“Build Back Better”


Due to the pandemic, the second global Responsible Research Summit scheduled for June 27 – 28, 2020 at the Imperial College Business School, London was held instead as a Virtual Summit (RRVS) on June 29, 2020. The goal of the RRVS2020 was to discuss widening and deepening responsible research to strengthen the readiness and resilience of all types of organizations to meet challenges of societies in both normal and extraordinary times.


The need for responsible research from business and management scholars has never been greater than the current context of the global pandemic. We are seeing epic challenges and opportunities in leadership, health, economics, supply chains, finance, poverty, social responsibility, and all areas of business. In this context, the Virtual Summit focused on the first of four action-oriented objectives previously defined for RRS2020.




The purpose of this highly intense and interactive three-hour virtual event was to review, expand, and accelerate current initiatives by internal stakeholders to bridge the research-practice gap;  and to identify new initiatives to deepen and broaden the transformation of business research to focus on societal problems and enables business to be a force for good.


The Virtual Summit had a total of 65 participants, comprising accreditation and association leaders, deans, editors, and senior scholars in seven disciplines (accounting, economics, finance, information systems, management, marketing, and operations management) representing 53 institutions in 14 countries. They discussed how to ensure the world, so deeply in need of research-based insights, can “build back better” from the current social and public health crisis. The summit was jointly sponsored by the Responsible Research in Business and Management network (RRBM), AACSB, EFMD and Imperial College Business School London.


Summit Highlights


The Virtual Summit opened with visual images of the major challenges in the world today that go beyond the pandemic. Participants were encouraged to bring a can-do attitude and be fully engaged in a supportive environment over the course of three hours. The compact agenda included four main sessions, consisting of a panel of three presenters, two keynote speakers, and breakout discussion in groups organized by stakeholder categories, with each group developing a collective action in the form of a “We Will” statement, on deepening the transformation of the research ecosystem. Here is the video of the opening session.


In the first session, three presenters reported on the progress they made on their “I Will” commitments from the 2019 in-person summit held in Rotterdam. They included the revised AACSB Accreditation Standards which support and drive societal impact that will be applied to over 850 AACSB accredited business schools worldwide, how the top ten business schools in China are leading the way to transform management research to serve society, and how a multi-stakeholder institute for high impact research will be necessary to address complex and wicked problems of the world.  Click here for the video of this informative panel.


The second session was a keynote dialogue with Mr Paul Polman, Chair, IMAGINE, Vice-Chair of the U.N. Global Compact, and former CEO of Unilever. It is an inspirational conversation on the need to “build back better” in a broken world. Mr Polman argued passionately that the time is ripe for change because the cost of not acting is now greater than the cost of acting. The time is ripe to put 15-20 Deans together to chart a new path and begin rewarding scholars for the “right” work, e.g., research centred on the impact that business has on the environment, on solving inequality, on finding new, societal impact measures. The time is ripe to develop multi-stakeholder collaborations with education being the key to a sustainable future.  Click here for the video of Mr Polman’s inspiring words.


The third session put the participants into 10 groups (by stakeholder categories) for a discussion of the question “The COVID pandemic has been an unprecedented disaster for societies around the world. Yet as Paul Polman points out, this could be an opportunity to build back better: to create a business system that better serves human needs. From your experience in the last four months, what are the 1-2 most critical things business research could do to help build back better? What could you, in your role [editor, dean, etc.], do to help make this happen?” Each group identified their three most important ideas and wrote a collective “We WILL” statement. The groups came back together to report on their “We Will” statements.


The closing keynote was by Rebecca Henderson, Professor of General Management and Strategy, Harvard Business School. Dr Henderson shared why she wrote the book “Reimagining capitalism” (2020).  She argued that all stakeholders – the free markets, the Rule of law, the free press, minorities, labor, good government, and open politics are necessary for a new form of capitalism, one which puts humanity above maximizing shareholder returns. She called for new non-financial measures of business, economic and societal well-being.  She encouraged scholars and PhD students to find “problems” that they really care about and are impactful to society. A video of her insightful presentation is available here.


The summit ended with a call for action – this is a time in history that could become the turning point for real change to occur, beginning with follow through on the “We Will” statements. The third global Responsible Research Summit in 2021 is to continue the journey toward Vision 2030, with the specific goal of developing a shared understanding and a joint commitment, among the internal and external stakeholders, for a systemic move toward Responsible Research to ensure credible and useful knowledge to address the critical challenges in business and society in our troubled but beautiful world.