Business Schools for business and society

Business Schools must understand how they can contribute to the wellbeing of society, adopting an active stance, writes Loïck Roche, Director and Dean at Grenoble École de Management

On 11 December 2017, the then French Minister of Environmental Transitions and Solidarity, Nicolas Hulot, announced in a speech, at the Medef Employer Federation in Paris: ‘We [the French Government] are going to help companies evolve in terms of their social objectives, which can no longer be limited to earning profits without regard for working women and men, and without consideration for environmental consequences.’ 

His proposed French Pacte Law (action plan for business growth and transformation) was put forward, with the goal of helping to ‘reintegrate morality in capitalism’. 

To ensure financial objectives better support the greater good, the law will re-write two 200-year-old articles in the French Civil Code (articles 1832 and 1833, see box overleaf). 

The articles redefine a company’s role as simply  creating profit for shareholders. The proposed modifications will integrate social and environmental considerations. At the time of AMBITION going to press, the law was to be voted on in autumn 2018 and its primary actions could come into effect as early as 2019.

But, taking this news out of the context of the French arena, and into the wider global economy, could this development suggest that the era of the Chicago School and one of its most noted economists Milton Friedman – who coined the phrase ‘money matters’ – is over? 

A reason for existence

The step change outlined above looks set to take business thought back to 19th and 20th century business magnate Henry Ford’s fundamental advice: ‘Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit, then also the business must die, for it no longer has a reason for existence.’

This gives us, as Business School leaders, the opportunity to position social responsibility as the foundation for business. 

The perspective that a company can no longer exist within a silo, but instead must be part of the whole, builds on the stakeholder theory developed by R Edward Freeman, an American philosopher and Professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

His theory suggests companies should not only consider their own interests but also the interests of all concerned parties (employees, customers, stakeholders, leaders, and so on). This helps to improve the wellbeing of society. Corporate social responsibility is an example that was born from the concrete application of this approach.

To implement these changes, and to ensure companies accept that they must go beyond their mission (to manufacture products or deliver services) and participate in a larger responsibility, Business Schools have a primary role to play as they train future managers and leaders and offer continuing education for working professionals who are ready to question their practices.

Beyond the ‘usual goals’ of the Business School

The first step in taking on this new role, is to go beyond a Business School’s usual goals (for example ‘training the leaders of tomorrow’ or ‘ranking in the top 10, 20 or 30’) in order to ask: ‘why train the leaders of tomorrow?’, ‘what do the leaders of tomorrow need to be able to do?’, and ‘why attempt to be in the top 10, 20 or 30 Business Schools?’

The second step is a result of this exploration: in addition to working through these questions with students, professionals and employers, Business Schools have to consider the bigger picture. 

Much like what is expected of companies, Business Schools have to understand how they can contribute to the wellbeing of society. As a result, Schools are preparing and implementing a process of change to become ‘schools for business for society’. 

It is a positive sign to see that what was once the perspective of a few has become a generally shared vision. While not all Business Schools are currently working in this way, they are all headed in the same direction and that’s a great result.

It might not seem like much, but there is an important difference between saying ‘we want to train the leaders of tomorrow,’ and ‘we want to train the leaders of tomorrow to do something special’. 

It’s vital to understand that this concept of doing ‘first, for society’ is, in fact, quite complicated to implement because it’s a reversal of traditional values. For Business Schools,  it means that if we only carry out our mission to offer training and support research we will miss our fundamental objective. And, if we miss this fundamental objective, we will still be doing something positive – but the current stakes are so much higher.

In addition to working with students and companies, Business Schools have to offer a vision and solutions for major global challenges (issues surrounding end of life, climate change, energy transition, immigration crises, terrorism, epidemics, corruption, child exploitation, human rights, women’s rights, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence).

The challenge for Business Schools

The mission is for Business Schools, and higher education in general, to continue working in their particular fields of expertise, while contributing to solving the world’s larger challenges. They have to go beyond their comfort zone; in other words, move beyond their limited focus on business, in order to understand and explore the complexities of the world. 

It’s a change that will enable them to provide support in overcoming the major hurdles faced by society.

When Business Schools take the step to work on major societal problems, they open the door to risks and are forced to take sides. By this, I mean that Business Schools do not currently think (and this is a simple fact, not provocation). Their researchers and professors think, but the Schools themselves do not. They ‘describe’ and often they do so after the fact. This was illustrated by the 2008 financial crisis – no Business School anywhere in the world predicted or anticipated this crisis. In other words: Schools do not think, they do not take sides, they do not act.

For example, what does Harvard Business School think about problems impacting on society? Does Harvard voice an opinion, not on immigration, but on what we should do in concrete terms about immigration and immigrants? Going further, if a School’s opinion supports immigrants, does the School work actively to welcome them?

Another example that might offer better perspective is the case of US President Donald Trump. The researchers and professors at Harvard voiced many negative opinions before and after the election of Trump. But in concrete terms, what has Harvard done about it? Nothing. 

If the School had an editorial policy, if it truly wanted to change the world, then Harvard wouldn’t simply denounce policy or take sides. The School would act in concrete terms. How? For example, by setting up locations in the US where people voted overwhelmingly for Trump. 

That would be going beyond its comfort zone in Cambridge, Massachussets, and entering the playground where things are taking place. To understand societal changes, events and facts, it’s important for Business Schools to be ‘external’ and to maintain a certain impartiality. But if you want to change things – and to have an impact – you have to be where the action is. While Business Schools have been limited to describing and explaining, they now also have to (and I do mean ‘also’, not  ‘instead’), state their aims, choose sides, communicate and convince. 

