There is increasing recognition from the private sector that business schools play a key role in the training and creating of leaders who understand how to work around barriers, with a range of stakeholders and with consideration for society and the environment.
Several initiatives have commenced worldwide to explore this idea. In 2007 the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Management Education were created to inspire and champion research and thought leadership globally, exploring how to develop a new generation of business leaders capable of managing complex challenges faced by business and society in the 21st century. The six principles have been signed by over 300 academic institutions and networks internationally such as the Association of African Business Schools, Copenhagen Business School in Denmark and IESE Business School in Spain.
However, the Principles are just the beginning, and a growing number of academic organizations are exploring how to put these principles into practice. Universities such as the Queen's School of Business in Canada and the Melbourne Business School in Australia are founding members of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, a worldwide network of companies and educational institutions. They provide a platform for academics to discuss practical ways of going about creating these leaders.
EABIS, the European Academy of Business in Society is a similar alliance of companies and business schools committed to putting business in society issues at the heart of management theory and practice. Along with EFMD (the European Foundation for Management Development) they have put together The Business in Society Gateway, an online database of research, knowledge and events exploring the topic. Meanwhile, the Aspen Institute Centre for Business Education coordinates a number of initiatives in this area including Beyond Grey Pinstripes; their annual ranking of business schools programs that are integrating issues of social and environmental stewardship into curricula and research.
The schools in these networks plan to apply these lessons to their own educational institutions and classes. For example, Cranfield School of Management is currently looking at preparing their students to reflect on how they define their own moral compass for decision taking and how they define a successful life. They are doing this in a variety of ways, from making changes in their curriculum, through to research at their Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility.
Business Schools are exploring a variety of ways to provide MBA students with the experiences and knowledge to become globally responsible leaders beyond just providing the standard course on ethics. Many business schools are providing opportunities for students to learn about business realities in countries around the world through exchange programs, and also by setting up second campuses abroad. London Business School has recently set up a campus in Dubai and provides opportunities for students to study on both of their campuses.
Schools are also opening centres to explore different elements of what globally responsible leaders should look like, research that will hopefully influence the curricula. Oxford University's Saïd Business School has the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship which explores ways to create the next generation of entrepreneurs who can create transformative change. The Euro-China Centre for Leadership and Responsibility at the China Europe International Business School has been exploring the development of responsible leadership in the Chinese organization since 2005.
Globally responsible leadership also requires engaging future business leaders from all corners of the earth. There is a growing number of business schools around the world, all of a varying quality. For example, only five schools in Africa hold any form of international quality accreditation. The University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa is one of the institutions that is taking part in international discussions on this topic.
However, it isn't just business schools and academics are looking at this topic. MBA students are getting actively involved as well, and in some cases taking matters into their own hands. Student networks such as Net Impact and AIESEC are exploring these ideas within the school level clubs by investigating these themes and pushing for changes from the inside of their schools. Recently a group of students from Harvard Business School created the MBA Oath, a voluntary pledge that graduating MBAs and current MBAs can sign focused on creating value, both responsibly and ethically.
Despite the increasing discussion about the importance of creating globally responsible leaders, we are not there yet. There is still a considerable way to go in translating these discussions into concrete experiences for students. The good news is that things are changing and the new intakes of MBA students will increasingly have a greater amount of options.
Giselle Weybrecht graduated with an MBA from school profile href=http://www.topmba.com/school_profile/london-business-school/>London Business School, and is the author of The Sustainable MBA: The Manager's Guide to Green Business.