In the run-up to the 2016 EFMD Conference for Deans & Directors General in Budapest, Hungary, Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) joined forces with the Business Schools for Impact of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Global Business School Network (GBSN) and hosted a Global Responsibility Breakfast.
“The future success and relevance of business schools will depend largely on their ability to act as stewards or custodians of society and the planet. In doing so we envision three key roles for business schools and management educators – firstly to develop globally responsible leaders and practitioners, secondly to enable companies to serve the common good, and then to engage proactively in the necessary transformation towards inclusive economic systems.” John North, Managing Director, GRLI.
As countries step up efforts to address increasingly complex social and environmental challenges, they will lean strongly on the business sector to play its part and contribute to finding solutions. Business education will be key to create understanding among future business leaders about this new business environment, and build the skills to operate in it.
This message came through strongly in a discussion among over 60 business education leaders from 29 countries gathered at the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel in Budapest to shed light on the role of business schools in sustainable development across the globe.
This interactive breakfast event explored the role of business schools in a changing global environment and address the question: ‟How can business schools be a vector for responsible and sustainable business?”
The breakfast took a form of a conversation between the panel and the attendees. Panelists shared their perspectives on how forward-looking business educators can catalyze globally responsible and sustainable business behaviour:
• James Zhan, Director, Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD
• Robert Kennedy, Dean, Ivey Business School & GBSN Board member
• Dominique Turpin, President and Nestlé Professor, IMD & EFMD Board member
• Cecilie Hultmann, Sustainability Risk Manager at DNVGL Group
The session was moderated by Arnold Smit, professor in Business in Society at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and GRLI Board member who enabled a deep and helpful dialogue.
“Global pressures and a changing business environment have become complicated. We are moving from an era of liberalization and deregulation to one of regulation with a sustainability angle. These challenges should infuse a company’s entire business practice. Managers will need to take the lead on this.
Old-style business models and attitudes, driven solely by the profit motive, will not make it in the new environment. Business will be pushed, and therefore you [business educators] will be pushed to move into the sustainability area. These issues need to be reflected in a new business education approach.”
Cecile Hultmann, Sustainability Risk Manager at the DNV GL Group in Norway concurred that issues of sustainability were no longer non-core and should not be the sole responsibility of corporate social responsibility offices. She also brought our attention to the connection between sustainability and materialism of business performance. She expressed her view that sustainability is no longer an issue in corporations and responsible business simply means better business. She concluded that in many regions of the world all 17 Sustainability Principles are not followed which can only happen with the contribution and engagement of the society.
The need for change in business education is increasingly driven by student demand. Robert Kennedy, the dean of Ivey Business School in Canada, stressed that students today are far more alert to current global challenges. “Today they want this reflected in their courses. We cannot ignore this trend,” he said. He also highlighted the importance of the social purpose of business and the need for non-market related learning to take place in business schools. At the same time he shared that he noticed that an increasing number of students prefer to work with a social purpose (.e.g in homeless shelters), however many of those who are passionate about sustainability often end up in other, better remunerated business roles.
A key question was how to integrate sustainability aspects into business programmes and executive management courses. Dominique Turpin, President of IMD business school in Switzerland, advocated for a global imperative to embed these critical components into the core programmes. “CEOs of global players need to be driving the message, which is the approach IMD is taking.”
“We need to understand the position of business in society, not business setting itself apart from society,” said Arnold Smit, GRLI Board Member and Professor at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa, who moderated the session.
Event participants included Deans and Directors from leading business education institutions, including Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Countries (USA), University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), ESADE Business School (Spain), Strathmore Business School (Kenya), Universidad de Desarollo (Colombia), University of Management and Technology (Pakistan), Nova SBE (Portugal), University of Sydney Business School (Australia), Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management (USA), Glasgow School of Business and Society (Scotland, UK), Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (Philippines), School of Economics and Management, Tongji University (China), Gordon Institute of Business Science (South Africa), and Grenoble Ecole de Management (France) among others.