Supporting Chinese Leaders to Achieve a Resource Efficient, Green, Inclusive and open Economy

Today, a rising tide of awareness around critical global challenges and their associated risks and opportunities is galvanising organisations into action in ways not seen before. This is catalysing real innovation and changes in the way business, governments and the finance sector operate, and in the way organizations collaborate to secure economic growth alongside social and environmental well-being.

Posted by Lindsay Hooper, Director, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership on Monday, 7th August 2017

For over three decades, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership has worked to shape and support the leadership that will be required to transform the way we run our economies and societies, to recognise the limits of the natural world and to ensure the wellbeing of citizens. We engage with the most influential leaders internationally, from regions to organisations and individuals that can have significant impact upon sustainability challenges and who have the commitment and capacity to lead change. 

Within this context, we recognise the significant and growing leadership challenges that China is facing as it seeks to access and manage the resources that its cities will need to grow, while reducing the emissions that are contaminating its air, water, and soil – and also achieving its Paris Agreement pledge on carbon emissions. We also recognise that China has significant leadership impact and influence globally, demonstrated by the country’s influential role during the COP21 climate negotiations, the leadership taken in developing new technologies and solutions for clean energy and transportation, and the strong integration of ‘green development’ into its current 5 year plan. Commitments and action taken in China will inform and shape the actions of many regions and organizations internationally. 
CISL, a member of the China-Britain Business Council, has worked with leaders in China for more than a decade and has hosted hundreds of Chinese government and business leaders in Cambridge. Building upon the knowledge base represented by Cambridge research, through our access to leading practice in business and government internationally, and our network of over 8,000 business and policy leaders internationally, our work in China is focused on the following four key areas, all of which are critical to the achievement of China’s five year plan:

Supporting China’s New Urbanisation Plan: We deliver education programs and study tours for city and regional leaders to support the development of sustainable cities. CISL recently delivered education programs for Beijing Municipality and the Provincial Government of Guangdong – each designed to support mayors and senior officials lead the development of resource-efficient, low carbon cities and effectively meet their targets on economic growth, infrastructure development, environmental protection and the inclusion, safety and wellbeing of citizen. Speaking about his experience, the Deputy County Mayor of Miyun County People’s Government of Beijing Municipality said: “From the theory and guidance to the specific applications and practical support, this program allowed us to fully understand the concept of sustainable development.”

Financing the industrial transition to a resource efficient, green, inclusive and open economy. We work with leaders in the banking industry, including the People’s Bank of China, on the role that financial regulation can play in achieving a green financial system and supporting the transition to a sustainable economy. We also work with a range of Chinese banking industry leaders and other stakeholders to help apply this thinking to the important area of China’s international commodity trade and investment activities. We provide leadership programs for senior executives in banking, insurance and investment to enhance their effectiveness and competitiveness in adapting to regulatory change and to systemic risks and in adding value through financing industrial transition. In 2014, the China’s fifth-largest bank (the Bank of Communications) commissioned CISL to design and deliver an education program for executives to help them promote innovation, strategic management and leadership within the Bank. The course helped delegates to identify how issues such as climate change present risks and opportunities to the Bank and what skills might be required to anticipate and adapt to these changes. Head of the Delegation Mr Yin told us: “The course highlighted what our strategic approach needs to be and demonstrated how we can equip our clients with the ability to deal with this complexity and continue to grow.” “In recognition of the value of CISL’s research and support for business leadership to build a sustainable financial system, CISL has become an invited international member of China’s Green Finance Committee, convened by the People’s Bank of China.”

Supporting the integration of sustainability into the implementation of The Belt and The Road initiative. Building upon extensive work with multilateral development banks and programmes support major organisations through a focus on: sustainable infrastructure investment, development and service provision; sustainable supply chains including resource security, circular economy and sustainable supply chain management; and on building leadership capacity to contribute effectively to social development in emerging regions, through effective engagement with external partners and communities.

Supporting industry and business to protect the environment and build resilience while achieving economic growth and effective globalisation. We deliver leadership programmes for entrepreneurs and senior executives in industry to equip them to meet government targets on environmental protection while supporting their transition to innovative, resilient global businesses. We have worked with organisations such as the Society of Entrepreneurs & Ecology and the China Entrepreneurs Club to provide insight into international expectations of responsible business and to explore how businesses can reconcile profitability and sustainability. In July 2016, CISL signed an MOU with the China Global Philanthropy Institute to develop a joint sustainability leadership programme for philanthropists, business, government and civil society leaders.

Our work builds upon significant and long standing relationships between China and Cambridge 
Other University of Cambridge departments, beyond CISL, collaborate with China on issues of sustainability and green energy. For example, the Department of Architecture (in association with the Department of Engineering’s Centre for Sustainable Development) has very recently enhanced its long-standing collaboration with Chongqing University, working together on a large scale research project on the heating and the cooling of residential buildings in the burgeoning Chinese megacity. This is just one example of extensive and growing collaborative links between Cambridge researchers in many Departments (including the Departments of Engineering, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology and Material Science & Metallurgy) and their counterparts at centres of research excellence in China. 

These relationships build upon a shared history between the University of Cambridge and China, spanning more than one hundred years since the establishment of the first Cambridge professorship in Chinese in 1888. A tradition of Cambridge scholarship has continued within the Department of East Asian Studies, which offers extended research in Chinese linguistics (unique within Europe) and provides students with a world-class grounding in the language, literature and culture of China. Supporting resources are provided by the Cambridge China Library from Cambridge University Press and its collection of Chinese scholarly works previously unpublished in English. The Needham Research Institute, closely associated with the University, is the home of the Science and Civilization in China project. The Cambridge Judge Business School delivers executive education programs to a range of government and corporate clients and also established a China Advisory Council in 2014. 

A commitment to future collaboration 
The opportunities for future collaboration between Cambridge and China are strong and CISL has an important role to play in building partnerships and facilitating the sharing of knowledge between China, the University and leading practitioners in international business and government, informed by China’s five development concepts: green, innovation, coordination, openness and sharing. 

As well as drawing on CISL’s own sustainability-related research and leadership education and engagement, and upon the University’s wider China-related research, CISL serves as a gateway for leaders to access the wider University and the ‘Cambridge Cluster’ (or ‘Silicon Fen’) – a rich ecosystem of business and science parks, incubators and innovation centres now regarded as the most successful technology cluster in Europe. These collaborations with Chinese institutions– whether they based around knowledge exchange, study tours, leadership program or research collaborations – are all aligned with China’s commitment to the achievement of a resource efficient, green, inclusive and open economy. We place great value on this important opportunity to engage directly with senior Chinese leaders in this important task: to support the development informed, courageous leadership, to foster collaborative action between individuals, organizations, sectors and nations, enabling leaders to build upon their national commitments and demonstrate leadership for sustainability.

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