Fit for Purpose: Putting Sustainability into Practice in a Business School

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David Grayson provides more detail on how Cranfield School of Management in Britain is incorporating sustainability.

There has been an increasingly vocal debate in recent years about whether management education is fit for purpose. The publication of the 50plus20 report in June 2012 by an international group of business school academics published under the auspices of the UN PRME, the Global Responsible Leadership Initiative and the World Business School Council for Sustainable Development represents a particularly challenging reform manifesto for business schools.

In 2007, in my early fifties, I found myself joining academia, by becoming part of the faculty of the Cranfield School of Management in Britain. The official brief was to establish a newly endowed centre for Corporate Responsibility. Only in the last couple of years has it become clearer that this also means supporting change-management at Cranfield to embed sustainability and corporate responsibility within research, teaching, consulting and Cranfield’s own organisational practices.

This reflects the arguments of the 50plus20 report. Our Cranfield experiences (positive and negative) may help some other schools that are also seeking to journey towards sustainability and responsibility.

Business schools need to prioritise sustainability

The plethora of reports published around the Rio+20 meeting provides ample evidence of the worsening global sustainability crisis; and the business logic for business to embrace sustainability.

Business cannot and should not try to solve these challenges alone: governments, international institutions, civil society, individuals as citizens and as consumers all have to engage. Business, however, has a crucial role in finding the products and services and new ways of operating that will ensure that nine billion people can live reasonably well by mid-century within the constraints of one planet.

That means business schools need to be much smarter at helping business to embrace sustainability. In particular, rather than positioning corporate sustainability in opposition to markets, it means helping business to use its entrepreneurial vitality and innovation to drive sustainability.

Managers in all sectors need to be equipped with the mindset, behaviours and skills for sustainability. Frank Horwitz, Cranfield’s director, and I described some of our school’s initiatives to embed sustainability in an earlier Global Focus article (EFMD Global Focus | Volume 04 | Issue 02 2010. “Putting PRME into practice in a business school”). We have continued to develop these over the last two years.

For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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