The world of business is in a state of constant change. New technology, the economic climate, the drive towards net-zero emissions and societal changes all contribute towards the fast-paced climate we live in. To succeed in this environment and tackle the challenges society faces, businesses must innovate and adapt quickly.
Professor Jan Godsell, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, has experienced first-hand the importance of adapting to often complex issues. VOLUME caught up with her to discuss how business schools can be part of the solution.
Delivering positive societal impact
Prior to joining academia, Jan worked in senior roles at several organisations, experiencing first-hand the impact of engaging organisations and policy makers with research to co-create transformational solutions. She sees that business schools have an integral part to play in this.
“Right now, the world is facing some pretty huge challenges. I'm a passionate believer that business schools have an important role to play in devising new ways to do business and shape our economy, to not only meet organisational goals but help tackle big societal issues and make the world a better place.
“Business schools are absolutely at the centre of looking at what a more sustainable future could look like - but we can't do it alone. We need to work together with industry.
“At Loughborough, we’ve got a leading UK business school with an incredible, collegiate community of talented academics and professional staff. What's struck me most since starting at the institution is that we've got great people. We’ve also got an authentic heritage of organisational engagement – how many other universities can say they’ve had a compulsory placement for over 30 years?
"It's a really exciting time for us to work in partnership with organisations to solve the challenges we all face."
“Business schools are absolutely at the centre of looking at what a more sustainable future could look like - but we can't do it alone.”
Creating engaged research that counts
One of the ways Jan believes business schools can help, is through developing engaged research in partnership with organisations that co-creates solutions which are then applied in practice. But to deliver real positive impact, this needs to go beyond the basics of running a business.
“Traditionally, industrial development has essentially been fuelled by supporting a consumption-driven economy and economic growth. Business schools support organisations with areas such as strategy and marketing, to work out how they can sell more. Then, through disciplines such as operations and supply chain management, they support them to produce and distribute more. Finally, with disciplines like finance, they help them work out how they can do this cost-effectively.
“We need to look beyond this now, to meet the growing social expectations within society and drive positive change for all.
“I feel society is at a point of change, because if we’re going to meet our goals around achieving net zero by 2050, we’re going to have to challenge that model of consumption-driven economic growth. We need to start thinking about how we can support business to still make money whilst potentially selling less.
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals state that as individuals we need to be more responsible customers, so we need to think about how business can support more responsible consumption and find new ways to become more responsible producers.
“Within the School of Business and Economics, we've got lots of research that has already been applied into practice. We want to continue working with organisations, not just to improve their resilience, but to help them understand the connectedness between productivity, sustainability and resilience, and help them to understand the tensions and trade-offs that are necessary to help them thrive in the future.
“Governments around the world are recognising this issue of resilience. Singapore, Germany, even Australia, believe they need to have 20% of GDP derived from manufacturing to have a resilient economy. We have talented economists in the school that contribute to these debates. There’s also the issue of the short-term mindset created in many FTSE companies driven by the short-term view that stock markets often take. Should organisations be taking a longer view and accounting for carbon as well? That's something our finance academics could help with.
“Academics within the school are developing work around challenges such as sustainable business; the circular economy; finance for eco-friendly product development; the future of work, employee wellbeing; harnessing the potential of digital innovations such as AI and data analytics; refugee entrepreneurship, and digital platforms in COVID-19 emergency response."
Examples of research within the School of Business and Economics that is already having an impact, can be found via the thumbnail links below.
“As a school, we feel we can help organisations and policy makers to solve some of their trickiest problems, perhaps in a different way than they have previously considered.”
Educating individuals for the future
Within society, it is becoming prevalent that businesses need to be accountable for their actions. Jan advocates this being led by business schools; through the way we develop future leaders.
“Whilst the theories behind business and economics don’t change that much, the context we apply them to is constantly changing. Our aim is to equip graduates at all levels to be able to meet the organisational and policy challenges of the future head on with innovative, effective solutions. And because the world will continue to adapt, we’re really talking about a journey of lifelong engagement, with students joining us at different points in their careers, from undergraduates to working professionals much later in their careers.
