Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Professor Landrum of Chicago’s Loyola University, Business Schools are spending too much effort teaching students how to run a profitable business.
US business schools failing on climate change
April 21, 2017 5.34am AEST
Author: Nancy E. Landrum, Professor of Sustainable Business Management, Loyola University Chicago
Coca-Cola and Nestlé have recently closed facilities, and Starbucks is bracing for a global shortage of coffee – all due to effects from climate change. Climate change impacts every resource used by businesses: from agriculture, water, land and energy to workers and the economy. No business will be untouched.
As a researcher and professor of business management, I have found that sustainable business courses across the U.S. do not align with the scientific consensus that we need radical change to avert disastrous consequences of climate change.
These future business leaders are not being prepared for the climate change challenges their companies are certain to face.
Reducing carbon emissions is the most common sustainability goal for companies. Many companies do this by becoming more energy efficient and reducing waste. But, as a whole, corporate sustainability efforts are best described as business as usual, with only small gradual improvements being made. Businesses are simply failing to grasp the deep change that is needed.
Companies need to work within this scientific “carbon budget.” There is, indeed, a small group of businesses setting ambitious targets that are consistent with the science.
For our research, we studied 51 of the hundreds of business programs in the U.S. We found that when an introductory sustainable business course is offered, it often remains an elective in the business school curriculum. Only a few business schools offer minors, majors, certificates or graduate degrees in sustainability management or sustainable business.
The 51 schools in our study are actually at the forefront of training students in environmental sustainability – that is, compared to the majority of business schools, which do not offer sustainability coursework at all. What we found is that even these schools are doing a poor job of preparing their students for the future.
Future business leaders must be equipped with the scientific understanding of how climate change is currently impacting business, how it will impact business in the future and the profound change that is required of business and industry.
Professors of these courses should assign readings that communicate the scientific need for businesses to operate in a more sustainable way to address climate change. Such readings should note that “substantial changes” in policies, institutions and practices are required.
Such education can help shift the focus and motivation for corporate sustainability away from legal compliance and corporate profit toward a need to repair the environment and live in balance with the natural world.
Nancy’s study referenced by The Conversation;
Content trends in sustainable business education: an analysis of introductory courses in the USA
Nancy E. Landrum , (Quinlan School of Business and Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Brian Ohsowski, (Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
This study aims to identify the content in introductory business sustainability courses in the USA to determine the most frequently assigned reading material and its sustainability orientation.
In total, 81 introductory sustainable business course syllabi reading lists were analyzed from 51 US colleges and universities. The study utilized frequency counts for authors and readings and R analysis of key words to classify readings along the sustainability spectrum.
The study reveals the most frequently assigned authors and readings in US sustainable business courses (by program type) and places them along the sustainability spectrum from weak to strong. In total, 55 per cent of the top readings assigned in the sample advocate a weak sustainability paradigm, and 29 per cent of the top readings advocate a strong sustainability paradigm.
This study focused on reading lists of introductory courses in the USA; cases, videos and supplemental materials were excluded, and the study does not analyze non-US courses.
The findings of this study can inform instructors of the most commonly assigned authors and readings and identify readings that align with weak sustainability and strong sustainability. Instructors are now able to select sustainable business readings consistent with peers and which advance a weak or strong sustainability orientation.
This is the first research to identify the most commonly assigned authors and readings to aid in course planning. This is also the first research to guide instructors in identifying which readings represent weak versus strong sustainability.
Read more: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2016-0135
What I find most objectionable about Professor Landrum’s point is her demand that sustainability courses be a mandatory component of business education.
Students have the choice of whether to sign up to sustainability electives. Studying sustainability might be useful if the student wants to work for a green champion like Apple Corp. But it probably makes more sense to study business, if the student wants to work for a normal company.