This paper builds on the work of globalmovement.net (GMN), an initiative that aims at stimulating business curriculum transformation toward integrated sustainability. It also builds on progress toward the IAJBS Inspirational Paradigm for Business Education. It shares what we have learned about transformative research, core business principles, and innovative teaching methods through primary and secondary data collection conducted between 2018 and 2022 and how those data might inform future primary research. We draw particular attention to practices that can be used to meet rapidly emerging challenges in business and education environments.
A new paradigm of business education is needed to adapt to increasingly severe consequences of rapid social and climate change, and to confront the problems created when traditional business principles are taught by higher education institutions. We need new paradigms, programs, and curricula that provide alternative business concepts that will support survivable commerce, socially-just employment, and human flourishing. And those new paradigms must be integrated and implemented quickly.
In Healing a Broken World, the Jesuit Task Force on Ecology assessed 8 global problems from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America that are likely to worsen and need our attention (Jesuit Task Force, 2019). Those problems include:
Continuing pressure on natural resources
Advancing environmental degradation caused by inappropriate agricultural product systems and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources
Huge differences in income between the poor and the rich
Lack of access to basic services (education, health care, etc.)
Rapid urbanization is associated with an increasing number of urban poor and homeless families
Growing consumerism within an economic paradigm that does not pay the ecological costs of that consumption
Corporate interests often over-ride public interests to influence national environmental policies
Escalation of inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts often driven by the socio-economic context
In its summary, the Jesuit Task Force on Ecology made a specific recommendation for Jesuit higher education institutions to “engage students in transformative education and to explore new themes and areas of interdisciplinary research.” (Jesuit Task Force, 2019, p 46)
2. Theoretical background
2.1. Evolution of business education
GMN began with the premise that business and business education must fundamentally change so that social and environmental justice can be achieved as quickly as possible. The appropriateness of that premise is supported by declining enrollments in traditional business programs, increasing tuition, reduced access for students, and global changes that demonstrate significant business change is needed to succeed in the current and future global business environment.
The key questions are what concepts and principles a new business paradigm will include, and how will transformation take place? Our literature review showed that thought-leaders have been tackling this question for several decades. Specific concepts under debate include:
Profit maximization and shareholder primacy (Economics and finance)
Product proliferation and waste (Marketing)
Global resource use and supply limitations (Supply chain management)
Unprecedented global warming and production disruptions (Product management and logistics)
Disinformation and data intelligence (Information management and marketing)
Increasing wealth gap and poverty (Finance, economics, ethics, and strategy)
Immigration, migration, and human responsibility in a global market (International marketing, human capital, ethics, and resource management)
To transform business to meet the realities of the global business environment, established theories taught in business schools in such subjects as economics, finance, marketing, management, strategy, ethics, and human capital management may need to be modified to create a new model of sustainable business practice or they may need to be replaced entirely.
2.2. Initiatives and challenges toward more sustainability integrated business education
This paper is informed by the 2011 Jesuit Task Force Special Report on Ecology (Healing a Broken World), IAJBS and CJBE initiatives that started at the 2009 World Forum or soon after, Pope Francis’s encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, and the United Nations IPCC Climate Change reports. These and other resources emphasize the emergence of multiple threats for human survival and risks to interconnected ecosystems and, of course, to future business practice and success.
It is important to note that our research did not center on teaching about sustainability or how to use existing business practices in a sustainable way. Rather, our focus was on new business paradigms and curriculum development efforts that are evolving through rapid prototyping and collaboration to identify innovative and integrated principles to fit the needs of a dramatically evolving business and humanitarian environment.
3. Research design and methods
In secondary data research, data are collected by others and those data are extracted and applied for additional purposes. We used an explorative design method where we formulated new categories out of the material reviewed. We conducted a literature search of more than 50 academic journal articles, trade articles, and books published within the past 5 years to identify the latest trends and thinking on sustainable business practice.
