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This ambitious full professor and co-director of the Amsterdam Business School Sustainability Initiative is always in for a good debate. He has been voted ‘Lecturer of the Year’ six times already in different programmes. He has lived in more than fifteen different cities across four continents. Meet full professor of Business & Sustainability, Arno Kourula.

Kourula, who is from Finland, joined the Amsterdam Business School (ABS) in 2012. 

Discussions about sustainability

‘My interest in corporate social responsibility started at a very young age. My parents, both diplomats, are the kind people who wanted to ‘save the world’. So sustainability was always a topic at home. During my studies in business school, I didn’t hear much about the sustainable challenges that societies experience and how business could address them. But these themes caught my interest. I decided to do my PhD in international business with a focus on corporate social responsibility. After this, I completed a post doc at Stanford University in civil and environmental engineering. All of this brings me to the person I am today: researcher, teacher, sustainability co-creator and community member at the University of Amsterdam.’

Cross-disciplinary research and engagement

‘I never thought that I would end up in academia, but I’m really loving it. In my research I focus mainly on corporate sustainability. I tend to have multiple projects going on at the same time, but currently I’m working on research projects about how companies work together with the public sector and civil society in transforming towards sustainability. One example is a collaborative project on how the Red Light District of Amsterdam is becoming sustainable, or in other words, turning into the ‘Green light District’.’

‘We also work together with many partners in a cross-disciplinary way. These collaborations include supporting sustainable start-ups with the University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science and a seed-grant awarded for a research project. The project explores ways to reduce the environmental impact of healthcare, led by the Amsterdam University Medical Centre. These are good examples of the opportunities that cross-faculty collaborations in teaching and research can offer.’

Copyright: Kirsten van Santen
No matter who is in de classroom, there’s always an interesting conversation.

Learning together

‘In addition to my research career, I am a lecturer and supervisor who is dedicated to teaching students. I love everything about teaching. No matter who is in de classroom, there’s always an interesting conversation. My teaching style has shifted from the classic professor’s monologue towards a much more participatory role as a coach, co-creating courses in conversation. I find it important that we can learn together and from each other.’

‘What can students expect from me as a lecturer? I always strive to get everybody involved and make sure that everybody learns something new in class. Our lessons are interactive and give you scope to test your opinions. Besides that, I think it is important to have a baseline to build upon in terms of tailoring your own sustainability approach and strategy.’

Advice to new students

‘My advice to new students is to join the conversation and to keep an open mind. Be part of this community that the University of Amsterdam offers you. We offer a wide spectrum of knowledge, content and a large network of people and companies with a variety of perspectives. Benefit from that and join the conversation with me, your peers and our guest lecturers. You will learn a lot from it.’

Travelling around the world

‘What do I like to do in my free time? We spend family time biking, visiting the forest, travelling or building Lego with the kids. I also love to run and listen to books while running. This is my moment of peace. I listen to all kinds of books, mostly nonfiction or history. As my parents were diplomats, I spent my childhood living around the world and we really enjoy seeing our children experience life and cultures both at home and abroad. What will be our next travel destination, you ask? Perhaps a place where you can surf as it has been a while!  If you know a great place for surfing I’m always open to suggestions.’