Sustainability Education Within Business Schools

Everybody has heard of sustainability in their daily lives for example through fair trade food or recycling but very few of us have had any formal education on the topic. Even in top management schools like Lancaster, sustainability is unfortunately not embedded in the curriculum. I believe this is an oversight and that as the potential business leaders of tomorrow students need to receive some formal sustainability education. At the conference, so far, we have heard a lot about how we can change education around this issue both for students and for managers within organisations. We have also discussed the difference between so-called “millennials” and other generations in their attitudes to work and beliefs about sustainability.

This area is of particular interest to me as one of the main reasons I chose to come to the conference was because I had an interest in sustainability but had never had the chance to properly learn about it. I hoped by attending the conference and seeing what some of the world’s leading businesses were doing I would be able to develop my own knowledge and then help create a ripple effect through knowledge sharing. In my mind, it is a shame that it took until the fourth year of my degree scheme before I had a module that taught me about sustainability, and even then, only as a part of learning about ethics. Sustainability issues are some of the major threats facing the world today and there are many scary statistics that we hear all the time. One fascinating and terrifying being the estimate that the demand for water will outstrip its supply by a factor of 40 percent in the year 2030. It is young people now who must deal with a lot of these problems and they need the proper knowledge and ways of thinking to be able to deal with these issues. Business schools try to equip their students with the tools to survive and thrive in the modern business world in all other regards but they must do more to drive positive change around sustainability.

It is heartening to hear that steps are being made in the right direction, we have heard great things about the WBCSD leadership program run by the WBCSD and how they are trying to get deans of business schools involved in changing education. As the website says participants of the program will “gain better understanding of their own leadership preferences in order to help them become sustainability leaders” (WBCSD, 2017) It was useful to discuss who was being targeted on these programs, we learnt how there are those already on board with the sustainability and therefore would be less useful to teach. The people that really matter are the ones that are skeptical of sustainability and aren’t yet involved, if they can be convinced then this is where real value can be added.

A pedagogical change is required in modern management education to create students who are able to deal with the problems facing the world today and any future problems that will arise. This is becoming increasingly necessary as millennials are further penetrating the workplace. As we heard in the plenary session at the conference 80% of US millennials want to work for sustainable organisations. Other figures show that 64 percent of millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer does not have strong corporate social responsibility practices (sustainablebrands.com, 2016). Not only will institutions benefit by helping meet the demands of their students but they will also produce more sustainable conscious people who can have a positive impact on the world. It seems like a no-brainer that sustainability should be a part of a business education but more needs to be done to promote this agenda in modern education.

Edward Meadowcroft

References

sustainablebrands.com. (2016). 3/4 of Millennials Would Take a Pay Cut to Work for a Socially Responsible Company | Sustainable Brands. [online] Available at: http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/organizational_change/sustainable_brands/34_millennials_would_take_pay_cut_work_socia [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017].

World business council for sustainable development. (2017). Leadership program – World business council for sustainable development. [online] Available at: http://www.wbcsd.org/Projects/Education/Leadership-program [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017].

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