2nd International Summer School “Sustainability in International Business”, UM FEB, 8th to 16th September 2023


Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important development orientation in business operations. It is rooted in the negative consequences of the neoliberal development paradigm in the world and the calls for sustainable development by international organizations and national governments. The latter implies that countries, organizations, and individuals not only focus on achieving economic prosperity but also seek to positively impact the natural environment and society. International business involves interactions and business activities between many countries, companies, and stakeholders. Such dimensions of action offer opportunities to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable development across large geographical spaces and among many audiences. At the same time, they present a number of tests for companies on their real commitment to sustainability. Companies are responding to calls to implement sustainability in their business practices with varying degrees of commitment; some incorporate aspects of all three pillars of sustainability (economic, social, environmental) into their international business practices, while others focus on just one or two. Companies have different approaches to measuring and reporting on the implementation of sustainability aspects in their business. Multinational companies offer many examples of good as well as bad practices in this area. The global health crisis, the war in Eastern Europe, and international geopolitical turbulences increase the importance of sustainability in international business. These developments not only represent levers for much-needed transformations of business activities or entire corporate business models towards sustainability but also opportunities to reverse harmful socio-economic trends and increase the global competitiveness of countries and companies.

Key topics of the summer school were the following:

-        The concept and meaning of sustainable development

-        The concept of sustainability

-        Economic, ecological, and social aspects of sustainable business

-        The concept of international business

-        The concept of sustainable international business

-        Benefits and challenges of implementing sustainability in international business operations

-        Promotors of sustainable business, focusing on EU mechanisms (European Green Deal actions and EU regulation, Sustainable digitization of the EU (digitalSME.eu), EU funding for "green transformation" etc.)

-        Sustainability in the value chain

-        Sustainability in international marketing

-        Sustainability in international supply chains

-        Digitalisation as a sustainable practice in international business

-        Approaches and models to measure sustainable business

-        Green transformation as a sustainable practice in international business

-        Examples of good sustainable business practices of multinational companies

-        The issue of "greenwashing" and the importance of consumer awareness

-        ESGs reporting standards and challenges of reporting

-        Future perspectives on sustainable development and sustainable business

The key objective of the International Summer School was to raise students' awareness of the concept of sustainability in international business as an indispensable orientation in companies' business models with the aim of building long-term sustainable and resilient socio-economic environments of countries and higher global competitiveness of companies. Activities included learning about good practices for implementing sustainability in international business, with a focus on international value chains (global sourcing, logistics, manufacturing, and customer relations). The program of the summer school included lectures by national/foreign lecturers and practitioners, learning workshops with active student work (individual/team work using innovative learning and teaching methods), and a study tour to selected Slovenian companies in Primorska region (Vina Koper and Luka Koper). Students had the possibility to engage in social events, organized by UM and FEB. By organizing interactive virtual lectures, including students‘ presentations, and offering students the opportunities to listen and engage in discussions with experienced managers, the second goal of the summer school – increasing students‘ theoretical and experiential knowledge on the topic – was achieved. Additionally, socializing with students from different countries and building new acquaintances, and friendships led to the realization of the third important goal – increasing the students‘ multicultural experience.

The lectures and workshops educated students on the external and internal drivers of integrating sustainability into business models, the benefits of such integration for business, society, and the natural environment, indicators and approaches to measuring the implementation of sustainability in business activities, global and regional initiatives, and mechanisms to support the implementation of sustainability in business, with a focus on the European Union mechanisms, including ESG reporting standards, and the anticipated impacts, challenges and approaches to managing the challenges of such reporting.

