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A Failing Grade: Why our schools need to do more to support CSR

Published: March-16-12

Corporate Social Responsibility is gaining momentum but it still has a long way to go. Some companies don't report on their efforts. Some aren't making an effort. Some appear to not know what it is.

For those that get it, CSR is not merely an add-on. Instead, it comprises much of the company's DNA. It influences its culture and guides all of its decisions. It's effective because it resides first and foremost in every employee in every department.

Getting to this kind of fully-integrated CSR requires knowledgeable, values-driven leaders. Staying there requires careful recruitment of employees who already buy in to CSR values. The easiest way to create a CSR-driven workforce is to teach it in our schools. Why, then, is CSR not yet integrated throughout our education system?

Yearning for CSR knowledge

Student appetite for CSR knowledge is growing but there is a distinctive lack of rigour and discipline supporting them. Merely offering a few CSR courses within an existing program doesn't cut it. These values need to be pervasive, both within business schools and beyond.

Students appear to agree. In a recent article, Joe McCarty, a student at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business, said:

"(There's) one demographic that's overlooked in the rapidly-growing, overlapping fields of corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and responsible investing: the people who are currently being taught in our business schools about how corporations are and should be governed and run. On this front, there's a lot of work to do.

We need to instill in these malleable and ambitious minds an appreciation for the urgency of social and environmental pressures and opportunities affecting capital markets and corporate enterprise. Only then can we be confident that a new generation of business leaders will chart our corporations (and capital) on a course characterized by civic responsibility, sustainability, and justice."

Beyond business schools

As public awareness of sustainability expands and becomes more deeply embedded in society, the expectations for responsible business performance are bound to rise to new heights. Corporations aren't the only ones on the line. Municipalities and the not-for-profit sector will increasingly be held accountable for their actions.

As a result, it's not just business schools that need to integrate CSR and sustainability into their teachings. These values need to be taught across all disciplines and in all classrooms for them to become engrained in the psyches of our future leaders. After all, corporations, not-for-profits and governments are not just comprised of business school grads. Their employees come from diverse backgrounds and with education in business, the arts, science and technology.

Yes, there are some good MBA programs that already effectively incorporate CSR, but that's much too narrow an application and much too late to introduce a deep understanding of good corporate practices. CSR needs to be incorporated sooner. Much sooner.

An early start

CSR and sustainability need to be taught at the secondary school level. Yes, you read that right. Teach it to teenagers. Anchoring CSR principles in the high school curriculum would create the opportunity to influence a range of disciplines and individuals as they evolve and mature.

Those students heading off to colleges and universities would be well-equipped to gain a deeper understanding of CSR and sustainability concepts. And those with an entrepreneurial spirit, who forgo post-secondary education all together, would at least be versed in the basics. A socially responsible approach would become the normative, standard way of doing business and living one's life.

Our schools need to do more to support the culture of CSR. It's important for these values to be grounded in all levels of education and within all faculties. For a sustainable planet, we need to instill strong CSR values in every employee, in every department, in every company. Who better to lead the way than the leaders of the future?

 

The Company2Keep Case Competition promotes CSR among business school students. This year's competition focused on Business and Human Rights and asked teams of students to examine the supply chain of a fictional technology company.

Their written submissions have been reviewed by our adjudicators, the finalists have been selected and the students have prepared video presentations to support their case. Please support their efforts and help us choose the winner by voting for your favorite video via our Facebook page (voting accounts for 10% of a team's score).

Image via Flickr user Combined Media



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