They have to act, which is at the heart of being engaged and inciting change within the world. In this way, Schools can help federate the business world and public institutions in order to work together on important human values and the goal of companies: to perform and create profit for all concerned parties, thereby improving our shared social fabric and contributing to the common good.

Loïck Roche is Director and Dean at Grenoble École de Management (Grenoble Business School). Coming from a corporate background, he worked for 10 years in France and internationally as a consultant in the field of human resources.

Applying original thinking to business

Business Schools must encourage independent thinking and bravery in their students to help prevent future financial crises, says Fiona Devine OBE, Head of Alliance Manchester Business School. Interview by Jack Villanueva and David Woods-Hale

What were the key points of your presentation at AMBA’s 2018 Global Conference for Deans and Directors? 

I wanted us all to reflect on the global financial crisis of 2008 because the causes and consequences of that crisis are still being felt today and will be for some time. 

I wanted us to think about its impact on the world with a particular focus on leadership and management education. We have to produce the leaders of tomorrow who still take issues of corporate governance very seriously. There are many examples in the business world and in all aspects of life in which we have to think about fraud, accountability, corporate governance and how we address those issues. 

In light of that, how do you think Business Schools should be preparing MBAs to be leaders of tomorrow?  

Business Schools should be producing well-rounded people. By that, I mean people who understand business in the wider context – the social, economic and political environments in which businesses are operating. 

They need to understand this external environment as well as the environments of the organisations in which they’re working.
I think business leaders of the future need to understand how to manage change, how to lead change, and how to deal with risk and uncertainty. 

How can we be sure that the skills that are currently being taught are the right tools to safeguard against another financial crisis?

We’ll only know that when there isn’t another one. 

I don’t suppose we’ll never have crises in the future. But there should be people who will have the independence of mind to step up and say when there is uncertainty about issues. It doesn’t have to be a big crisis for people to draw attention to something. It’s about having the independence of mind and the courage and bravery to say something different – and not be part of group think. It’s about reflecting on and challenging things that come along if they don’t feel right. 

Do you think MBAs are being taught the necessary skills to succeed? 

I would hope so, as a Business School Dean. They will be taught what’s needed if the curriculum is up to date. An old curriculum doesn’t serve anybody, so we want an academic community that is abreast of the latest developments in the world of business and how it’s changing; and always bringing theory and practice together. 

Our strapline in the Business School in Manchester is ‘original thinking applied’ and it is really about defining theory and practice. Theory is often speculative and not grounded; it’s about connecting this to practice and this is very important and I know that many Business School Deans aspire to achieve it. 

How important is the continuation of learning after achieving an MBA? 

It’s hugely important. We all talk about it and we know that in a world of change, risk and uncertainty, it’s important to have the space to step out of your organisation, find a platform to talk to people about issues and challenges and get advice. 

Executive education and continuing professional development provide that space for you to do that. It’s easy when you’re in an organisation to think you’re the only person facing these problems and you’re the one who has to come up with novel solutions, but often when you join an executive education programme you’ll find yourself confronting similar dilemmas and challenges so it’s good to have those conversations and join that collective discussions about the best ways forward. 

In what ways have Business Schools adapted sustainable leadership into their programmes? 

Sustainable leadership is to do with resources and how you use them efficiently and effectively for the long term. One of our preoccupations is with environmental sustainability – but there are other forms – and in Manchester we have scholars working in this area. 

For example, there are lots of discussions at the moment about the need to move to a low-carbon future, but how do organisations get there? It’s a huge transition, especially if you’re a dominant player in a particular market. How do we get there? This has to be a core part of the curriculum [in Business Schools] whether it’s in the MBA or electives on specialist masters or undergraduate programmes. There’s a high demand for these programmes from students. 

What are some of the innovative teaching methods being used to prepare the leaders of tomorrow? 

Teaching has changed considerably over the past 10-20 years, most notably because of new technology. The days when you would go into a lecture for an hour of being talked at, as a passive audience member, are long gone. 

Technology has allowed us to do amazing things in the classroom and that learning engages students a lot more. It’s not about passive learning, even in large lectures. Material can be presented in innovative ways, using apps and gamification, to help people learn and think in active ways. 

Is the need for innovation a major challenge that Business Schools face? 

Like any other organisation, Business Schools have to think about change, evolution and relevance. Business Schools have to be useful to the business world, serving local as well as international communities. 

The biggest challenge is the politics of today – will the world remain as international as it has been for the past 20 years? Will we embrace people of all nationalities moving around the world and studying at Business Schools? Will people still feel comfortable to do this as the politics of the world changes? 

Which is the bigger issue for Business Schools: the volatile economic environment or barriers to student mobility? 

International mobility is important, not only for the Business School world but education in general. The academic world has enjoyed a surge of interest from students coming to Business Schools from all around the world and it would be shame if we lost that confidence people have to travel. 

We’ve got to think about keeping students up to date with current debates about politics, looking at international relations in terms of trade, how countries collaborate with each other, and all those sorts of issues. These are important for understanding businesses and what happens in the business world.

What innovations have you seen in Business Schools that have the potential to change the way businesses do things? 

There are lots of things out there and even as a Dean of a Business School, you hardly know the breadth of innovations happening in your own School. 

I’ve been interested in knowledge-transfer partnerships, in which Schools work with organisations. I have a number of colleagues working with legal companies at the moment, around legal tech. They’re exploring changes happening with legal technologies, how that’s disrupting the legal world and also how data is disrupting this sector, in the same way as fintech has disrupted the finance sector. 

Academics are bringing their expertise to the areas of solving business problems and helping companies through this. It’s important to be useful. 

How can a Business add value to a corporate with which it’s working? 

There are many ways we can work with corporates. Business Schools act as a platform to bring people together to discuss important topics. 

