Education in sustainable business development – knowledge and not just action
Progress and change are important waypoints when it comes to the future of shipping services and logistics services. To remain competitive in a market suffering from increasingly tight margins, a key prerequisite for the companies in this industry, and those in the loading segment, is that they have good solutions – ones that are holistic, sustainable, and pave the way for the future. But it is not enough to just think about these solutions, as the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability (SLN) knows all too well. SLN has focused its sights clearly on training for up-and-coming specialists.
The logistics industry is now one of the most important sectors of the economy in the Federal Republic of Germany, second only in economic terms to the automotive industry and health care. Given this, and especially considering how this industry operates in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability, it is clear there is still some work to be done in getting people to think and act sustainably. Against the backdrop of climate change and globalization, it is crucial that energy efficiency and sustainability are given greater priority, especially considering how much real thought is put into to these topics in the transportation and logistics industry at the moment. Sustainable thinking should become an established part of business practice in the future; it should be valued and perceived as a matter of course. It will be particularly important for energy efficiency and sustainability to be conveyed to different people in the market in such a way that they not only understand why it’s important, but are also motivated to do something about it. The transportation and logistics sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises, and although they do increasingly think about the environment, in many cases they only do this to meet their customers’ requirements. The term commonly used in Germany is “green logistics,” even if there is still no widely agreed definition of what that actually means. To make sustainability and energy efficiency a central aspect of business, there are of course also broader issues to consider. So a holistic approach to establishing sustainability and energy efficiency in companies is needed in order to involve and sensitize key players within the business – from apprentices to senior managers. To do this, one needs the right training options. Well-educated specialists are a key asset for any business. Course syllabuses for training to become a specialist in shipping and logistics services do now make reference to the environment, ecology and environment management, but they make scant reference to how this should be actually delivered through training.
“Things are still the way they used to be in that there is still tremendous potential to move things forward by involving young people in the topics of energy efficiency and sustainability. The first step is to pique their interest and then they need ongoing support,” explains Jens-Jochen Roth, director of the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability (SLN) in Sinsheim. “Another important aspect in this respect is that managers-to-be are typically taken on by the companies they did their training with, so they can be sure that the knowledge they acquire can also be used at the company. This is particularly beneficial to the companies.”
Action plans have been drafted by the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability based on a holistic approach with the aim of providing schoolchildren, young people, and apprentices the prospect of training in sustainable development, simultaneously fostering an understanding for the issue. Typically this involves a hands-on, live project. Companies in the transportation and logistics industry have been involved in and committed to these projects for several years, as have a number of secondary and vocational schools. The key idea with practical projects is the fundamental motivation to “turn affected parties into involved parties.”
Drawing on a variety of training techniques, the aim is to address the specific requirements of those involved. Steinbeis applies a model it calls service learning, which basically allows people to learn through involvement. It is a technique of teaching and learning that is also used with schoolchildren on social projects, bridging gaps between acquiring knowledge and actual involvement. As a result, it is increasingly important to apply the teaching concept away from the classroom. As such, the emphasis is laid on “turning actions into knowledge.” Offering a variety of innovative training methods is central to the practical nature of the education projects at SLN. Choosing different approaches to training does justice to the educational expectations not only of the companies, but also those receiving the actual training on sustainable development.
The Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability has already completed a variety of successful training programs. On each run of the program, the projects underscored that training on sustainable business development is an important building block for successful and innovative business, not just for those being educated but also for the companies.