Building business school success through sustainability

Building business school success through sustainability

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A new study is to look at how British business schools could boost their success by using sustainability to underpin their teaching, research and organisational behaviour.

The one-year joint project by the Nottingham University Business School and the University of Bath School of Management will survey business schools that have already demonstrated a commitment to sustainability.

The researchers will use the results to produce best practice case studies that will guide other schools looking to reap the financial benefits and contribute to a greener future by putting sustainability at the heart of their activities.

Leading the project Professor Jeremy Moon, Director of Nottingham’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, said: “Business Schools are increasingly required to demonstrate their social, economic and ecological sustainability, whether it be for the purposes of acquiring accreditation or because they are seen as having a responsibility to disseminate knowledge to tomorrow’s business professions and society in order to successfully and speedily respond to the challenges of sustainable development.

“Fundamental changes to the ways we do business are required, for example, to respond to the threats of climate change and identify opportunities arising from sustainable development. Business programmes should be leading thought and action on these issues.”

Business schools are already required to demonstrate their sustainability credentials when seeking accreditation from bodies such as the Association of MBAs, EQUIS and the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes index. In addition the Financial Times MBA Index now includes a special section on CSR in business schools.

The perception of business leaders’ failings in high profile corporate corruption cases such as Enron and Worldcom, coupled with the role of the financial and business sector in the recent economic crisis has also led to greater calls for business schools to accept more responsibility for teaching the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability.

Business schools with a proven track record in sustainability are finding that it gives them the edge in a market where there is high demand for courses that reflect principles such as business ethics and environmentally-sound practices in corporate settings.

In addition, in this age of austerity, sustainability offers business schools the chance to trim costs in the form of efficiency savings and innovations, while improving employee motivation and enhancing their reputation.

The new study, funded with more than 90,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will identify key concepts of responsible management education by analysing the content of reports submitted by business schools to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (UNPRME) — an initiative designed to champion the cause globally.

The researchers will also conduct a telephone survey of around 30 ‘aspirational sustainable schools’ which have already demonstrated a commitment of developing and integrating sustainability.

A series of mini case studies will then be produced forming the basis of best practice examples, with each one focusing on an important principle of sustainability, which can then be disseminated through a number of business associations and institutions such as the Aspen Institute’s Centre for Business Education and the European Academy of Business in Society (EABIS) and a workshop at the UNESCO Higher Education for Sustainable Development Conference.

The project will aim to encourage an increase in the number of British business schools committing to integrating sustainability into their teaching, research and organisation by becoming signatories to the UNPRME, joining the European Academy of Business and Society or being ranked in the Aspen Institute Beyond Grey Pinstripes index.

Nottingham University Business School is well-placed to lead a project looking at the impact of sustainability — according to the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes, a biennial survey and ranking of the top 100 business schools, it has demonstrated significant leadership in integrating social, environmental and ethical issues into its MBA programme. The survey looks beyond reputation and test scores to measure how well schools are preparing their students for the environmental, social and ethical complexities of modern-day business. The school was named the UK leader in ethical and sustainable business in this global league table of innovative MBAs in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The 2009 Aspen survey measure of CSR content of all research saw Nottingham ranked first in Europe and fifth worldwide.

Besides introducing the UK’s first MBA in corporate social responsibility and an MSc in the subject, the school has integrated social responsibility throughout its BA Management and MBA programmes and CSR, sustainability and business ethics courses are available to all students.

Nottingham University Business School is based at The University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus, an exemplar of brownfield regeneration which features a host of sustainable features and winner of a clutch of environmental awards.