Manchester Alliance Business School recently held a talk on the industrial strategy in the UK, bringing people together to talk about this. What was gratifying about this event was that people were sharing business cards with each other. We can be a place where big ideas are discussed and we can bring solutions to problems as well.

Fiona Devine OBE is Head of Alliance Manchester Business School and Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester. 

Creating responsible citizens to lead organisations to sustainable success

Preparing MBAs to lead sustainable economic growth is the core task of Business Schools, argues Professor Percy Marquina, Director General, CENTRUM PUCP, the Graduate Business School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Interview by David Woods-Hale

What do you think differentiates the MBA at CENTRUM PUCP?

When students search for a Business School at which to study their MBA, they look for prestige, a high-quality academic programme and networks. At CENTRUM PUCP, we possess and offer these elements to students. But we offer more than that.

We prepare our students for the future by creating responsible and socially committed leaders, who think, decide, and act based on principles. We believe in an holistic form of education that enables students to assimilate the knowledge they require to lead companies based on the experiences they have shared in our classrooms and in their lives. 

Our programme also provides students with the human skills demanded by companies, such as time management, task prioritisation, complex problem solving, the ability to train others and to build sustainable networks.

With reference to Latin America in particular, why is it still vital to develop world-class business education? 

Globalisation and interconnectedness are growing at an exponential rate; every day it becomes evermore important to understand that our actions have far-reaching impacts. As technology advances, it will become easier to reach new audiences, but it will be more important for professionals to acknowledge that competition is no longer local, but international as well.

What innovative teaching methods have you come across that are used to create the leaders of tomorrow?

Emerging, disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and machine learning are changing teaching methods in Business Schools and can help us to adapt teaching to each student’s learning needs. For example, at CENTRUM PUCP, we use IBM Watson Personality Insights analytics to understand and predict the personality characteristics of our students. Using these results, we take a more humanistic approach to our MBA programme.

How important is sustainability, and in what ways have Schools adapted this into their programmes? What does sustainable leadership looks like?

Sustainability is crucial nowadays and we try to instil this in our students. By sustainability, we mean that professionals should meet society’s needs, preserve humanity, increase opportunities for others and make their organisations’ marketing, finance and human resources departments sustainable. We guide students to take decisions that put society’s needs ahead of profits. 

What are the biggest challenges facing global Business Schools today?

The biggest challenge for Business Schools is helping to create responsible citizens. We must be able to develop competent professionals while guiding students through a process of social sensibility. And we must also be competitive. 

When facing global competition, we find that every School that has been able to obtain good results and trained their professional workforce is making a name for itself in the areas in which it excels. 

Gone are the days when professors used to teach traditional subjects in a static way; the time is ripe for a new model of professor who is able to inspire students’, teaching and learning from them in a constantly evolving environment that demands greater skills and vision in order to develop social innovators. 

At CENTRUM PUCP we have developed the NeuroManagement-Lab initiative, with the objective of identifying students’ main leadership competences and areas of development. Through this programme, we enhance the user experience, helping to personalise education, shaping skills and helping students to discover their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

How do you instil the thirst for global mobility and an international mindset in your students? 

Whenever I step into a classroom or I encounter a student, the message I always try to communicate is a simple one: do what makes you happy and you will lead the way. Having visited so many places, I have confirmed this theory: students overachieve when they are able to work and pursue their goals in something that makes them happy. 

If you are able to identify and understand your passions, your thirst and commitment towards your goals will increase every day and your competition will become global. 

You will innovate, search and look for solutions to questions that have never been asked before because your thirst for knowledge will push you to think more broadly. During their MBA, our students are exposed to global experiences such as international faculty, peers, global case studies, international study stages, business programmes abroad and so on.

You urge your students not to put limits on their goals – can you share some insight into how MBAs can take theory into practice? 

Through many case studies, we teach students the ways firms and managers have faced and solved unexpected problems. I advise them to stick to their principles and the message of their organisation. 

If your organisation has a distinctive characteristic or stands for something, wear it as your own personal badge of honour. 

One story that people can relate to is Apple’s. Steve Jobs, former Co-Founder and CEO of Apple, believed in innovation and in the superior quality and practicality of products. He used to say: ‘Apple products should be easy to understand. Everyone should know how to use them’.  

His team believed this, too – at a time when this was not expected – and created products accordingly. Acting in line with the beliefs of your organisation can help it differentiate itself in a saturated or extremely competitive market. 

At CENTRUM PUCP we promote entrepreneurship as a way of creating innovative business models. Several start-ups are created every year by our students, and have a great impact on society. For example, three graduates from CENTRUM PUCP and three from the faculty of engineering PUCP were among the 15 finalists in the Cisoc Global Problem Solver Challenge. The talented Peruvians developed Pukio, an intelligent mechatronic system that generates clean water through the condensation of water vapour in the air. Collaboration is vital in an uncertain climate. 

How does your Business School link and work with other Schools, employers and alumni? 

Relationships are about co-operation, and co-operation is about progress. We challenge ourselves to establish partnerships with other Business Schools to provide the best each School can offer in a combined MBA or specialised master’s programme. 

We promote co-operation between our departments to allow the ideas and innovation to flow through the veins of our School. We create opportunities for alumni to collaborate with us so that we benefit from the skills and experiences of the professionals we create in our classrooms. Co-operation has grown in importance among Business Schools and it is yielding better results.

What would your advice be to other Business School leaders operating in such a volatile and uncertain world?

Education is not about outcomes. It is about the impact. At CENTRUM PUCP, we have a mission: educate to serve. We serve academia, the business world and wider society. But we are also here to educate people about sustainable development. 