For collecting primary data, this paper is built upon a qualitative research design where the authors are involved in creating and sharing knowledge on how to transform business education to achieve sustainable development goals. It is similar to a participant observation or action research approach.
Participant observation is a method that involves working closely with a specific group (e.g., job position, internship) to obtain data that are the closest possible to the group’s working environment, including knowledge and practices (Murphy et al., 1998; Becker and Geer, 1960).
Action research involves conducting research together with the target group of individuals to solve a problem. It entails discussions and decisions on the problem to be solved with the participants being actively engaged in identifying, anticipating, and solving problems together with the researchers. Following each discussion, the participants take notes, make decisions, observe the consequences of their decisions, and conduct the same process iteratively until all the group members are satisfied with the solution and no new problem arises (Lewin, 1946; Adelman, 1993).
GMN provides a space for participants to interact with GMN members in written (e.g., on the globalmovement.net website pages) and oral forms (e.g., conferences and open houses) to create knowledge; however, it differs from participant observation or action research since the authors do not intervene within the participants’ institution and do not accompany the participants in their decision-making processes.
This paper summarizes prominent themes obtained through participant observation and action research approaches in the primary data findings section. In conducting this research, GMN also sought to define objectives for additional qualitative primary research, and to determine the type or method of primary research that might be most effective in achieving those objectives.
During the past two years (2020 – 2022), GMN members collected both primary and secondary data to learn about current efforts to transform business education and what can be learned from those efforts.
Secondary data were collected through an explorative literature review of more than 50 academic journal and trade articles and books published within the past five years. The ones we found most useful were organized in the following categories and appear in the reference list:
resources related to current business practices and paradigms that degrade planet’s resources and contribute to unjust social environments
resources related to student attitudes about business, business education, and their future
resources related to academic efforts to improve business curricula
Because our primary and secondary data collection is an ongoing process, we invite readers and World Forum participants to suggest references they have found useful in these domains.
Information was also gathered through reports provided by GMN partner colleges about courses, conferences, and activities those schools conducted to advance sustainable business education. Those reports revealed that partner business schools created 15 new business curricula courses, implemented 7 interdisciplinary activities, and provided information at 9 conferences that incorporate sustainability concepts (https://www.globalmovement.net/news).
To learn about where we are in terms of business transformation and sustainability education initiatives, our secondary data explorations focused on current trends in the following areas:
How current business practices and academic business pedagogies contribute to degradation of our planet’s resources and unjust social environments.
Whether business students expect business activities to provide not just profit but also contribute to the common good and environmental justice as matter of survival. Whether students expect their business education to prepare them for that new environment.
If academic researchers and faculty are developing new business pedagogies to support a sustainable society, what collaboration or resources do they need to make a quicker and broader impact?
Primary data were collected through action research-type activities by conducting executive interviews with academic deans, HEI students, and sustainability thought-leaders. Additional primary data were collected through participant observation research conducted by GMN-member participation in more than 12 academic conference workshops. It was also obtained through hosting 10 Open House virtual discussions with experts in business education, climate change, global supply chains, art, entertainment, and entrepreneurial innovation.
GMN is compiling a book with examples, cases, and “stories” of those who have been attempting to transform business education from within. Primary data collected was recorded through online recording systems (ZOOM). Some of the material is available with the participants’ consent online via the GMN LinkedIn page (https://www.linkedin.com/company/globalmovementnetwork/) and GMN website (https://www.globalmovement.net/).
Primary data gathering focused on the following topic areas:
Need, desire, and intended participation of academic leaders, faculty, and students in transforming business curricula for sustainability
Curriculum transformation efforts currently in design or implementation
Needs of faculty who are leading transformation efforts within disciplines or colleges
Primary and secondary data were analyzed for this paper by several GMN members and are summarized in the findings section of this paper. We plan to have a more structured data analysis approach following the qualitative content analysis process as described by Mayring (2014).
