The economic meltdown of 2008 made it clearer than ever before that the consequences of
business operations can reach far and wide, affecting a range of stakeholders in significant ways. It was also felt that business schools had failed to sensitize future managers on how their decisions could have widespread economic, social and environmental ramifications.
A need to integrate sustainability into management education and research was palpable. Responding to this call for action, the United Nations Global Compact laid down the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) to facilitate B-Schools in adapting their curricula, pedagogy and research to the new realities of doing business. Each addressing a different aspect of management education viz. Purpose, Values, Method, Research, Partnership, Dialogue – the six principles have sustainability at their very core. Thus the impetus for change also came from businesses who are increasingly looking for managers who can help them address social, environmental and governance concerns, which is something – that now businesses have come to realize – on which hinges their very survival and sustainability.
However, the vision of management education acting as a catalyst of business transformation and eventually a driver of sustainable development will remain a pipe dream unless sustainability is integrated into the very DNA of management education. Teaching sustainability as a separate subject or elective will relegate it to a secondary concern for managers. What needs to be done however is to look at all the aspects of management education through the lens of sustainability. In addition, immersive experiential learning is being seen as an effective pedagogical technique for making MBA students better understand the global realities and constraints in which they will operate and affect. There isn’t enough clarity on how this will be achieved by B-Schools and their faculty. But what is absolutely certain is that the entire exercise will shake some deep-seated assumptions about the prevalent paradigms of economic growth and capitalism. The 607 signatories of PRME from over 80 countries have initiated efforts to integrate sustainability in management education and have started sharing information on their progress. Beyond Grey Pinstripes has been publishing MBA rankings on the basis of the degree of integration of sustainability in them. All this augurs well for a systemic change in how business managers will be groomed and businesses will be run in the future.