“We want to graduate potential leaders of the future and foster in them a mindset that embraces the possibilities offered by the circular economy, sustainable business and employee wellbeing.”
Jan believes that this encouragement should be applied right across the school, with researchers and academics also being empowered to affect positive change.
“Many researchers study what's already happened and then try to understand what made it successful. That's valid research and it often provides essential insight. But research with engagement at its core enables individuals to work proactively with industry and policymakers on current problems and co-create solutions to bring about real change. That's where I think the exciting opportunity is for Loughborough University School of Business and Economics.
"Initial exploratory work can often be suitable for internships, student projects or directly funded research. For more enduring longer term issues, an industrially funded doctoral project can be very effective. We can also help companies find funding for research. Management Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have a high degree of government support, and are one of the most effective ways to embed new innovations in a business. For those businesses who are developing the next generation of leaders, our levy-funded apprenticeship programmes are a must."
“There are so many ways we can engage and co-create solutions with organisations and policy makers."
Speaking from good experience
When discussing these matters, Professor Godsell speaks from experience. Having previously held senior positions at the University of Warwick (WMG), Cranfield University, ICI/Zeneca Pharmaceuticals and Dyson, Jan has also advised government and industry on supply chain strategy and its relationship to industrial and business strategy.
“When I worked at Dyson, it was still a young and quickly growing company. Because of its success, retailers were basically asking for more product than they needed because they knew there was a shortage. So, it was a bit like panic buying. I realised that for Dyson, making their factory production more efficient was never going to be enough. They needed to work with the retailers to truly understand the demand and then work with the supply base to enable them to make more - creating a better balance between demand and supply. So, ultimately it required more coordination across the entire supply chain.
“That was a major pivot point for me - understanding that it's not just about individual functions - you have to have an end-to-end perspective.
“It’s an approach that’s underpinned everything I've done for the last 20 years. For example, I’ve worked with a large consumer packaged goods company to embed this approach into their new global supply chain strategy and through a KTP, developed a bottom-line benefit to that organisation of around £97 million over five years.
“I also worked with TATA Consumer Products Ltd to make sure that they had their buffer strategy right in terms of where they kept inventory and their manufacturing capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They managed to move from third to first in the UK market during this time because they had the right strategy to be able to deal with panic buying when their competitors couldn't, and that wasn't in an exploitative way, that was just by using the effectiveness and efficiency of their supply chain.”
"I realised that for Dyson, making their factory production more efficient was never going to be enough. They needed to work with retailers to truly understand the demand and then work with the supply base to enable them to make more."
With Professor Godsell joining the School as Dean in September 2021 and a new strategy and vision in development, it's an exciting time to be involved with the school. And, with the University's new Vice-Chancellor putting research high on his agenda, Jan believes the time is now to show the world how expertise in business and economics has the power to deliver the changes that society needs.
"I truly believe we can help organisations and policy makers to better understand the issues they face and then work in partnership with them.
“With Professor Nick Jennings joining the University as Vice-Chancellor, now is an opportune moment to put research at the forefront of everything we do and make societal impact a priority. As one of the country’s top computer scientists, his research career and experience puts him in an excellent position to spearhead research at Loughborough.
“We’re in the process of developing the school’s new strategy, which will focus on how we can maximise the societal impact of all aspects of our work. During that process though, we encourage organisations and our alumni to get in touch to discuss the challenges they face. A fresh perspective from Loughborough University School of Business and Economics could make a real difference.”
Interested in working with Loughborough University School of Business and Economics?
For organisations wanting to see how we can help them with the challenges they face, please contact Vicki Unwin.
For individuals wishing to engage with us on the development of our strategy, please contact Fleur Moss-Burdett.
Updates from the School of Business and Economics
- Follow Professor Jan Godsell on LinkedIn.
- Follow Loughborough University School of Business and Economics on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Markus Spiske - Pexels
- Faith Turan - Pexels
- Fauxels - Pexels
- Tom Fisk - Pexels
- Peng Lieu - Pexels
Share this page