4. Secondary Data Findings
The following summarizes the main themes we found in our literature survey related to these topics:
4.1. Contributions of current business practices and academic business pedagogies to the degradation of our planet’s resources and unjust social environments
As the economic divide expands globally, more analysis and criticism has been directed toward the pursuit of unfettered corporate growth and profit. Many business organizations recognize they need to change business practices to meet expectations of employees and customers on climate change, racial injustice, and income inequality.
Many business educators are now advancing the concept that business education based on the existing neo-liberal economic model of the primacy of shareholder profit is flawed and must be replaced by a more sustainable economic and finance pedagogy. Profit is necessary for a business to exist but maximizing profit cannot be the only aim at the risk of social and environmental dissolution. In Reimagining Capitalism, Rebecca Henderson notes that maximizing shareholder value does not work where markets do not operate in free or democratic societies. “As long as the private sector’s untrammeled pursuit of profit at any cost took place within strong, well-governed societies, it created enormous value. But left unchecked, markets are subject to powerful incentives to destroy the natural and social worlds around them (Henderson, 2021, p 5).”
Major corporate leaders are also calling for change. The CEO of Johnson and Johnson, Alex Gorsky, recently stated that the doctrine of shareholder primacy has outlived its usefulness and we need a new framework for contemporary capitalism (Gelb, 2019). Even conservative think tanks are reporting that businesses are diverting money to shareholders rather than productivity-creating assets, and that behavior is depressing growth and adding to social inequality (Ingraham, 2021). Many years ago, in a famous quotation, Kenneth Boulding confronted the myth of unceasing growth by stating, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist” (Lovins et al., 2018, p 271).
While most current corporate business practices continue to uphold profit-centric paradigms, positive change is taking place on many fronts. Multimillionaire Lynn Forester de Rothschild launched the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism and is working with Pope Francis to get businesses engaged in social and environmental investments (Gelles, 2021).
Globally, corporations are seeking new business models that integrate processes such as circular economy management to offer opportunities for growth in a resource-constrained world (Hysa, et al, 2020). Among new business models under development are those that incorporate circularity of systems and value creation amid global and local challenges. Such challenges include energy transition, economic equity, closed loop material circularity, global political upheaval, and more. For organizations to shift from focusing on profit maximization to value creation, both business models and business terminology must be redefined to enable flexible creation. “The concept of multiple value creation means working on more than one value simultaneously. Or to put it more precisely, it always involves creating more than just financial value” (Jonker, 2021, p 6).
In All In, the Future of Business Leadership, the authors believe that we are approaching a new epoch of corporate sustainability in business leadership. They state, “The environment and society both need regenerative business models to become the norm.” (Grayson, 2018, p.145). New models are emerging from business practice, as well as business academics, but consensus and collaboration are needed to distill concepts that have the best opportunity to be implemented and deliver change quickly. Several new business models have been identified as frameworks for regenerative and positive business activities. A few leading businesses have adopted one or more of the new sustainable or regenerative models with good success. But widespread change of business practice and transformation of business education pedagogy is not occurring. Consulting, training, and business education programs that directly enable businesses to change practices are limited.
In summary, the current literature review suggests some, and perhaps many, business leaders recognize that dramatic change in business principles and practices are needed to address a rapidly changing competitive and environmental landscape. Business leaders also desire that business education institutions provide more business principles and trained potential employees to help them transition to practices that support social and environmental justice.
4.2. Students’ expectations regarding business education and sustainability
We sought secondary data that addressed whether business students expect business activities to contribute to the common good and environmental justice as well as producing profit. Do students see changing business priorities as a matter of their survival? Do today’s business students expect their education to prepare them for a new and uncertain business environment?
Business students across the globe are looking for purpose and passion for their own future. Many expect that sustainable development is something that all universities and colleges should actively incorporate and promote (Murray, 2021). In a Financial Times report, successful graduates stated that business schools “should do more to help students make connections between core disciplines and social and environmental factors.” In that article, Erika Karp, a recent MBA graduate and now Chief Impact Officer at Pathstone, further stated that business schools must move away from the shareholder primacy model of capitalism and teach sustainability to shift capitalism to a more regenerative, inclusive economic model. Schools that fail to do so “are putting their own business model at risk” (Murray, 2021).
