The inaugural Global Leadership Summit took place on April 4th, and provided a space for approximately 170 business professionals, students, and community members to discuss and delve into this question of how we as a community can engage with real-world decisions and discussions that are sustainable, ethical, and socially responsible. These issues, looked at in a global context of health, business, technology, and environmental public policy, are intersectional in nature. And while they cannot be solved overnight, having this forum for ideas and a chance to continue the conversation thereafter is a great place to start.
The evening began with Jennifer Bibby, the Director of Global Social Impact for Starbucks, with a keynote address about Starbucks' various initiatives that aim to support everyone in their supply chain. Attendees then split off into two consecutive rounds of workshops led by speakers from the European Commission, UW Comotion, Microsoft, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and others. The event itself was sponsored by the Global Business Center (UW Foster School of Business) with additional funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund and Foster Community Fund. It was co-sponsored by the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB, UW Foster School of Business), UW Office of Sustainability, Net Impact UW, and ReThink UW. A hallmark of the event was the diversity of people and speakers in attendance, and the student-led planning committee and support network is a reflection of that.
Students Henry Milander, Nabilla Gunawan, and Alex Urasaki initially conceived of this idea because they realized that the societal problems we face transcend sectors and disciplines, and while businesses and organizations are well-positioned to solve them, they need responsible leadership. Unfortunately, the future situations students will find themselves in are ambiguous and difficult; determining what’s best for all stakeholders is challenging. These three student didn’t, however, see the solution as simply teaching students about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, but that there was a clear need to give attendees hands-on experience with creative problem-solving and wrestling with such ambiguous and challenging issues. By giving students collaborative, hands-on experiences in these four fields, the Global Leadership Summit sought to prepare them as future decision makers to recognize opportunities, frame their arguments, and address ethical and sustainable dilemmas with a broad group of stakeholders in mind. With a heightened awareness of global issues, networking with leaders in their field, and real-world discussions, students left GLS better prepared to solve global problems, and teach others to do the same. It's exciting to think that this event was just one part of the growing momentum on campus and in the Seattle community to have this dialogue on such important global issues and help develop people to lead responsibly in these matters. We're thrilled with the turnout, but we're equally excited to how it evolves in the coming years, with its current leadership considering nothing short of a campus certificate program, minor or even center.