We want people to learn to thrive in a competitive world. Business Schools should also follow suit: educating people to allow them to see the bigger picture and teaching professionals how to lead the departments within their organisations.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

I believe we are all more aware of the global challenges ahead than we were a couple years ago. We are in the process of acknowledging the impacts of our actions and the dangers of not doing so over the long term. 

Business Schools have taken advantage of this. We teach students to think about impacts on society and how our actions can be turned into positive outcomes for the greater good. 

Sustainability is both an individual responsibility and about teamwork: we all have to engage in the right actions to produce a positive impact. I believe Business Schools are preparing people to provide sustainable and egalitarian economic growth.

Professor Percy Marquina is Director General at CENTRUM PUCP, the Graduate Business School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. He was previously General Manager of Rhone Poulenc and General Manager, Commercial Manager and Marketing Manager of companies related to the Richard O’ Custer group. Marquina holds PhDs from the Maastricht School of Management and the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in business administration and strategic business administration, respectively.

Building a responsible and inclusive future

Developing a mindset of continual learning for the future of work and inclusive leadership will underpin the MBA at Newcastle University Business School, explains its Director and Professor of Leadership and Organisation Studies, Sharon Mavin. Interview by David Woods-Hale

You joined Newcastle University Business School during a momentous year for the School as it celebrated 30 years of AMBA accreditation. What attracted you to the organisation? 

I was attracted by the stage of development of the School. It’s going through a period of growth and is expanding its presence with an additional building. It’s triple accredited and has world-class research, but at the same time there was an appointment of a new Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor, so there was an opportunity to join a brand new team and look at really embedding the Business School into the University and developing a vision around the future of work and leading on leadership. 

I previously led Roehampton Business School, University of Roehampton, London, as Director and before that I was at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, as Dean and Associate Dean Research.

At Newcastle University Business School, there is an opportunity to look at an interdisciplinary approach in terms of the stage of development of the Business School. The challenge facing Schools today is to prepare students and graduates for problems that are not just around business and management; to be able to take a more interdisciplinary approach to thinking and problem solving and to prepare business, management, economics, accounting and finance students, for the future of work, when we don’t know what that future will be. The jobs they will be doing in the future don’t actually exist now. 

In Newcastle, we have two national innovation centres (one in data and another in ageing) and integrating the Business School into the work of these centres is a fantastic opportunity to expose our students to further world-class research. 

What do you think draws prospective MBAs to Newcastle? 

When I joined the School, we were celebrating 30 years of AMBA accreditation and this is a testament to the Newcastle MBA. While it has changed and evolved, it’s still a very progressive MBA programme, which details a journey of transformation for the individual student, combined with innovative curricula, real-world interaction and the internationalisation of the programme on a global scale. For example, this year, our international study tour is to Brazil. 

We welcome students who are ready and committed to a journey of personal transformation and change, and offer them the knowledge, skills, and exposure to international experiences plus international approaches to business and management. 

What keeps people coming to us is a combination of our first-class reputation for academic excellence, high graduate employability and excellent student experience. It’s an all-round journey of personal transformation.

What skills do you think MBAs should be demonstrating upon graduation?  

We are in an ongoing dialogue with external organisations, our advisory board, our academic team, our students and employers, asking what a Newcastle University Business School graduate and post-graduate should know, and what they should stand for. 

In terms of key knowledge expectations, these would be the same as for any MBA graduate: being able to develop personal resilience; to thrive in complex and chaotic situations and those in which there is ambiguity; to make clear judgements based on information and evidence; being informed by a commitment to ethical corporate social responsibility; having a commitment to gender inclusive leadership, which will become increasingly important in our MBA; and being able to work individually and also as part of a team. 

Our corporate and organisational partners are talking to us about continual learning and they want people who can embrace change and accept that the MBA is not the end – they want people who want to learn for life. This means being prepared for the future of work, but also to learn, change and adapt in order to influence, lead and shape their future and their own future careers. This goes far beyond knowledge of business and management. 

How do you view ethical management? 

As part of our vision, we see ourselves as a globally renowned international Business School that is building a responsible future, through our graduates and post-graduates, for both business and society globally. It’s certainly a core value of Newcastle University around sustainability and responsible management. In the MBA, we have both a corporate social responsibility module, but also a commitment to ethical behaviour and personal values running all the way through. The Newcastle University Business School post-graduate has a strong understanding of their own personal values and what they stand for.

Do we need a new metrics system to measure MBA programme success? 

We would argue that there does need to be a new metrics system for measuring success, not least beyond international diversity, to include gender diversity and different elements of intersectionality for the type of cohorts we’re learning with. 

From my point of view, coming in as a new Director, one of our scholarships for next year will be for a woman, who will work with us exploring gender-inclusive leadership. This will be a scholarship that signals that women are very much encouraged to join our Business School. We know that all UK Schools have a long way to go regarding ‘gender on the agenda’ in all kinds of ways, as evidenced in Athena SWAN action plans. Gender equality is a core value of mine. We want to be explicit about our commitment to gender inclusive leadership. 

It’s not just about cohort size if you’re trying to bring a balance of international and gender diversity into the MBA learning environment. 

As a female Business School Director, do you feel like you are trailblazing the way for other women?

I’m the first woman Director at Newcastle University Business School. In my first semester, I think I made an impact on the academic group, because colleagues see my commitment to talking openly about the gender pay gap, gender inclusive leadership or gender on the agenda in curricula. I’m not afraid to have these discussions. 

I want to award a scholarship to a woman with aspirations who envisages a major transformational journey. I will be involved with that learning journey as a mentor and with the students on the programme and I’m hoping to make a positive impact. 

You’ve done some work with Board Apprentice Global Scheme on diversity. Can you explain some more about this?

