50+20 Offers a Clear Vision

Katrin Muff

Dr Katrin Muff is Dean and Programme Director for the DBA and Diploma in Sustainable Business of Business School Lausanne, and University St Gallen Switzerland. katrin.muff@bsl-lausanne.ch

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Can business schools present a new vision of management education for the world? Katrin Mufff believes that through the 50+20 initiative they can.

The World Business School Council of Sustainable Business, WBSCSB was founded at;the Academy of Management in August 2010 as a think tank. We intended it to serve as a platform for action to ensure the engagement of the business school community in the public discourse of transforming business and the economy towards a sustainable and just world.

In November 2010, when WBSCSB representatives met with the head of the United National (UN) Global Compact in New York, the failure of the Rio+20 conference was widely anticipated.

There was concern about facing another Copenhagen. It would be up to civil society and business to try to save the day. But how? The UN was looking for glimmers of hope. WBSCSB promised it would do the (almost) impossible and develop a radically new vision for management education in the 18 months until Rio 2012. We felt that maybe, just maybe, business educators could rise to the occasion and offer a meaningful contribution to a 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit.

Back in 1992 that Rio summit had put sustainable development firmly on the global agenda. But while individual scholars have been active since, business schools as a community have failed to take part in the related public dialogue and change process. We felt the time was ripe to shift gear.

In January 2011, WBSCSB joined forces with the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) and the UN-backed Principles of Management Education (PRME) and launched the 50+20 collaboration – 50 because the future of management education was last significantly examined 50 years ago with the Ford and Carnegie reports and +20 for the two decades since the Rio summit. (See more on who and what is 50+20). But how does one go about creating a process and a journey that delivers a radically new vision as an end result? The following guiding principles helped:

A radical vision: our aim was to set a vision that would serve as a lighthouse for the coming two decades, a vision that can be used as a reference to determine whether we are on the right path rather than a model of incremental improvements starting from our current reality

Identifying paradigm shifts: a radical new vision assumes underlying paradigm shifts. These need to be both clearly articulated and placed in a larger interconnected context (a new kind of a world and society, a new role for business, and a transformation of the economic system)

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