Gradualism Prevails and Perception Outbids Substance

Ulrich Hommel

Ulrich Hommel is the Director of Business School Development at EFMD Global Network and, in this role, is responsible for professional development activities offered by EFMD GN.

Mollie Painter-Morland

Mollie Painter-Morland is Academic Director, EABIS (the academy of business in society) and Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University.

Latest posts by Mollie Painter-Morland (see all)

    Jocelyne Wang

    Jocelyne Wang is Manager of European Affairs and Research and Surveys, EFMD.

    Latest posts by Jocelyne Wang (see all)

      Ulrich Hommel, Mollie Painter-Morland and Jocelyne Wang summarise the results of the Third EFMD/EABIS Global Deans Survey on ‘Sustainability and the Future of Management Education’.

      Business schools play a key role in driving the sustainability agenda within management practice. They do so not only by shaping and preparing the next generation of business leaders but also by influencing the perception of the role and purpose of business in society through their research, teaching and other activities.

      Yet it remains unclear to what extent business schools are actually driving real change. Practitioners have criticised business schools for not having reacted forcefully enough to the financial crisis as well as the resulting disconnect with the discourse among business leaders on how to strengthen the role of businesses in society. There are both push and pull factors at work in business schools’ commitment to the sustainability agenda. They include environmental, societal, governance and ethical concerns. After the myriad of ethical failures in business, stakeholders are becoming more vigilant in their demands for tangible progress. Increased environmental risks have also put the need for change squarely on the business agenda and hence on the agenda of business schools.

      Societal awareness of inequality, poverty, corruption and human rights infringements raises the question as to how future business leaders need to be prepared to address these challenges. While business schools have appeared reluctant disciples of sustainability in the past, they are now becoming slightly more observant in embracing the subject. Integrating sustainability related aspects into school strategy designs is now regarded as a tool to effectively build up and/or strengthen the institutional brand. (See article “Teaching sustainability”, page 50.)

      Accreditation standards are in the process of being adjusted to encourage a stronger focus on sustainability related performance. The aim of the EFMD-EABIS Global Deans Survey was to examine the specific steps undertaken by business schools in their effort to drive the sustainability agenda- forward.

      Survey design

      The survey was launched in April 2012 and a total of 1,520 deans and directors of business schools around the world were contacted, of whom 148 decided to participate (9.7% response rate). Fifty-three per cent of the respondents represent business schools headquartered in Europe. The remainder of the sample is based in the Americas (18%), Asia (13%), MENA/Africa (10%) and Australasia/New Zealand (6%). Nearly one-third (65%) of respondents represent university-based institutions; 53% represent schools of 250 employees or more and 51% stated that their student body exceeds 2,500.

      Preliminary results were presented at the 11th EABIS Colloquium held in July 2012 at IMD. Two complementary surveys of business school faculty and CEOs have been launched this year, which will permit comparative analyses on how or whether the various business school initiatives are actually generating tangible impact.

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

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