Do Business Schools Get Sustainability?
Deprived of BBC radio here on my Spanish holiday, I’ve taken to downloading the Beeb’s podcasts to listen to while cooking or doing the washing up. The change in medium is leading to quite a bit of serendipity and at the weekend I happened upon Peter Day’s World of Business and, in particular, an edition on whether big-name MBA courses are worth the huge amount of money they cost.
Pertinently, Day asked academics from Harvard Business School and the Sloan Business School at MIT how come the Masters of the Universe they had expensively groomed had failed to avoid the great financial crash of 07/08. The immediate response was “we have an ethics module.”
We have an ethics module.
Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of “we have ISO14001” as a straw that businesses clutch at when they’re challenged on their sustainability performance. ISO14001 will not deliver sustainability. A module on business ethics is hardly going to overcome the predominance of the profit motive in the rest of the course.
Out of interest I took the top scoring business school on the ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes‘ social/environmental ranking, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and had a browse through their MBA cirrculum. There was indeed quite a lot on ethics, but virtually nothing worthwhile on the fundamental relationships between business, society, and the environment. On environmental issues there was a lot on the green buildings in which the course was taught, but I couldn’t find anything about, say, the circular or low carbon economies. If it was there, it wasn’t obvious. And Stanford is meant to be the best at this.
No-one needs to pay me megabucks a year to learn an inconvertible and basic truth that underpins all business: the economy exists to serve society which is part of the environment – and all three are thus interdependent.
If a business school isn’t teaching you that, I’d ask for your money back.