“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (Mandela, 2003).
If Mandela is right, and I am personally convinced he is, the question should be raised why education and especially higher education lays behind in terms of business sustainability education (Holtum, 2014). Why are the businesses taking the lead by talking about making “sustainability the new business-as-usual” and not the universities? Why does education still widely consider sustainability knowledge as a “add-on” rather than a cross-cutting thematic, which should belong to every business student’s skill set? Those questions were flooding into my mind whilst I had the privilege to sit into several sessions of the WBCSD Liaison Delegate Meeting in beautiful Montreux.
Although progress can be observed, particularly if you consider the various initiatives attempting to support the educational institutions to spotlight the needed changes and implement them (Bran, Ioan, & Radulescu, 2013), “(t)here is evidence to suggest that HE (higher education) does not understand the true nature of the challenge. … Curriculum and pedagogy, which are at the core of HE experiences, need to be transformed if universities and colleges are to make a meaningful contribution to sustainable development” (Tilbury, 2011, p. 24). In other words, the cross-cutting context of sustainability may not have been recognized in enough depth. Implementation of business sustainability education might require transformational curriculum change, i.e. not additional hours or courses (luckily!) but rather embedding sustainability in each existing field of business education. The needed change is very similar to organizational changes, as everyone, from the individual to the administrative structure, must be involved (Higgins & Thomas, 2016). And by everyone I particularly mean the ones who are the output of universities: we, graduates! By speaking with several WBCSD personalities who are aiming to drive change within education, I realized that it was a shame not having the enhancement of this knowledge on the core agenda of my degree. And even if institutional change might be complex, long and need to be tailored specifically to the institutional culture, context and internal politics (Higgins & Thomas, 2016), it became clear to me that we, as students, as CUSTOMERS of business schools have both the responsibility and the power to drive this change.
A practical way of starting the discussion could simply be to use our inherent millennials’ ability to gather our peers through social medias to show to our university’s administration & direction that it is our wish to see sustainability embedded throughout the curriculum, e.g. asking and confronting them with the question how is it possible that I only realized here in Montreux that I studied accounting as if climate change externalities did not exist? Sustainability education has its place in every module and my generation should stand up for “the right” to see it integrated into the pursued manager’s skill set. So, if I may be provocative: what are you going to do? Are you going to wait in silence and miss the opportunity to shape your own future or are you going to take this chance to work on nothing else than your own management skill set?
Until the next time…
Bran, F., Ioan, I., & Radulescu, C. (2013). Sustainability education within universities. Competitiveness of Agro-Food and Environmental Economy, 104-177.
Higgins, B., & Thomas, I. (2016). Education for Sustainability in Universities: Challenges and Opportunities for Change. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 32(1).
Holtum, C. (13. May 2014). Expert views: sustainability and business education. Abgerufen am 29. March 2017 von The Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-business-education-expert-views
Mandela, N. (16. July 2003). “Lighting your way to a better future : Speech delivered by Mr N R Mandela at launch of Mindset Network.
Tlibury, D. (2011). Higher education for sustainability: A global overview of commitment and progress. Abgerufen am 29. March 2017 von Higher education’s commitment to sustainability: From understanding to action. GUNi.: http://www.guninetwork. org/files/8 i.2 he for sustainability – tilbury.pdf