holistic approach to sustainability; only then will we be able to effectively address these massive challenges.

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