In part two of Giselle Weybrecht's look into ensuring the next generation of globally responsible leaders, the London Business School MBA graduate takes a look into the input that official bodies have on shaping the future of sustainability in MBA programs. To read part one, click here.
Sustainability is increasingly becoming a business reality and companies around the world are taking it seriously and finding concrete business reasons for getting involved. A recent UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study showed that 72% of CEOs say education is the key to moving sustainability forward. Supposedly this new generation of globally responsible managers is being trained right now in business schools around the world.
While the business sector has been exploring and applying sustainability to their businesses for many years now, business schools have been slow to get involved. However, this is rapidly changing as schools realize that not only are they missing out on opportunities, but that they risk making themselves obsolete by not delivering what students, what businesses, and what society all need.
There are several challenges to really getting educational institutions to move forward in this area, especially considering that as institutions they are often notoriously slow to react and adapt. In June, deans from educational institutions around the world came together in New York for the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Management Education's (PRME) second global forum. The principles, which are meant to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally, have been adopted by over 300 educational institutions from around the world. At the event, several deans agreed that along with individual action by educational institutions, business education accreditation bodies need to become more actively involved by embedding these issues into their accreditation process and by communicating its importance to their global members.
Business schools take these accreditation programmes very seriously. Potential MBA students use these seals of approval to choose the right course within a crowded and competitive marketplace. As one potential MBA student puts it, When narrowing down my choices of schools I looked to make sure they had the accreditations symbols. It lets me know that these programmes will provide a high quality of teaching as well as a recognized and respected degree.
Accreditation is the key
The accreditation networks will prove to be a key player in moving business education to change, both in terms of raising awareness about the topic with their members internationally, but more importantly by making changes to the way that schools get accredited. Currently, sustainability issues do not form part of the accreditation process that business schools internationally need to go through to get their seal of approval. Many schools carry more than one accreditation seal, meaning that even if one accreditation board begins making sustainability a requirement, we should start to see some changes.
Several of these accreditation networks have started to explore these issues more seriously. EFMD, a network which includes EQUIS accreditation with 730 member organizations from academia, business, public service and consultancy devoted this year's annual MBA conference to the theme of developing the responsible leader. They also devoted a part of their annual conference to this topic. Responsible Management for a World in Transition was the title of this year's annual conference for the Association of MBAs (AMBA), which accredits MBA, DBA and MBM programmes in 72 countries. The Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) which accredits almost 600 institutions worldwide also dedicated their latest conference in June to sustainability.
These organizations are not just dedicating conferences to this topic for their members, they are also starting to take part in international discussions on the topic of sustainability and how to develop a globally responsible leader. EFMD, The Association of MBAs and AACSB are all on the steering committee for the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education. More recent members who joined the steering committee this year include The Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN) with 170 institutions and the Latin American Council of Management Schools (CLADEA) with 140 affiliated schools. Along with over 300 educational institutions which are members of the UN's PRME, this represents the potential for real change on an international level.
There are a growing number of academic and business events around the world showing that the importance of this topic is on the rise and that perhaps finally business education is starting to take this seriously. But is that enough? The challenge now will be to push beyond discussing the importance of these issues to really exploring practically how to embed this into business education. The next step will be to embed sustainability into the accreditation process. Once this occurs, business schools looking to get or renew their accreditation will be required to take these issues seriously. The challenge now will be to see if and how they will do it.
Giselle Weybrecht is the author of The Sustainable MBA: The Manager's Guide to Green Business