Warwick Business School: Changing business for good

How Warwick Business School develops the social entrepreneurs of tomorrow, today.

Dean of Warwick Business School Andy Lockett says…

What is the moral responsibility of commercial organisations today? It was once thought that an executive team’s sole responsibility was to its shareholders, whether that be family owners or institutional investors. But times have changed as increased attention is focused on how business behaves, both in terms of ethics and sustainability.

At Warwick Business School this is something we have been teaching our students for some time and is why we have been named the leading business school in the world for sustainability for the last two years by Corporate Knights.

We attract high-calibre students and world-class academics who want to create a better future, the forward-thinkers who prioritise the greater good over individual gain.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are part of the Warwick DNA and why we believe business can be a force for good, not just for profit. It is in every organisation’s interest to model their purpose around the benefit they bring to the community they live and work in, the people who work for them, and the future prosperity of the company.

We attract high-calibre students and world-class academics who want to create a better future, the forward-thinkers who prioritise the greater good over individual gain.

WBS academics are involved in research looking at sustainable cities and renewable energy with Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science, part of the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change, while the University of Warwick has set the goal of reaching net-zero carbon from its direct emissions and energy use by 2030.

Our students are graduating with the drive and ambition nurtured at WBS to change society for good. Whether it is producing a healthy fizzy alternative to sugary soft drinks like Hugh Thomas’ Ugly Drinks; funding social enterprises in South East Asia through Hazim Mohammed’s Aseanite; using behavioural science to help refugees as Umar Taj is doing; or inspiring youngsters from disadvantaged areas to dream big like Victoria Azubuike – we believe that education has the power to help young people around the world create a brighter future.

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As they looked out from the windows of the Shard towards Tower Hamlets, where many of them grew up, across to Canary Wharf and the shining buildings of the City, Victoria Azubuike could see the change in the girls attending her She Who Dreams event.

“A lot of the girls really struggle with confidence,” says Victoria. “They come from a background where you don’t feel like you have the right to demand what you want. I really want to challenge their perceptions. Where they come from shouldn’t be a limiting factor; that should be their strength and their power.”

A recent graduate of Warwick Business School, Victoria is the product of a single-parent, low-income household on a London council estate. She struggled in school, partly due to her dyslexia, but always believed that hard graft would see her succeed. Currently interning at M&C Saatchi and with a role about to start at top global creative agency BBH, her self-belief has paid off.

Why are there so few young people, in particular young women like myself, breaking into institutions like Warwick and having the same opportunities that I’m receiving?

The first person in her family to go to university, she was bowled over when she walked through Warwick’s doors. Yet she immediately thought, “Why are there so few young people, in particular young women like myself, breaking into institutions like Warwick and having the same opportunities that I’m receiving?”

Through that question came the kernel of the idea for the Us Programme, which equips young women from excluded communities with the kinds of skills – networking, self-branding, confidence, public speaking – that grant them the keys to those gilded towers of industry. Through hothousing events like She Who Dreams, She Who Leads and She Who Wins, Victoria is on a mission to change society by unlocking hidden talent.

“We see a ripple effect,” she explains. “Because once one girl has the confidence to lead, it changes the trajectory of her whole community. And sooner or later she will join an organisation and challenge the way things are done. There’s so much power in having a diverse workforce.”

Like Victoria, fellow Warwick Business School graduate Umar Taj was inspired to bring his skills to bear back home. The behavioural scientist has applied cutting-edge technology to issues in his homeland of Pakistan.

His latest project saw him use Virtual Reality to test the World Bank’s plan to refurbish parks as a way to reduce tensions between the ethnic groups of Karachi. They planned to spend millions on the programme, but it was down to the behavioural scientists to work out whether it would be money well spent.

Umar’s team brought together a representative group of 3,000 people and used VR to allow them to experience how the park could look. The results were surprising. While people were keen to go to the lovely new park, the presence of people from other backgrounds did nothing to improve their attitudes towards those ethnic groups. In fact, it reinforced their own group identity. It was back to the drawing board for the World Bank.

Pakistan is the sixth largest country, population-wise, but the percentage of people who get a chance to get into higher education is extremely small

Umar has now moved on to run a ‘Nudgeathon’, a 48-hour competition giving people behind Pakistani start-ups the chance to learn about the practical uses of behavioural science. Like Victoria, he sees the potential that’s waiting to be unleashed from the community he grew up in.

“Pakistan is the sixth largest country, population-wise, but the percentage of people who get a chance to get into higher education is extremely small,” says Umar. “If I introduce them to what I’ve learned, you never know, they might be the next million-pound start-up.”

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Kind business is good business

The world is suffering from a lack of kindness, and former uSwitch boss Neil Hutchinson is on a mission to change that. With a plan for using the most up-to-date academic research to drive a considerate revolution across schools, workplaces, and society as a whole, Kindness.org is just one of the social entrepreneur’s portfolio of big ideas.

After graduating from Warwick Business School in 2000 with a degree in Management Sciences, Neil started his own affiliate marketing firm from his bedroom, with a £2,000 overdraft as his initial funds. Formed in 2004, TrafficBroker evolved into £57m web business Forward. Neil went on to buy the then-10-year-old price comparison site uSwitch in 2009, but found that his natural habitat wasn’t at the top of such a large business.

Driven to use his skills for social good, he moved to more personal projects after selling the company, aiming for “a blend of having fun, doing well and giving back.” Alongside Kindness.org, he also heads up Front of the Pack, with the aim to make complementary
pet health accessible with simple, personalised products.

As a trustee of Founder’s Pledge, he’s part of a community of entrepreneurs committed to leveraging their success for social good. Each member makes a commitment to donate at least 2 per cent of their personal proceeds to charity when they sell their business. Inspired by philosopher Peter Singer’s TED Talk, they aim to practise effective altruism – providing members with research on how to make their money have the most impact.

Find out more: 024 7652 4100, info@wbs.ac.uk, wbs.ac.uk