Faculty in the Spotlight: Tapiwa SEREMANI, Professor of Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

This month, meet Tapiwa SEREMANI, professor of Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at IÉSEG, on the Paris-La Défense campus.

With more than 700 faculty members, including 200 permanent professor-researchers, IÉSEG offers its students a high-quality learning experience based on four pillars: active learning, interdisciplinary studies, focused on skill acquisition, and personalized curricula.

Each month, “Faculty in the Spotlight” invites you to meet one of the School’s professors who presents their vision of teaching, their methods for imparting expertise and passion to students, and shares their best memories and anecdotes at IÉSEG.

Tapiwa SEREMANI, can you tell us a bit about your background?

Before joining IÉSEG, I studied for a master’s degree focused on sustainability at the university of Kassel in Germany. Then, I did a PhD at EM Business School in Lyon, in organizations and management. I have a personal interest in sustainability issues with a specific emphasis on people and how these two elements are related to each other. When I decided to join IÉSEG, it was partly because I knew the School shared the same values as mine. Not everyone gets the chance to spend time working on subjects that matter to them and within an organization that cares about the same issues as them. So, it was an easy choice for me. At the time, of course, many business schools were starting to talk about sustainability, but IÉSEG stood out as it seemed more authentic to me.

Part of my job is to conduct research, but the other big part teaching, which basically is about transferring the insights from my research into the classroom. The idea is to give students the most current information, based on the knowledge we create ourselves as researchers. Assuming that we want and we can make a change in the world – what better way to do so than in educating our future business leaders and managers? Each year I get to teach about 200 students, sometimes more. Therefore, each year, there’s an opportunity to plant seeds and have an impact. I think the most rewarding thing happens years later, when some of my former students remember the seeds that have been planted during class, and that have grown since then. Some of them have started their own companies or have made choices of jobs based on discussions we may have had in class, and they come back to me to tell me interesting stories.

What do you like about being a professor and how do you see your role?

I deal with people on a daily basis, which means that no class is the same from one group to another, or even from one day to another with the same group of students. It’s always different! And that’s what I like… the diversity of profiles and discussions we may have in class. I also have to adapt to my students, that’s part of the deal. You can feel it when one of your students is having a bad day or if something’s off, so you need to adapt consequently.

As a professor, I think there are two main things that I have to bring into the classroom: first, the key concepts that need to be taught as the basis of learning, but I believe that it is equally important to push students to have their own reflection, their own opinion, and show critical thinking about those concepts. Anyone could read a book and remember it. The real difference you can make as a professor is to push students to think critically about those concepts. How can they be changed and improved? What are they good for and what are they not good for? In my opinion, the difference between a future leader and someone who’s just a “technician” of knowledge is that the latter can read the whole book and know what every page says but doesn’t develop his or her own analysis. Leading is about reading the book, but also understanding that there’s a bit more beyond the book. What are the assumptions behind the idea? Do I think that this actually makes sense? Why?… And that way you formulate your own opinion and navigate the world with this ability to think critically. There’s a lot of changes happening in the world, and that’s always been the case – there are different waves of change. For example, if we take the power of artificial intelligence… we can’t predict how it’s going to go in the future. But we can ensure that our students, who are future changemakers, develop the ability to navigate the world with critical thinking, and thus always figure things out. So, even when the world changes in ways that we have not seen before, we can still make informed decisions and adapt accordingly. I want my students to be engaged and take ownership of their learning.

Can you introduce us to your area of expertise and the subjects you teach in class?

I teach Business Ethics, Sustainability in Business, and Corporate Social Responsibility. They’re related but different. For example, the Business Ethics course aims to help students see that ethical questions are ubiquitous in business and are crucial. It addresses various ethical questions in different business contexts. The course pushes for critical thinking about what ethics are. We may discuss topics related to digital ethics such as social media addiction for example, which is a growing concern that companies involved are not always addressing.

In the Sustainability in Business course, we cover what it means for a business to be sustainable and based on whose perspective. Sustainability involves balancing how businesses treat people, the environment, and profit, considering social aspects too. In this course, we really try to show students how they can integrate sustainability into business. It’s one thing to say that companies and businesses need to be more sustainable… but the real question is: what are the tools and business models that can help to achieve this goal? How can we, as a business, engage with this? What’s the benefit for a business but also for sustainability in general?
The three courses I teach are linked and complement each other… they’re a bit like a French three-course meal in the end!

What do you think your international background brings to the School?

I think the variety of backgrounds that students get to deal with at IÉSEG gives them the opportunity to get exposed to a great diversity of perspectives and opinions. Nowadays, with globalization, it’s impossible to do business without engaging with the rest of the world, so it’s crucial to understand that the world is made up of different ways of doing business, and to know how to handle these situations. So, it’s important for our students to have the opportunity to engage in discussions and hear different perspectives. This is a rich resource for them.  I think my African background combined with my experiences in different European countries contributes to providing a broader vision to students. It also gives credibility to the fact that we, at IÉSEG, talk about diversity. For example, let’s say we provide a course on doing business in China and that the teacher has never been to China, it will for sure have less impact on students as it will seem less concrete.

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