Students are also demanding more from the jobs they may take after graduation. According to an Axios/Generation Lab poll, (https://www.axios.com/2021/09/14/young-workers-employer-social-issues-poll) college students from 2 and 4 year colleges in the U.S. expect employers to take public stances on social issues and say they will not work for companies that do not do so (Pandey, 2021). For many, that means they expect to learn more than how to fit sustainability topics into a profit-centered business. They want to change the entire focus of the business to improve the world long-term. This expectation is reflected in polls taken in the U.S. and in an international study conducted by Students Organizing for Sustainability International (SOS) in Europe (SOS, 2021).
With more than 51% of U.S. students using debt to finance an MBA degree, many expect to gain more durable skills that align with their values for that significant financial investment (Kirkpatrick, 2021). When asked about the value of their education, many indicated that they expect to learn things that will help them be a successful businessperson. However, they recognize that the future business environment will be significantly different from the managerial, profit approach reflected in texts and curriculum. Therefore, they hope to learn how to solve problems and adapt to rapid changes. In the international study conducted by SOS, 45% of the nearly 7,000 respondents said that their university studies encouraged them to think and act to help the environment and other people (SOS, 2021). Today’s students quickly share opinions with their peers via social media about courses or faculty or programs that are (or are not) meeting their needs for delivering contemporary information or helping them apply lessons to the work environment.
Millennials and Gen Z’s are also eager for change to occur quickly in undergraduate and graduate programs. They see issues of economic disparity and climate change as critically urgent. While these generations have traditionally pushed for social change, many respondents to a recent Deloitte survey now believe the world is at a pivotal moment (Deloitte, 2021). Students raised with technology and rapid response to consumer desires expect quick and relevant change in business education.
4.3. Needs of academic researchers and faculty to develop pedagogies that support sustainable business and society.
We sought secondary data to determine what efforts are taking place by organizations, faculty, and researchers to develop new business pedagogies to transform education frameworks that will support a sustainable world. We also sought data relating to resources or collaboration needed so those efforts can be expanded and implemented.
The United Nations Compact Development task force introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 (UN, 2015). Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) and UNESCO have been making resources available to educators at all levels (UNESCO, 2019). The International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) publishes the Journal of Management for Global Sustainability that is dedicated to spiritual, social, and environmental thriving (JMGS undated). Other journals have also been developed to address the need for sustainability education such as the Journal of Business Ethics Education or the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, and general sustainability-oriented journals have published special issues related to sustainability and education (Rieckmann and Bormann, 2020).
Business schools have been called on to take responsibility for ensuring the next generation of leaders are open-minded, flexible, and can challenge traditional ways of thinking to develop sustainable business competences. It is not enough for business educators to discuss the triple bottom line, but Gröschl, et al. argue that we need interdisciplinary courses that engage students and help them see decisions as part of a system within other systems (Gröschl, 2021). Some universities have added courses about sustainability practices in business, but most are offered as electives.
Several universities offer degree programs for environmental sustainability or sustainability management. However, a closer look at the degree map for such programs reveals that many contain courses in traditional economics, marketing, or supply chain management built on traditional pedagogies. The University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business offers a Sustainable Innovation MBA Curriculum designed around businesses that are environmentally and socially committed and seeks to “harness the potential of business to act as a force for good” (University of Vermont, undated). Bard University and Duquesne University also offer excellent graduate level programs for training sustainability leaders and champions (Sroufe et al., 2021). Excelia Business School in France offers an MSc. in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies and a new MSc. opens in September 2022 in Sustainable Supply Chain Management. While these and other similar programs exist, few universities offer a business degree that is built entirely on a new paradigm of business principles for a sustainable and just world.
