ADVICE

How business schools can champion sustainability

SOURCE: Karim SAHIB / AFP
Solar panels used to generate renewable energy at the Sustainability Pavilion during a media tour at the Dubai Expo 2020.


By U2B Staff 

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The Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the Business Graduates Association (BGA) in association with Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, recently released its International Climate Change Report. The survey by AMBA and BGA was carried out to examine the role of business schools in the climate crisis and sustainability.

The survey sought feedback from a global network of 597 business school leaders across the world.

It explored several areas, including how well business schools are responding to the climate crisis, how their programmes are shaping the minds of sustainable leaders, and how they foresee business being able to cope with the climate crisis.

The survey findings are eye-opening: 88% or nearly nine out of 10 of those surveyed believe that their business school has at least some responsibility to tackle issues relating to climate change and sustainability.

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The results find that the sustainability agenda seems to be at the forefront of business school leaders’ minds when thinking about business in the short-to-medium term.

A majority of business school leaders agree that business schools can do more to champion the climate change agenda. This can be achieved by doing more research into climate change and implementing elements of sustainability into all its courses in addition to developing teaching courses on sustainability.

The survey results indicate that business school leaders also agree that they have a shared responsibility to limit international travel and take concrete efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the school’s operations.

They also strongly advocate for business schools to push back on ranking and accreditation bodies until these include business climate action as a metric in accrediting and ranking schools and programmes.

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Business school leaders strongly agree that assertive climate action should be built into the performance metrics of business schools, the survey reveals.

Additionally, business school leaders also shoulder the responsibility of effecting change across the business world.

This includes the need for business schools to reevaluate the way capitalism is taught and should try to change the rankings system, integrate sustainability transversally into the curriculum, and address real-world problems through projects.

Business schools can also make an impact by spearheading initiatives to educate the market and students on the long term negative social and environmental consequences of pure capitalism, corporate greed, consumerism, and unlimited globalisation, the survey found.

Additionally, business school leaders agree that the pandemic signifies an opportunity to reduce the physical movement of people across the world. In turn, business schools have been allocating resources to developing new ways to teach, communicate and meet by leveraging digital tools and the internet.

Overall, business school leaders agree that there is a need to reevaluate the role business schools play in forming and preparing students for the work market.

It is now more important than ever to shape the future responsible citizens whose decisions will have consequences over the environment, and business schools will have to design concrete steps to achieve this goal.

The most important step that can be taken right now is by leading change through training initiatives directed towards staff, colleagues, and partners on the main role of the business schools. This also includes incorporating the issues that tackle climate change into programme curricula.

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Business school leaders agree that responsible business practice should be at the heart of MBA teaching.

This includes a conscious shift from the fixation with student numbers and league tables to leadership programmes that inculcate more ‘out of the box’ thinking with integrity, humility, and a respect for science at its core.

Among the changes business schools should incorporate include, ensuring a percentage of the assessment criteria of assignments is based on tackling climate change or sustainability and investing more into research that focuses on tackling climate change and sustainable business.

Additionally, business schools should develop new programmes surrounding the topic of climate change prevention, support research projects related to this area; and sharing knowledge and design initiatives with other business schools and universities.

Business school leaders realise that the biggest challenge is that in the past, students who enrolled in business school programmes did so to improve their career opportunities and not to save the world.

However, this has changed. Business schools are seeing a growing interest in topics surrounding climate change and business sustainability by students who want to work for companies that are in the business of making the world a better place.