It’s a not-for-profit franchise that offers an immediate solution to the lack of diversity in the boardroom because it is, in effect, a development programme for people and boards to develop experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Introducing diversity to company boards through an apprenticeship scheme.

I went through a selection process to become a board apprentice for a JP Morgan Investment Trust. I wouldn’t ordinarily have been in a position to have this experience. I’m in higher education, I’m from the north of England and I didn’t have any non-executive (NXD) board experience other than committees to do with higher education. I went through a selection process and joined the JP Morgan Claverhouse Investment Trust plc. 

I had the privilege of observing the board for nearly 18 months and joining board activity across the different methods that it uses to govern. I engaged with the Chair of the board, other directors, the fund managers, the board business and enjoyed learning more about the financial investment sector – including the AGM and meeting shareholders. 

This increased my experience of governance and knowledge as a NXD If I hadn’t recently moved into the Director role at the University of Newcastle, I’d have already applied for NXD with this new knowledge and experience and therefore offering diversity to other boards. 

The Board Apprentice offers people, who don’t necessarily have the ‘right’ knowledge and experience, opportunities for development. This programme looks at diversity beyond gender and encompasses ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, age, disability, personality and skillset. Simply by observing a board, an apprentice can change the dynamic within it. Through the chair, I was able to ask questions of the board offline to help understand and refine my own decision making. Having a board apprentice is a positive, committed action and adds to the diversity of established thinking within boards and increases the pool of people who are able to apply for NXD positions. 

I also met with the London Higher Group of Universities which has started a board apprentice journey. It’s working with corporate organisations, enabling people from universities to become NXDs and their councils and senates are engaging with board apprentices from the corporate sector. Universities require diversity on their senates and councils in the same way that FTSE firms do. Universities are not exempt, but it can be very challenging to reach outside the University community, to get the diversity you need. 

Board apprentice programmes build a pipeline of people who are ready for their first board position. Because of my subject area, I’d never worked in the finance sector in that level of depth and the opportunity allowed me such a good exposure to the sector, which benefited my own personal development.

Do you think there’s still too much talk and not enough action on gender inclusive leadership? 

Up until about six months ago, I would have said ‘absolutely yes’, but I think now, we’re hitting a tipping point of what has been acceptable and what’s not. This might be around the gender pay gap, sexual harassment, and the gendered representation in the media of women leaders – which has a major impact on socialising future leaders. 

The media shows Hilary Clinton or Theresa May as powerful women leaders, but are talking about what they wear or how they look. This is being challenged and becoming unacceptable. The backlash to the US presidency race will also be a part of the tipping
point I’ve just described. People are becoming more comfortable with calling out gender discrimination.  

You cannot be what you cannot see. We want students to think more critically about what they see when they see leadership images and how leaders are portrayed around them; some of these messages are so normalised, they don’t realise how sexist they are. 

One of my key next steps is to consider how to develop gender-inclusive leadership with men and women students, because change is not just the responsibility of women. 

Our students are letting us know when they see men-only guest speakers or panels and expect to engage with leaders and entrepreneurs of both genders. I use the term ‘gender inclusive’ because we need to pull the models apart, so everyone can relate to the terminology. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of Business Schools and business education? 

I feel very optimistic about business education that understands what we have to do now and in the future and is different to what we’ve done in the past. 

Providing personal development journeys that engage with the whole person rather than comprising knowledge transfer is a fantastic opportunity. 

From our point of view, in our School, we’ll be educating and developing for the future of work and leading on leaders for a future we can shape – this is a positive way of looking at massive change, continually. 

How do we prepare people to engage and learn in an unknown future of work

This will be about developing the knowledge, skills, values and open mind sets for a future we don’t even know yet. 

That’s a challenge I’m excited about.   

The field of change

Nino Zambadhikze, MBA graduate and Head of the Georgian Farmers Association, talks about her career journey, current goals and the need for greater investment in women in business

Nino Zambadhikze, Head of the Georgian Farmers Association, completed her MBA at Grenoble École Management in 2016 and was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the most innovative and social-minded leaders under 40. In an interview with David Woods-Hale, she talks about her career journey, her current goals and the need for greater investment in women in business.

Tell us about your career so far

Shortly after I graduated from the Humanitarian-Technical Faculty at Tbilisi Technical University, I went to New York to further my studies and took up a course in marketing.

I decided to launch my first business in the US. I took out a bank loan to buy up GAP jeans and send them to Georgia where my father’s friend was selling them in his shop. However, my father’s friend vanished, and I discovered there was no shop. This was my first failure.

I also recall becoming angry with my country. But I knew that if you jumped on a plane and flew just a few hours, an absolutely different life awaited. This was the biggest motivating factor in becoming an entrepreneur. 

After returning to Georgia, I still had to pay back the $20,000 loan I had in the US. My family had to sell everything in order to pay the money. These hard times lasted for almost a year, but in 1998, I started working as an interpreter for a Greek businessman operating in Georgia. I learned a lot from my employer; however, problems quickly arose as the businessman was forced to leave Georgia.

I found a job at an audit company in Tbilisi, where I met Beso Babunashvili, my eventual business partner. We started to export non-ferrous metals from Georgia and also opened a coffee house. In 2005, we launched the first three take-away coffee booths in Tbilisi.

One day in 2007, Beso went to Akhaltsikhe and bought two cows. This led us to launch a cheese production business. We submitted an application to the Millennium Challenge project and received US$125,000 in funding. Then I moved from Tbilisi to Akhaltsikhe and opened a farm. We created an agricultural company which is mostly in the milk-processing business, as well as animal-husbandry and food processing.

What does a typical day at the Georgian Business Zone look like for you?