As noted by Kapitulčinová, Atkisson, Perdue, & Will, “For ‘transformational change’ to occur at the level of the entire HEI it is therefore essential that all units comprising the institution adopt sustainable development principles in their respective work” (Kapitulčinová et al, 2018). The authors offer tools, methods, frameworks/models and approaches (TMFA’s) to help fill the process gap in institutional transformation. It is unclear how many universities are aware of these models or have attempted to utilize those processes in changing their practices.
Individual academic researchers and faculty are not waiting for permission, and many have developed innovative business philosophies and practices to support a more socially and environmentally just society. But to disseminate that work in a way that creates significant impact, it needs to be published and “sold” to administrators and colleagues and utilized across curricula in multiple institutions.
Creating curricular change can take years of effort. When individual change agents at higher education institutions create new ideas that address urgent business education needs but then face resistance in providing solutions to students, it exacerbates the perception that academia is too slow or resistant to change (Brauer & Sroufe, 2020). It also leads innovative faculty to seek colleagues who are working on similar changes at conferences, meetings, and workshops.
One step in transitioning to transformative curricula and courses occurs when colleagues use existing discipline areas of study, such as economics or marketing, and then determine how the discipline would function in a sustainable business environment. A few examples that incorporate new disciplinary perspectives are shown in the list below:
Capital Strategy to stakeholder capitalism (Hunt, 2022)
Neo-liberal economics to economy in service to life and well-being (Laszlo, et al., 2020; Annett, 2022).
Marketing for sales and profit to marketing that creates value for business, society, and environment (Irwin & Schneider, 2021).
Human resource management to common good HRM (Piwiwar-Sulej, 2021).
Several of these topics have led to new courses created by rapid prototyping and are now being taught in undergraduate and graduate business programs. For example, a new economics course led by Jeffrey Sachs and Tony Annett was offered at Fordham’s Gabelli Business School in the fall 2021 term, and two sustainable marketing courses are part of the MBA program at Regis University’s Anderson College of Business.
Conference presentations and papers offer cases or examples where sustainability has been implemented in the business curricula. There is no information yet about whether business education can be transformed more quickly if an institution directs integrated and program change from leadership or if pedagogical change is driven by faculty through incremental course changes. However, presentations from deans and faculty report that to transform business programs they need to see interest from student enrollment, resources for training and rewarding faculty innovation, ability to hire faculty with expertise, discarding traditional tools such as textbooks, and administrative support during transition. One example is Griffith University that changed its MBA program so that every course is taught through the lens of integrated sustainability. Enrollment tripled and graduates say it changed the way they think about business (DeNovellis, 2022).
5. Primary Data Findings
The following summarizes primary data gathering through action research with executive interviews and participant observation research conducted through conference workshops and virtual discussions with thought-leaders.
5.1.Action Research – Executive Interview Findings
GMN held executive interviews with deans, students, and academic leaders in sustainability. While discussions were open-ended, several concepts recurred within interview groups. The following summarizes repeated themes related to the need, desire, and intended participation in transforming business curricula for sustainability.
Individual deans are very busy with traditional managerial tasks and frequently do not have the time to serve as the lead change agent, but some are interested in identifying and empowering others in their institution to take on that role. Deans are generally supportive of the concept of establishing a point-person in their college to align initiatives in changing curriculum internally and externally to address social and climate crises. Some deans stated knowledge of and support for innovative business curriculum changes such as changing the profit-centered economic model for business and incorporating a broader range of humanistic philosophies with a systems or network business structure. Philosophically, they support the need for transforming education and many are intrigued by the opportunity for new market share. However, they are not prepared or, in some cases, feel authorized, to abandon current revenue streams built around traditional profit-centered business pedagogy. Many stated that their donors or Trustees expect traditional growth measures of performance. In essence, these schools is practicing what their current business faculty teach in the primacy of growth or profit.
Many students see an urgent necessity to transform business education because they feel current curricula does not reflect their future. They are knowledgeable and fearful about climate and economic challenges facing their generation. Many voiced disappointment that what they are currently learning in their business curriculum neither prepares them to obtain a high-paid job to pay off their student debt nor does it prepare them to apply what they learn so that business will be more environmentally and socially sustainable. Some noted that case studies and other course resources are outdated, and they much prefer to learn by experience.
