Thursday, January 19, 2012

Incorporating Sustainability into Management Education

Some thoughts, in no specific order:

  • Make socio-environmental concerns and ethical fibre a non-negotiable part of admissions filter. If the primary reason why a student is joining an MBA course is to land up with a lucrative job, mere two years of teaching cannot change that mindset.

  • Review program syllabi and course structure to align them to sustainability goals. For instance, a large number of courses in the management school syllabi focus on enhancing and managing “financial wealth”. This focus needs to be balanced by (1) highlighting the positive or negative impact the financial wealth creation had on society and environment, and (2) with equal number of courses (if not more) which focus on enhancing “social capital” and ”environmental capital”.

  • One of the reasons, perhaps, why students fail to appreciate the socio-environmental issues as impacting businesses, is because there are very few academic social science inputs in the course-work. While “Economics” (which provides a grounding in enhancing financial wealth creation) is taught, there is no “social science” dept., which provides a grounding in subjects like Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, etc. This is particularly important in India, where increasingly most students come with a science/ engineering degrees, and increasingly solving business problems requires grounding in social science disciplines.

  • Learning happens not just in classrooms, but also through living experience in the campus. What students see around them, in terms of how the institute is managed, can be a powerful learning message. Therefore, if the institutes themselves use green technology (solar power, rainwater harvesting, etc.) and recycle paper, books, etc., that itself will be teaching sustainability by example.

  • Similarly, the institutes can themselves become example of “inclusive development” by promoting positive discrimination in their internal practices.

  • Management schools can run allied community and environment-based programs, and make engagement by students a part of learning (perhaps evaluation, too) for the students.

  • Introduce compulsory internship with a social/development sector organization part of the program structure. This would expose them to other options for careers which are more inclusive in approach and focus.
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