I had already started my work with the Georgian Business Zone when I met Petre Tsiskarishvili, the Minister of Agriculture at that time. I told him I wanted to buy highly productive cows and start producing cheese. With the funds from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we started to build a milk-processing plant. The only problem was that we couldn’t find a technician with modern knowledge in milk processing and cheese production. So I travelled to Turkey to study the profession, and also became a food safety manager. 

When September came, the cows stopped producing milk. I thought the cattle needed fodder, so I took out another loan to build a fodder-producing plant. But it turned out that the problem was due to the genetics of the cows. We eventually built our farm with the help of the Cheap Credit Programme and now produce 400kg of cheese daily. We have 100 cows, 70 hectares of agricultural land, 300 hectares of pasture fields, a five-hectare apple orchard, and a fish farm too.

Mornings start very early in Tsnisi. After breakfast, I start to make the rounds at my businesses. After that, I go to my office where I take care of clerical tasks. In the evenings, I visit my friends and we drink coffee and talk. Days are long travelling from Akhaltsikhe to Tbilisi and back.

Tell us about your involvement with Invest For The Future (IFTF)

I am an Honourable Country Coordinator of IFTF for Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Greece. IFTF was designed to focus on improving the economic situation for women across Southern and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and was initiated by the US Department of State. The IFTF brought women together to foster development and overcome barriers of gender inequality. I believe that while women are doing a lot of work, they are not being recognised properly.

Women’s talent needs to be discovered. At the Farmer’s Association, we feature stories about new projects on our Facebook page, and magazines also feature stories about our members. I think increasing their visibility will increase their sense of responsibility, which will result in their success. This is important because women’s participation in business helps economic growth, but it’s being overlooked in the region.

Furthermore, employed women are predominantly in low-paying sectors and the gender pay gap is high. I believe this can be changed by promoting women’s entrepreneurship by boosting access to finance for female-led businesses, improving local banks’ ability to serve the female market and help female entrepreneurs’ access business advice.

What were the highlights of your MBA and how has it changed your career trajectory?

I believe there are three key components for success: take risks, have willpower and, to some to extent, consider every failure a success. My MBA taught me how to use theoretical knowledge, how to learn from my mistakes, the importance of time management, and how to achieve my goals.

My goals include increasing agricultural productivity, defending farmers’ rights, developing legislative proposals in the field of agriculture, and strengthening farmers’ social and economic conditions. My MBA can help me to achieve these goals.

As for how my MBA changed my career trajectory, I started watching out for opportunities which come with the constantly changing business environment. This made me more self-confident and a more competitive businesswoman.

What was the most useful thing your MBA taught you?

The most important skills you can acquire in Business School are the abilities to adapt, make the right decisions, become a real leader, and learn how to be a good in business. I reached a new level of confidence in my ability to make a decision with limited information. I learned that the difference between a great idea and great change is in the execution, but the person who comes up with a great idea is just as important.

The MBA is a pathway to global leadership – how do you address the cultural challenges?

As cross-cultural management compares organisational behaviour across countries and cultures and seeks to understand how to improve interaction around the world, I want to reduce the cross-cultural differences and raise awareness of these, in order to have better communication and cooperation in the workplace. To do this, employees have to know each other’s cultures and languages. This keeps employees integrated within the organisation so they cooperate with each other and attain shared goals.

It’s necessary to recognise different business cultures across the globe too. Every country follows a different management style and so managers have to take into consideration the key elements of each country, such as its religion and history.

How do you ensure your messages get to the right people in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment?

In a fast-moving world, the challenge is to retain a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This vision should be flexible in responding to unfolding situations but hold a consistent message. This means you need to be ready for change. Change is about survival but is especially necessary in organisations that wish to prosper in a VUCA environment.

Therefore, the question is what you are going to do to initiate change? What role are you going to assume? If you play the right role, then you and your organisation will survive for as long as the environment tolerates that role. A successful leader knows which role to play at what time, and knows when to change roles.

As people communicate in different ways, marketplaces are becoming busier and silos develop. How would you address this in business?

Execution of a project is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by top management. However, the right decision is one that can guarantee a long stay in the marketplace by ensuring maximum satisfaction of the consumer’s demands.

Organisations need to concentrate on quality, not on quantity, share technological achievements, and keep up with innovations and development. This way, they will gain the consumer’s confidence and become a competitive company in the world market.

What should responsible [and sustainable] leadership look like?

Sustainable leadership is about leading an organisation towards sustainable development, implementing socially responsible methods and acknowledging a shared responsibility for preventing the use of unjustified financial and human resources, and the violation of the environment. A good leader should involve employees in the company’s decision-making processes. 

Sustainability is moving to the core of business strategy. What are the skills you’d look for in your team of the future?

It’s important to have friendly team where everyone has equal opportunities for development. It’s crucial to have team members who express their thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly, and respectfully. Reliable team members are an important asset for any team, because they get work done. Also, good team players are active participants, fully engaged in the work of the team. They’re open to sharing their information, knowledge, and experience. 

A good manager knows the most valuable asset is the team. Sustainable business is created when each employee considers themselves part of the company. This means employees can work together to solve problems. They respond to requests for assistance and take the initiative to offer help.

What would your advice be to MBA students and graduates?

Make best use of this time, and gain theoretical knowledge and information about practical issues. Be results orientated and make an effort to achieve success in your career. Also, it’s important to ask questions until there are no more answers. After finishing each module during my MBA, I thought ‘that’s enough’, but that was exactly the time to move forward. Knowledge is the biggest investment you can have, and the practice is the most solid foundation. 

Do you think Business Schools and employers have sufficiently strong links?

