Importance of Social Responsibility in MBA Education

Corporate Social Responsibility is not an easy term to define, as it is an umbrella term overlapping with some, and being synonymous with other, conceptions of business-society relations, such as sustainability, corporate citizenship and others. It has clearly been a dynamic phenomenon and therefore its definition is constantly evolving as well. CSR encompasses the economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic expectations that society has of organisations at a given point in time. It is encouraging to see how IMT Ghaziabad is being the torch bearer among private B Schools of India when it comes to incorporate Social Responsibility in Management education and promote it as in integral part of the learning system.

 

Importance of Social Responsibility in MBA Education

While the literature on CSR is growing rapidly, construct of CSR remains the most comprehensive and respected in the literature, and in textbooks used in business schools. It is identified and analysed economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic dimensions of corporate responsibility. Corporations must maximise profits in order to survive and also comply with law, make fair and impartial decisions, satisfy social values, and make social contributions to improve societal welfare.

Based on these aspects, the stakeholder approach was proposed, which can help companies understand which stakeholders they are responsible for and how to prioritise these stakeholders on the four levels of social responsibility. Stakeholders can be defined as any individual, group or institution who is affected, positively or negatively, by the achievement of an organisation’s purpose. As such, a firm’s stakeholders can include its employees, shareholders, suppliers, consumers, governments and the community. The discourse on CSR remained within these boundaries until in 2011, Porter and Kramer suggested a new paradigm for thinking of the relationship between the business sector and society. The authors suggested moving from CSR to CSV: creating shared value, which is not about businesses acting as charities, but rather businesses acting as businesses (with their knowledge, resources and tools) to create shared vision with the society in which they operate and to co-achieve this vision.

Responsible Management Education

Business schools have a responsibility to provide practitioners with training in the basics of ethics, which would ideally act as a catalyst to stimulate socially and ethically managed business organisations and IMT Ghaziabad is among the leaders in Private B Schools to act as a catalyst for the same, in addition to non Private B Schools like IIMs , FMS Delhi and NITIE Mumbai.

Several studies were conducted to examine the question of social responsibility education, and its components, especially ethics. While business students may need training in ethics and moral reasoning more than most other students (as they face ethical challenges and dilemmas in managing), they do not always receive such education, and if they do it is usually not mandatory. Although there is extensive research on CSR, it is usually not included in the business curricula.

A more recent study showed that from the perspective of curriculum coordinators, there was a significant gap between current and normative levels of instruction on ethics and social responsibility in business school curricula. Social responsibility was rated lower than ethics by all department coordinators. On the other hand, it was investigated how the Financial Times top 50 Global MBA programs addressed the topics of ethics, CSR, and sustainability. They found that a high percentage (84%) of top MBA programs required an ethics or corporate social responsibility component in their curricula, many as a stand-alone course or a combined course of ethics and sustainability issues.

The question is no longer whether CSR should have a place in the business curricula, but how it should be incorporated and what role business schools play within the wider “business in society” debate. Students, the marketplace, the community, government and civil society are increasingly demanding that business schools rethink their traditional role at three different levels. The focus has shifted from value preservation to value creation. There is a clear demand from business and students for research, education and training on CSR issues.

Business schools accreditation bodies such as EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA have recently begun to address ethics and CSR aspects as well. For example, AACSB Standard 15 now calls for business undergraduate degree programs to include learning experiences in ethical understanding, and for undergraduate and Master’s degree programs to include ethical responsibilities in organisations and society.

Even students in business schools around the globe have founded their own organisation, Net Impact, to enhance social responsibility amongst MBA graduates.

Students as stakeholders

From a stakeholder perspective (any individual who is affected by the achievement of an organisation’s purpose), students should be considered major stakeholders and to have their voice heard on the matter of CSR education. While we can tell from organisations such as Net Impact with 10,000 members that students have a growing interest in these issues, they are not often the focus of research in the debate around CSR education.

Reason why business schools do not change their curricula to become more socially responsible in market-driven MBA programs is that, curriculum size is cut to make a program more competitive, with the ethics course as one of the casualties. Another reason is that business schools believe that their stakeholders (including students) are indifferent to the subject matter beyond superficial inclusion or review. Furthermore, some studies demonstrated unethical perceptions and attitudes among students.

However, exposure to ethics in the curriculum had a significant impact on student perceptions of what should be the ideal linkages between organisational ethical practices and business outcomes. Gender based differences were found with female students having a higher expectation of what should be the ‘‘ethics practices and business outcomes’’ link. Some more recent studies indicate a change occurring in students’ attitudes, particularly among females. A substantial sample of business students reacted very positively to business school education on corporate conduct affecting social issues.

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