Integrating responsible business in management education

Author recommends that B-Schools in India must come together to integrate Responsible Business in management education

By Dr. Sangeeta Mansur

Responsible business is a growing trend today among futuristic businesses. Be it a strategy, be it a pursuit of purpose beyond profits, practice of responsible business has now proved its case across its many avatars – CSR, ethics, governance, sustainability, environment, reporting and so on. Against a majority of still business-as-usual organizations, a rising trend of businesses keen on maturing on higher responsibility is clearly visible.

The policy environment in recent times has nudged the business sector in the right direction: National voluntary guidelines, the 2% norm on CSR spends, SEBI norms on Business Responsibility Reports, Integrated Reporting etc.

An important question is, whether management education in India, as a sector, is doing justice to this evolution of Responsible Business, mastering and mainstreaming it to lead the practitioners to the next level.

Institutes which adopt and teach Responsible Business do exist. A set of IIMs and several other institutes (XLRI, SPJMR, TERI, Symbiosis, and XIMB etc.) have taken committed steps to teach Responsible Business, and are creating positive change in varied ways. But an all pervasive, whole hearted adoption with a fair degree of integration by the B-school sector as a whole seems to be still a distant reality.

While we can name B-schools which teach Responsible Business, we do not know the exact percentage of B-schools in India who have adopted Responsible Business in their curriculum- since studies available are based on responses from adopter institutes themselves.

The institutes which teach responsible business do so with a high degree of variance too. Some offer it as an elective or as a core (mandatory) subject. A few offer exclusive focus on sustainability. Very few take up research in the area and still fewer have taken up the challenge of integration.

The most challenging part of incorporating Responsible Business in management education is that it needs a special focus as a standalone to offer the right orientation, and at the same time, being an umbrella construct cutting across all subjects, needs a conscious integration into each subject.

Integration is challenging because it must manage to reconcile the apparent conflict between the business-as-usual approach taught so far and the evolved approach demanded by the Responsible Business ideology. This conflict is difficult to manage at all levels- right from curriculum development to faculty orientation to student appreciation and knowledge assimilation.

Add to this set, the related issues in lack of faculty development, sparse research studies, insufficient reading material, uncertain industry demand and so on, and you get the complex picture.

The complexity perhaps explains why several B-schools have managed to initiate and introduce Responsible Business into the curriculum but have stopped short of integrating it across subjects.

Not that inspiration to do so is lacking. Sometimes, inspiration could lie in surprising sources. An IIMB study (Working paper #362, IIMB, , Srinivasan, Srinivasan and Anand, 2012) states 43 universities as having integrated ECCE subjects (Ethics, Corporate Governance, CSR, Environment) within their curriculum across different subjects. The early integration instances from the Universities confirms that the challenging task of integration is an achievable one. B-schools must inspire themselves and each other to meet the challenge in much newer and efficient ways befitting their unique capabilities.

Not just introduction of Responsible Business in management education but its integration is the most crucial imperative today.

Irresponsible business practices by industry segments which continue to play cold and blind to business responsibility surely indicate a need for such an integration by all B-schools. On the other hand, now that futuristic industry segments are showing clear signs of warming up to responsible business, it is only fair to expect the Education sector to heat up in response! Either way, it is an imperative for B-schools.

To speed up the adoption and integration in the sector, B-schools with proven experience in adoption and integration of Responsible business can today lead the novices in many ways. What management education in India needs are platforms to connect the two segments, evoking a cross-pollination of ideas, sharing of best practices, peer-to-peer learning opportunities for mainstreaming Responsible Business. Forums which are integrative, collaborative are the need of the hour.

One such endeavour to connect academicians in Responsible Business has been undertaken by CRB (Center for Responsible Business), a New Delhi based global think tank. CRB launched a forum for management educators in 2016, as a part of its annual international conference India and Sustainability Standards. The forum brought together management fraternity across India and beyond, under one roof to discuss Responsible Business education. In 2017, the form moves on to discuss the integration challenges. Co-hosted by UNPRME this year, the forum plans to evolve into a strong fraternity platform for Responsible Business educators.

Time has come for management academicians to flock together, exchange experiences, concerns, learn from each other, look at best ways to mainstream and integrate responsible business in shorter time spans and start producing holistic management professionals –not split and torn anymore between business-as-usual and responsible business concepts but professionals integrated in responsibility towards value-creation on multiple bottom lines.

(About the Author: Dr Sangeeta Mansur, Founder-catalyst, Bhairavi Business & Consultancy.)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely of the author in personal capacity and does not in any way represent views of any institution, entity or organisation that the author may has been associated with.

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