Business Schools and employers have links, but it’s not enough. We all know how it should be but it doesn’t happen in real life. Business Schools have to keep up with modern trends and adapt their programmes to the latest innovations. I think it’s very important for Business Schools to be focused on giving their students more theoretical knowledge based on interesting and practical real cases. Obvious mismatches between Business Schools and employers occur when the Business School does not take into account the changing business environment. Also, when businesses are less involved with MBA programmes, their expectations for future employees’ skills are inadequate.  

As a successful female leader, what would your advice be to other aspiring women?

Never give up, never be afraid of the risk and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. 

I know the challenges women face every day because they’re ‘the weaker sex’. To achieve equality, we need more education, more support, more female involvement at governmental and non-governmental levels, and more women in leading positions. Especially, in terms of business, I would like women to have more educational programmes, more grants for projects, and more empathy from financial institutions.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business and the global economy?

Yes, business is not just a way to gain money but a way to impose social responsibility and care about environmental problems. 

Businesses need to do this to stay in the world market, and make a financial profit in the long term. 

Enhancing social innovation in Africa

With Africa’s population projected to grow to 2.4 billion by 2050, there is an urgent need for the emergence of more social innovators, operating at scale, to address pressing problems in sectors from education and healthcare to employment and housing, writes Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli

Oiginally labelled the ‘dark continent’ and largely unknown to the rest of the world, Africa is now being described as the ‘last frontier’. 

Following decades of slow and uneven economic growth, the average growth rate across African countries is estimated at 5%, and more than two-thirds of the countries in the region have enjoyed 10 or more years of uninterrupted growth. 

The majority of the countries are recognised as democracies and internal and cross-border strife has diminished significantly. An average African woman’s life expectancy rate has risen from 41 in 1960 to 57 years in 2017, and more than 70% of children are in school, compared to around 40% in 1970. Many of these advances can be linked to the work of a growing number of passionate and committed social innovators: individuals who have identified novel solutions to the continent’s most pressing problems that are affecting the masses. These innovators operate in the public, private and non-profit sectors and are concentrated in the health, education and energy landscapes, with a growing number emerging in financial services, agriculture and sanitation. 

Their work is being propelled by the rapid advances in mobile technology, which facilitates mobile health, mobile education, payment systems and mobile money. In addition, they are gradually being supported by a range of initiatives including innovation accelerators, hubs, prizes, and fellowships. 

The most popular Africa-based social enterprises include the African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University, Ashesi University, Bridge International Academies, One Acre Fund, Riders for Health and Sanergy. These organisations have received numerous local and global awards and prizes for their pioneering efforts, and have strong links to the international community, which has provided funding and support for their work. 

There is also a growing number of organisations operating on the African Continent, which are essentially home-grown initiatives with minimal global recognition. They include:

  • Action Health Incorporated established by Dr Uwem and Nike Esiet in 1999, to address the rising incidence of HIV / AIDS and teenage pregnancies in Lagos, Nigeria. Over a 10-year period, they designed and introduced sexuality and reproductive health curricula into public schools, fighting against the odds in a deeply religious society. Today, this curricula and its delivery has been adopted across the majority of the public schools in the country, and have played a key role in reducing HIV/AIDs and teenage pregnancies.
  • CLEEN Foundation founded by Innocent Chukwuma, was established in 1998 to address rising crime rates in Nigeria’s major cities and create bridges between the police and citizens. Faced with stiff resistance from both sides of the divide from the onset, CLEEN worked with the Nigerian Police Force to revive and strengthen its internal accountability mechanisms such as the Police Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) in six Nigerian states. It also encouraged the police force to make its processes open and transparent, which ultimately exposed the gross misconduct of many police officers, leading to the dismissal of more than 5,000.
  • IkamvaYouth in South Africa was established in 2003 by Joy Olivier and Makhosi Gogwana. The organisation equips students in grades 9, 10 and 11, from disadvantaged communities, with the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to access tertiary education and / or employment opportunities. These ‘learners’ eventually become volunteers and ultimately continue the cycle of giving back to the next generation of ‘learners’. IkamvaYouth operates in the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, and the Eastern Cape, reaching thousands of young people.
  • The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), was initiated in 2008 as a marketplace or platform that facilitates the trading of agricultural produce between buyers and sellers. It provides transparent price information for both farmers and buyers, and protects both farmers and traders from price drops and price hikes, respectively. ECX harnesses innovation, technology, and storage infrastructures to mobilise products from smallholder farmers and ensures product quality, delivery, and payment.

Challenges faced by social innovators

Social innovators operating on the African continent face challenges that are not unique to Africa, but are often more severe, with higher stakes. My interviews with more than 80 African social innovators have raised four critical shared challenges:

  • lack of credible data for local communities, countries, and regions, which slows down the processes for planning, piloting, and scaling social innovations and hinders the ability of key stakeholders to measure their impact on society. 
  • heterogeneity within and across countries, which includes significant diversity in colonial histories, language, religion, culture, community assets, and social development, essentially means that there is ‘no single story’. Innovations must be tweaked or significantly altered to enable scaling from one community to another, which is not only more expensive, but also slows the scaling process. 
  • fragmented ecosystems, in almost every sector, especially the agricultural, education and health landscapes, limit the ability of innovators to reach large numbers of people in record time. Consider the agriculture sector, where 85% of arable land in Africa is cultivated by farmers with less than two hectares. This essentially means that any intervention that wants to scale up in this sector can only do so by working with farmer clusters as opposed to individual farmers. The process of creating clusters of farmers, hospitals, schools, small and medium-sized enterprises, and other sectors, and building trust among
  • these groups, takes time and requires financial resources. 
  • significant talent, infrastructure and financing gaps which limit scaling. For example, only one-third of Africans living in rural areas are within two kilometres of an all-season road, compared with two-thirds of the population in other developing regions. This, in turn, makes it extremely difficult and expensive to extend healthcare, education, and agriculture innovations to communities in rural areas. Sadly, with underdeveloped distribution and marketing systems, social innovators essentially work along all aspects of the value chain, filling gaps that ordinarily would not exist in other markets to reach people.