Academic Sustainability Leaders
Interviews with academic leaders of sustainability initiatives pointed out that it is necessary to achieve a change in mindset among college administrators, faculty, and students. They stated that layering sustainability topics to existing paradigms will not achieve the level of change that is needed and pointed out the importance of building “mass” or volume by centralizing transformation efforts. Textbooks, cases, and proven models are less important than innovation and rapid prototyping of solutions to meet problems that have not yet been developed. They indicated that it might be beneficial to build a “hub” or network to support and align efforts currently taking place in university silos across the country. When educators realize how many colleagues around the globe are working toward the same changes they are making, additional credibility and energy are added to their initiatives.
5.2.Participant Observation Research – Conferences, Virtual Open House Collaboration
The following summarizes primary data gleaned from academic conference presentations and workshops, and virtual Open House roundtables with business faculty and experts in business education, climate change, global supply chains, art, entertainment, and entrepreneurial innovation.
Conference Presentations and Workshops
GMN team conference presentations were highly interactive, and participants expressed passion for changing the business curricula to address climate and social crises. Many were interested in learning what steps have already been taken, and what successes or hurdles curriculum innovators encountered. Many faculty participants seemed unaware of the processes and curriculum efforts already developed and available as summarized in the secondary research data section of this paper.
The following is a small sample of comments and questions from conference discussions relating to systemic and sustainable business curriculum change:
Balancing sustainability initiatives with the current business curriculum is not enough but the challenge is often used as an excuse to do nothing. Instead, delivering an entirely new social and environmentally just curriculum should be the urgent focus of all business schools.
Advocates are saying we need global warming and climate change curriculum in every college, not only in business.
Multiple models and opportunities are offered at conferences to help faculty take action on incorporating sustainability into current education programs (e.g., 5 Practices for Confronting Climate Change by Rae Andre at MOBTC, 2021)
Participant discussion for methods and models of curriculum change includes concerns about how individual faculty can make such changes within their current syllabi or contractual obligations.
Examples of the new curriculum, courses, and texts offer resources for other faculty (e.g., Sustainability and Finance, Frank Werner IAJBS)
Many faculty are asking who has already changed courses built on a new vision of the sustainable business, what is the content, and what were the results.
Participants questioned whether changing a single course is worthwhile if the university does not support it with changes in other parts of the curriculum. (e.g., if neoliberal economics is still taught in a business school, is it confusing for students then to take a course in regenerative capitalism or value-centered marketing?)
Participants say many colleagues are confused about whether we should be teaching about sustainability rather than transforming business education to be based on and grounded in creating a socially and environmentally sustainable world.
Workshop participants have discipline-specific ideas about changing curriculum and want to meet with others in the discipline to collaborate and build consensus on the best sustainable concepts to take forward.
Participants would like to see consensus from academic leadership about the core concepts that an innovative sustainability-focused business degree program would include.
Participants asked whether a new sustainable business curriculum would appeal to students focused on getting a job and paying off debt.
These comments reflect an on-going need for faculty and others to easily connect with colleagues within disciplines or academic roles and to access resources that are directly applicable for changes they wish to implement. While several such networks exist, it is often time-consuming to find the right resource or connection.
Virtual Open House Conversations
In 2019, GMN began to hold monthly, hour-long discussions with global leaders in sustainability and education. Participants were invited to be in small groups would so all would have a chance to contribute or comment. Discussions were recorded by permission and then shared via the globalmovement.net website or YouTube. Key themes derived from these conversations include:
Many academic thought-leaders agree there is an urgent need to change business curriculum to be based on corporate environmental and social justice.
Much sustainable business curriculum development is taking place on a global basis.
Those who are creating business-related curricula are not fully aware of others in their field pursuing the same work.
Processes, models, and frameworks for creating new curricula have been researched and published but many are largely unaware of these papers.
Participants expressed frustration at being able to keep track of diverse curricula changes at the program, discipline, and course levels. They would like to see better integration of pedagogy.
