GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT THE CRISIS CAN TEACH MBA STUDENTS
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 10 Jun 2009
At the end of May, PRME (http://www.unprme.org/), a nonprofit organization that promotes the incorporation of social and environmental responsibility into post-graduate business curriculums with the participation of 229 business schools worldwide, held their first webinar on climate change. The webinar discussed how to integrate aspects of the climate change debate into postgraduate business education. The webinar is one of several projects the NGO created based on the Global Compact agreements (www.unglobalcompact.org/) where the six basic principles for the education of a responsible business person were established.
The webinar, along with other PRME initiatives, are proof that academic institutions are indeed concerned not only about short-term profitability and shareholder value, but also about the incorporation into the educational formation of future business leaders of long-term issues that affect the whole of society. But for many this is a bittersweet remedy after the financial crisis in which significant blame was laid on the irresponsible behavior of world financial leaders. “Isn’t it just a little suspicious, after all, that the sector that showed the greatest appetite for MBAs was the most grotesquely mismanaged? In fact, the economic crisis has exposed long-standing flaws not just in the modern approach to business education but in the very idea of business education," a Wall Street Journal blog reads.
The economic crisis appears to have stabilized and already many economists are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. But the damage incurred is enormous: billions of dollars evaporated, trust has disappeared and unemployment will remain painfully high for some time. Nonetheless, and at the risk of sounding naïve and overly optimistic, we can say the financial crisis itself is history.
On the other hand, as was stressed during the webinar, global warming is a catastrophe in the making and its effects may be far worse than the economic crisis.
Business is one of the principal culprits in the global warming disaster. An increase of economic activity in general and of industry in particular has serious environmental impacts. And, if the short-term profit attitude popular among financiers created the perfect storm that almost destroyed the world financial system in 2008, what can be expected from an issue that both threatens traditional business models and brings serious long-term consequences?
Business in general is quite reluctant to face the hot potato issue of global warming. Openly discussing environmental responsibility is a key to solving the problem and post graduate business students are an excellent means to this end. Graduate business students agree so themselves. According to an international survey (www.netimpact.org/perspectives) done by the NGO Net Impact (http://www.netimpact.org/) and the Aspen Institute (http://www.aspeninstitute.org/), an environmental and economics organization, 90% of interviewees (all MBA students) believe that businesses’ short-term vision is what led to the financial mess in the first place. Also, 78% believe that their programs should have more sustainability and social responsibility-related content and 88% believe that business should play a very important role in social and environmental issues.
The good news is that major business schools worldwide, including the best of Latin America’s, are taking part in this debate. However, it remains to be seen how long-term vision and social and environmental responsibility are incorporated into academic programs and more importantly, into student’s minds.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Jun 2009.
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