8 December 2020

Dean of the Business School, Professor Wendy Loretto, reflects on the past twelve months.
2020: When Our Resilience Was Tested to New Limits
Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.
Nelson Mandela
Wendy Loretto

There's no doubt that during 2020, the resilience of our staff and students was tested to new limits. It's been a heart-breaking year in many ways, but it has also been inspiring to see how well we've adjusted to new methods of working and learning. We of course hope for smoother sailing in 2021, but whatever is coming, we are prepared.

We always strive for our research and collaboration to generate improvements for society, and over the year we have contributed to helping businesses and public policy makers find a way forward through the Covid uncertainties.

Supporting the City

Our home city has been hit hard, with all sectors of the economy suffering, including our world-famous tourism and festivals scene. Recognising this, we created an Edinburgh Events Industry scholarship for our Executive MBA programme. The recipients will undoubtedly go on to help the city flourish once more.

Our research resulted in crucial reports detailing the financial risks faced in hospitality, and led to the creation of a marketing tool to help tourism businesses decide where best to target precious resources. We've also been involved in a project looking at one of the few areas of growth, Working from Home, and the initial findings show how important it is for employers to provide support for remote staff.

Offering advice to employers as the world of work shifts has been a real focus for us. Colleagues are shaping the debate around the role of HR in a changing workplace, the role of shareholder meetings, the best way to use younger staff and their social media skills, and how retail brands can keep connected to their customers in an increasingly online age.

We've also tapped into the experiences of entrepreneurial businesses during the pandemic to inform government decisions, and our research on inequality in organisations is recommended reading for leaders who want to "build back better".

However, the virus isn't the only global challenge we're helping tackle.

Climate

This year also saw the launch of the Centre for Business, Climate Change, and Sustainability (B-CCaS), our new impact centre. It brings together a decade of expertise from colleagues in the fields of Climate Change and Sustainability. They made quite an impact last month (November) with a fortnight of Facebook Live discussions under the banner 'COP26Cast', hearing from those who will influence next year's global climate summit here in Scotland.

Our strategic focus on inspiring people in organisations to tackle the climate crisis has also led to fruitful collaborations, such as our executive education course for 1,000 NatWest group banking staff, so they in turn can help customers reduce their carbon footprints.

Our colleagues have produced research showing the importance of impact investing, sustainable farming, how food containers can tackle emissions, what a Biden presidency means for global action, and our Carbon Finance MSc has updated its name to Climate Change Finance and Investment to reflect the latest thinking in the sector.

Rankings

It's been a good year for how we're ranked in key subjects, with our Management and Finance Masters both staying in the UK top ten of the Financial Times rankings.

Students and Alumni

Our students have continued to be a real source of pride. Their can-do attitude once again shone through during the Make Your Mark 48-hour challenge, in which undergraduates create a business that has a positive social impact by tackling inequality. A smartphone app that helps students with their mental health and a Scottish-themed dancing experience that supports the homeless were this year's two winning ideas.

We also continue to keep connected to our vast network of alumni, with our regular Aluminate magazine moving to an online format in keeping with the times. Our graduates are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement, finding time in their busy diaries to share their expertise on hot topics ranging from sustainability to the skills needed for the new world of work.

This year saw the launch of new Alumni Advisory Groups to accelerate access to industry knowledge. And we completed the School's 100th Anniversary celebrations with an Alumni 100 list, with its own virtual conference, showcasing the calibre and reach of our global network. The list included Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, who said his inclusion was "a huge privilege", and Grace Kermani, Program Manager at Google, who described it as a "fantastic honour".

People

During 2020, we welcomed new members of our International Advisory Board to ensure we remain in touch with the business community and gain a diverse range of perspectives. We also welcomed a new Innovator and two new Entrepreneurs in Residence.

Two of the hardest moments of the year have been the loss of our dear colleagues, Bill Rees and Nick Oliver. Nick was an expert on resilience, and this year has certainly tested everyone's ability to get back up after being knocked down. Looking at a year of impactful activity and the enduring strength of our staff and students, I'm confident we can handle whatever lies ahead.

With best wishes for the New Year,

Wendy Loretto
Dean of the Business School