Thanks to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (UN PRME), a number of business schools all over the world are making headway in integrating sustainability issues in their teaching, research and operations. The potential impact of this activity was outlined in a closing forum of the Rio+20 talks last week by Norman Arruda, CEO of ISAE/FJV in Brazil.
Arruda began his address with the basic claim that “education and business are the basis for sustainability.” He then outlined the outcomes of the 3rd Global Forum for Management Education, which brought together 300 participants from business, education and policy to move the mandate of PRME forward. Key points included working group recommendations to address corruption, gender equality and poverty as challenges for management education. Arruda also highlighted the PRME Inspirational Guide – Placing Sustainability at the Heart of Management Education, which includes 60 cases regarding best practices on transforming curriculum to build responsible business leaders. (Full Rio+20 talk 6 mins)
The issue of the role of business education and sustainability was discussed by Professor Jeremy Moon last fall at the Schulich School of Business, hosted by the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business as part of their Responsible Business Dialogue Series. At that time, Professor Moon spoke on the topic of “integrating sustainability in the classroom”.
According to Moon, overall, the participation of business schools in the UN PRME initiative appears to enhance the formalization and development of strategic sustainability integration and transformation. The sustainability integration approaches vary. Some business schools choose to introduce new sustainability courses while others choose to integrate sustainability within existing structures. The business schools that are UN PRME signatories also attempt to integrate sustainability issues across disciplines. Based on the study by Moon and his colleagues of 100 Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports submitted by the first 100 UN PRME signatories, 30% employed “interdisciplinary” teaching approaches and 17% of business schools mentioned “interdisciplinary” research involving faculty members from different departments. These business schools also taught sustainability to students by example, and the schools were committed to greening the campus activities and community involvement.
There is still a lot of room for improvement though. Currently, business schools focus on integrating sustainability mostly in the postgraduate level, especially MBAs. However it is worth asking whether it might be too late to plant sustainability seeds in students’ minds if not much effort is spent in the undergraduate level. In addition, even though “dialogue” among educators and other parties such as businesses is one of the UN PRME’s 6 principles, business schools are still depending on the “traditional” academic way of publishing about sustainability rather than creating impacts through other sorts of methods, such as contributions in the media.
Unveiled at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in July 2007, the UN PRME emerges from a collaborative initiative of the United Nations Global Compact and a number of educational institutions. It aims to encourage continuous improvement of responsible management education among educational institutions, particularly business schools. Today, over 400 educational institutions have signed up to the UN PRME initiative. The signatories to the UN PRME commit to report their progress regularly by uploading Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report onto the UN PRME website. All SIP reports are available to the public here.
What is the impact of business education on shaping corporate citizenship? Any thoughts on how business schools can better integrate sustainability issues?