Invited lectures by guests from the practice provided students with an insight into how sustainability can be implemented in the business models of international companies from several manufacturing and service industries in different sectors of the economy. 14 companies participated in the summer school with their presentations of best practices: Elan d.o.o., Roto skupina d.o.o, Hofer trgovina d.o.o., Steklarna Hrastnik d.o.o., Lumar inženiring d.o.o., General Logistics Systems (GLS) Slovenia d.o.o., Abena Group Denmark, Adria Mobil d.o.o., TÜV Austria servis d.o.o., Lidl Slovenija d.o.o. k.d., Alples d.d., Sava Re d.d., Vinakoper d.o.o. and Luka Koper. 16 representatives of the companies presented to the students the strategic and operational aspects of integrating sustainability into their international supply and value chains. Mr. Leon Korošec from company Elan presented sustainability implementation in the sports equipment industry. He presented Elan's contribution to global development goals, sustainability drivers in the company, top 5 sustainability goals in the company, the company’s approaches to measuring progress in the field of sustainability implementation, as well as the company’s guiding principles in the field of sustainability. Ms. Nuša Pavlinjek Slavinec from ROTO Group, among others, introduced sustainability in the company‘s production, which is ensured through the use of composites and biodegradable and recycled polymers, as well as artificial intelligence. The lecture on the implementation of sustainability in HOFER Slovenia was given by Mr. Bor Trček. Mr. Trček started his lecture with Robert Swann's thought that "the greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it". He then encouraged the students to think about the possibilities of achieving greater sustainability in a food product - students brainstormed ingredients in a food product that demonstrate the implementation of sustainability. He presented HOFER Slovenia's responsibility towards customers, partners, employees, the natural environment, and society at large, the company's steps on the way to implementing social responsibility, activities, and practical examples of social responsibility for consumers (healthy lifestyle - recreation, nutrition), employees (fair pay, well-being, personal growth and development, volunteering activities), the local community (sponsorships for humanitarian organizations, UNICEF, etc.), and other stakeholders. The students also learned about HOFER's purchasing standards and the company's achievements in this area. HOFER Slovenia also raised awareness of its commitment to sustainability among the students of the International Summer School in a direct way - by donating products that demonstrate the company's real commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. Mr. Tilen Sever, a representative of a company Steklarna Hrastnik gave an in-depth presentation of numerous innovative approaches to sustainability implementation in the company, operating in the glass production industry. He focused mainly on the environmental aspects of sustainability in all three scopes of value chain activities. He presented the sustainability analysis, based on the LCA of a glass product. Mrs. Nataša Teraž Krois from a construction company Lumar presented the passive and active types of houses as examples of sustainable products. She explained the economic, environmental, and social sustainability aspects of these products. Students have the possibility to listen to video presentations of sustainability aspects in the company's General Logistics Provider (GLS). A number of environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability in GLS were presented by Mrs Sanja Čeman and Mrs Maja Kovačević. The students also had the opportunity to hear from a representative of the Danish company Abena Group, which supplies healthcare and various other types of industries in the B2B sector, and to a lesser extent also operates in the B2C market. Mrs. Vanessa Hoffmann presented the UN SDG goals the company is pursuing, their targets for each goal, how the company is implementing sustainability internally and externally, what indicators the company uses to achieve the goals, how it conducts LCA analysis of products, what standard it uses and what challenges it perceives in relation to the envisaged mandatory reporting under the CSRD. Company Adria Mobil was represented by Mr. Matjaž Marovt, who presented the background to their envisaged sustainability strategy, and a number of challenges the company faces in terms of sustainability implementation. Mrs. Martina Drakulić, representative of the company TÜV AUSTRIA Servis and certified strategist for social responsibility and sustainable development, presented the Green Scheme for Slovenian Tourism and the concept and story of the Slovenia Green brand as the main tools for achieving and promoting sustainability in Slovenian tourism. She presented the economic and social importance of tourism in the world and the concept of sustainable tourism. The students were introduced to carbon footprint calculator applications, global sustainability initiatives in the context of World Tourism Day, the role of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, tourism in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, examples of eco-labels and certificates for sustainable tourism, sustainable orientations in the Slovenian Tourism Strategy 2028, key practical examples demonstrating the sustainable orientation of Slovenian tourism, the process of including tourism providers in the Green Tourism Scheme, the support institutions in Slovenia for the development of sustainable tourism, the key guiding documents for the development of sustainable tourism in Slovenia, Slovenia's awards and prizes in the field of sustainable tourism, government financial support for the development of sustainable tourism, including the creation of green jobs in tourism, the concept and criteria for obtaining the international Green Key eco-label for tourism accommodation providers, and the so-called green accommodation in Maribor tourism and how to promote them online. Students have also the possibility to listen to the good practices of Slovenian furniture producer – company Alples. Mrs. Katarina Globočnik presented several steps that the company has taken in relation to sustainability implementation. The company is proud of several ecological and social approaches toward achieving higher sustainability of its business operations. Mrs Edita Rituper and Mrs. Nastja Govejšek from Sava Re company focused on the presentation of sustainability issues in the field of investments. They presented also the challenges of future mandatory reporting on EU ESG reporting standards. Mrs. Tina Cipot from Lidl Slovenia presented LIDL's key values that support sustainable business, the development and content of LIDL's corporate social responsibility strategy, the corporate social responsibility model of LIDL's supply chain, LIDL's activities that raise awareness and strengthen the corporate social responsibility and sustainability in society, LIDL's corporate social responsibility reporting, the online promotion of its corporate social responsibility activities, Lidl's sustainability campaigns, the involvement of employees in Lidl's CSR and sustainability concept, Lidl's plastic reduction project with examples of good practices, Lidl's food waste management and awareness-raising project, support for disadvantaged groups of athletes, Lidl's socially responsible projects (awareness-raising campaigns, donations, sponsorships) for children, animals and Lidl's projects raising awareness of the importance of health care.

Through lectures and communication with the company representatives, students learned about the ways, support mechanisms, measurement approaches, benefits, and challenges of integrating sustainability into companies' business models, as well as opportunities for students to work with companies on theses and student internships.

The study tour to the Primorska region offered students an insight into the areas and challenges of implementing sustainability in the wine industry (Vina Koper) and in a logistics company (Luka Koper). The study tour also provided students with an additional cross-cultural experience and an insight into Slovenia as a tourist destination. The Summer School ended with a cultural event – a visit to Maribor Regional Museum – and the awarding of certificates, which acknowledged 3 ECTS to students.