17 Jan 2012

Today becomes Tomorrow - Some notes and questions

Daniella Tilbury and Alexandra Ryan have written a very interesting paper to introduce a special issue of the Journal of Social Responsibility. The special issue focuses on the position of sustainability within business learning. It makes the case for Business Education for Sustainability. Given the power and influence that graduates of various MBA courses around the world are likely to have on the behaviour and lifestyles of others, some passionate advocacy for the building in of sustainability into business courses is very much needed. Tilbury and Ryan's paper threw up several questions for me, included below alongside some notes. I'd be very interested to read responses to them from SHED members and others who have read the article:

New things I found out:
1. That there is a One Planet MBA at Exeter

Things I liked:
1. That this special issue exists and that the conversation is happening.
2. The way they describe an inclusive view of Sustainability at bottom of p.138
3. The citing of Muhammed Yunus and Microcredit
4. Recognition that those who get a business education are some of those who go on to hold power and influence over the lives of many people.
5. Emphasis on the need to 'build in' not 'bolt on' sustainability.

Questions I have:
1. What is your opinion of the OECD Better Life Index and have you been following the ONS National Wellbeing consultation? Will either gain any real traction in the business world?
2. What's your opinion on the fact that the IUCN approach was to focus on 'the monetary value of nature' [ecosystem services] (p.139)? This is something that DEFRA have done recently too. Is this sensible in the way it commoditizes nature and re-inforces extrinsic values? The latter being particularly important when thinking about business education.
3. Can the 'fundamental ideological struggles involved in bringing sustainability into the business curriculum' (p.142) be overcome without profound changes in the ideology of the business world / Capitalist World? If not, where should efforts be focused?
4. Is Stephen Sterling's 'ecological intelligence' an important concept here? (As a related but usefully distinct one from Systems thinking?')
5. Students, who in a study cited on p.143 are reported as 'seeking stronger emphasis on sustainability' on business courses. I suspect there are a variety of motivations, so the questions here are quite rhetorical.
a. Is this because they want to be more prepared for the future (be more literate about Climate Change, Population growth, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, etc) and therefore more prepared for the threats and opportunities that will emerge?
b. Is it because they genuinely care about the negative impacts of business and want to minimise, rather than eliminate these (or know how to use CSR as PR)?
c. Is it because they see business as the only model, long-term, that can bring about change and genuinely want to run a 'Social Business' in the way that Yunus defines it?
6. Are the differences between 5a+b and 5c the difference between Education FOR and Education ABOUT Sustainability?

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