The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Strategic CSR - Sustainability MBAs

The article in the url below presents some interesting data:
"Sustainable-finance MBA graduates are finding a harsh reality when they enter the job market: Even a sustainable-investing firm might not want to hire someone with a sustainable MBA. Although every MBA program in U.S. News & World Report's top 10 offers its students a chance to learn sustainable business, social enterprise, or socially responsible investing practices, many candidates are finding that employers prefer a more generalized MBA graduate when it comes time to hire."
As Erika Karp, CEO of Cornerstone Capital Group (a sustainable finance firm that "has never hired someone with a sustainable MBA") states:
"Just studying sustainable investing or sustainable finance or sustainable business is missing the mark. … Studying finance, investing, and business is great. But the idea of having some type of false bifurcation—a segregated sustainable MBA—concerns me. … I worry a lot about the current perception that sustainability is a niche, nice-to-have, or even a detractor from real business, real finance, and real economics. … There are large institutions that still see sustainability as a box-ticking exercise. Some see it as exclusively risk-mitigation, some as just a branding, reputation, or marketing exercise. I am concerned that the idea of having a sustainable MBA would not dispel these views. I'm hoping and I'm aspiring that one day we won't talk about sustainable finance; we'll just talk about finance."
This raises an issue that is core to Strategic CSR –that the ideas and values that underpin this management philosophy need to be integrated into the core functional classes of the business school and not treated as a standalone exercise. There is no established career path for a CSR or sustainability officer. Mostly, people who enter these positions have expertise in a core functional area and a passion for integrating CSR throughout the firm.
This is as it should be because it is impossible to separate ethics and morals from any aspect of human behavior. Everything we do involves an ethical and moral component and, more often than not, tradeoffs among ideals. These same tensions and pressures exist in business. All aspects of a firm's operations, to some degree, have moral, ethical, or value-laden inputs and outputs. While we may agree or disagree about whether an employee should be paid a living wage or a minimum wage, for example, there is no doubt that the decision is consequential for the firm, the employee, and for the society in which both exist. As a result, there is an ethical and moral perspective from which the problem can be addressed and about which we can disagree—but, it is not separate from the core operational decision. These same considerations and conflicts extend to all aspects of business. As Howard Bowen said back in 1953:
"When a businessman [sic] decides whether or not to produce a new product or service, he is helping to decide the range of products available to customers. When he decides whether or not to purchase new plant and equipment, he is helping to determine the rate of economic progress and is influencing the level of employment and prices. When he decides to close down a plant or to move it to another location, he may be affecting the economic future. When he decides to build up or reduce inventories, he may be contributing to inflation or accelerating recession. When he changes his wage policy or dividend policy, he may be influencing both the level of employment and the degree of justice achieved in our distribution of income. When he uses the newspaper, radio, and television for advertising or public relations, he may be influencing moral and cultural standards. When he introduces new personnel policies, he may be contributing toward cooperation and understanding between labor and management or he may be reinforcing existing tensions and frictions. When he transacts business in foreign lands, he may be contributing to international tensions or to international understanding." (p4)
You will know a business school is serious about CSR/sustainability when the specialization is dropped and these ideas are incorporated into the core functional classes of the curriculum.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site:
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Sustainability-Finance MBAs Struggle to Find Jobs
By Amanda Albright
July 24, 2015
Bloomberg Businessweek