Participants expressed interest in being informed of further progress.
5.3.Primary Research Recommendations
Based on information gathered from participant observation and secondary literature scan research, we see the need to conduct primary research to accomplish two objectives:
Identify and quantify the willingness, feasibility, and resource needs of academic deans and college policymakers to transform business curricula and broadly implement new programs.
Identify needs of faculty and subject matter experts necessary to connect with others and build critical mass to change business disciplines and programs.
To accomplish objective #1, we anticipate conducting formal executive interviews with deans and college policymakers. To accomplish objective #2, we anticipate conducting a qualitative survey with faculty and curriculum developers already working to transform business curriculum areas.
By identifying and quantifying specific needs from each of these groups, we expect to determine what kind of network, financing, or other resources will help the transformation of the business curriculum move forward quickly. Through this paper, GMN seeks ideas and recommendations from colleagues regarding the type of primary research that could help achieve the objectives set forth.
We provided a summary of primary and secondary data related to actions currently in progress to transform business education to address global social and environmental crises. In sharing these data, we seek to inspire, encourage, support, and collaborate with others to transform talk and ideas into applied academic action. We have also identified additional primary research that could be conducted and would provide additional data to support creating a path forward.
Global problems identified by the Jesuit Task Force on Ecology in 2011 have only become more pronounced and urgent today. Academic organizations and deans of business schools, particularly Jesuit business schools, are invested in building a more just society. There is broad agreement among business leaders and business educators that new practices and pedagogy must lead those efforts. Solid groundwork and resources related to sustainability have been developed by UNPRME, AASHE, IAJBS, and others.
GMN’s secondary and primary data revealed two important elements that may affect the transformation and implementation of business education: system intervention point and change agent leadership.
System intervention point: We are members of an interconnected and mutually dependent global community. For our species to survive, we must transform how we produce, distribute, and consume the goods and services needed to flourish, and by whom and for whom we do so. We must determine what global political-economic-social-environmental-cultural systems will ensure that all flourish with no one left out. Business education is only one intervention point for transformation. However, by transforming traditional business subjects (finance, economics, marketing, accounting, and others) into courses fully aligned with the need for a sustainable/flourishing/regenerating world, those in academia can contribute significantly to creating a sustainable and just society.
Evolution of the change agent leader: Our primary and secondary data reveal how difficult it is for deans to break away from their primary tasks to become leaders of the required transformation efforts in their schools. Our information also reveals substantial innovative work is taking place by many other “sustainability champions” among faculty, business leaders, students, and administrators. These sustainability champions have developed courses, and business programs conducted research, and collaborated with businesses to build models and curricula.
Despite the efforts of these change agents, systemic commitment and collaboration are lacking. Many educators are still unaware of how very serious global warming and global unsustainability are and many cling to the profit-first paradigm for business. They often teach old principles developed in the past, a very different, business climate. Other educators do not realize that resources exist for addressing global problems, or that collaboration in dealing with them is possible. That situation often leads to duplicated efforts within disciplines rather than collaborative or iterative innovation. Some sustainability champions are waiting for direction from university leadership. Others believe that we are not acting quickly enough and cannot wait.
Our research data show that while great strides have been made in developing sustainable business concepts, it is difficult to find the right information or resources when needed. Faculty resources, compensation programs, and accreditations have not been revamped to enable innovative development. Access to existing programs or instructional material that represent a sustainable paradigm needs to be easily available for business faculty and students to contribute to the rapid prototyping of new curricula.
Research summarized in this paper shows that more collaboration with specific directives on revising business disciplines to address global challenges is urgently needed. The information gathered so far indicates a critical need to build and expand a network for sharing ideas, results, research, and collaboration among all engaged in business education.
We conclude that significant attention, resources, and leadership must be immediately applied to the effort of transforming business education to create a more just and sustainable society. GMN’s goal is to work with others to transform business education by encouraging more rapid innovation collaboratively shared and implemented.
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