Prerequisites for success

All social innovators need to invest in critical building blocks for success – rooted in sound management principles: clear missions, visions, and values. However, there are at least four prerequisites to establishing successful social innovations in the African context which deserve significant attention.

1 Compelling business models: Social innovators need to develop compelling business models, defined by six critical components: demand driven, measurable impact, simple, engages the community, leverages technology and low-cost. These six components differentiate initiatives which die at the pilot phase or when the donor funding ends, from initiatives that are sustainable and able to achieve scale, spanning communities and even countries. Innovations that are demand driven essentially meet the needs of individuals, who value the product or service and are willing to contribute their time and financial resources, regardless of how minimal, to obtain them. In addition, the innovators have determined the most cost-effective approaches to deliver at scale and developed effective systems and structures to support their scaling effort. They often use simple payment mechanisms using mobile technology and support from microfinance partners, where applicable. These tools are highly dependent on a robust data – tracking system to gauge impact and usage. Two examples from the energy sector that demonstrate the power of demand-driven and sustainable business models are M-KOPA Solar and Off Grid Electric, which both operate in East Africa. They provide solar solutions to more than 550,000 households using a pay-as-you go model, and have demonstrated the tremendous potential at the bottom of pyramid

2 Talent for scaling: Talent on the African Continent remains a huge constraint for all growth sectors given the weak education systems and the global opportunities that are available to the best and brightest. As a result, every social innovator needs to invest in attracting and retaining a dream team composed of mission-driven high achievers. They also need to invest in recruiting a committed and independent board of directors, and engage volunteers, short-term consultants, and fellows. Organisations such as EDUCATE! In Uganda and Sanergy in Kenya, have designed and implemented creative strategies for attracting, retaining, and developing talent. They have also invested in building a culture of innovation and excellence, which attracts individuals from the private sector to their organisations. 

They offer tailored training programmes, travel fellowships and significant job responsibilities for their team members and have also developed modular approaches for scaling talent. 

3 Funding for Innovation: There is a broad range of financing options available to social innovators in Africa, depending on whether they operate for-profit, nonprofit or hybrid organisations. These financing options range from fee-for-service and cross subsidisation to externally generated funds such as grants, awards, fellowships, challenge funds, crowdfunding, impact investments and loans. In addition, the funding landscape, especially for impact investments, has expanded dramatically over the past 10 years, with cities such as Nairobi hosting more than 60 impact investment funds and other investment vehicles, where only a few existed 15 years ago. In-spite of the plethora of funds, most local social innovators struggle to obtain financing for their ventures, while funders complain that they cannot find initiatives that are investment ready. Indeed, external funders are only interested in engaging with organisations that have strong credibility, governance structures, financial management systems and controls and can demonstrate the ability to use the funds to achieve results.

Social innovators operating in Africa have obtained financing work diligently to establish and communicate a strong business case and theory of change, backed by sound data that establishes a clear need and sustainable demand. They also amplify their impact work through creative communication strategies to raise broad-based awareness and effectively differentiate themselves. In addition, they demonstrate strong transparent systems and structures, a culture of ethics and accountability, attractive return on investment ratios and exit options for impact investors, where applicable.

4 Partnerships with key stakeholders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors: Social innovators cannot achieve impact and scale without cross-sector collaborations, rooted in shared values and a desire to achieve collective impact. This is especially relevant in highly regulated sectors such as health and education.

Sadly, there are few examples of partnerships in the African context, largely linked to significant distrust among actors, the intense competition for the perceived ‘small pie’ of resources and support structures and the fear of giving up control. Partnerships are also challenging in an environment where there is a high level of bureaucracy and red tape within government institutions which ordinarily should serve as catalysts for collaborations and innovations. In reality, social innovators who successfully collaborate in this context, actively map the ‘ecosystem’, determining which stakeholders can serve as champions, opponents or even beneficiaries. They then develop strategies for interfacing with all key actors, proactively shaping their ecosystems and forming strategic cross-sector collaborations that foster impact and scaling.

Preparing for The future

With Africa’s population projected to grow to 2.4 billion by 2050 – more than 70% under the age of 30 years old, with 60% in cities and towns – there is an increasing need for the emergence of more social innovators, operating at scale. These individuals will essentially need to develop creative and innovative solutions in education, healthcare, employment, sanitation, security, electricity, transportation, and housing to meet the needs of the people.

The social innovators will need also need critical leadership and management skills, as well as the talent, financing and partnerships required to surmount the obstacles they will face to pilot and scale interventions.

Indeed, Business Schools in Africa and around the globe will have to play a critical role in preparing this next generation of social entrepreneurs and innovators. 

The Bertha Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town is just one example of the numerous institutions in Africa and across the globe that are working to inspire, empower, and equip the social innovators.

I am convinced that the ability of more social innovators to pilot, establish and scale their initiatives to solve Africa’s most pressing problems will transform the continent and continue to ensure that Africa progresses from the last frontier to the brightest continent over the next decade.

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, Harvard MBA 1999; Wharton Undergrad 1995 is a serial social entrepreneur based in Lagos Nigeria. She is the founder of LEAP Africa – www.leapafrica.org, co-founder of AACE Foods Processing & Distribution Ltd. – www.aacefoods.com and co-founder of Sahel Consulting & Advisory Ltd – www.sahelcp.com. She is the author of – Social Innovation in Africa: A Practical Guide for Scaling Impact, published by Routledge in 2016.

Exploring the principles and value of strategic corporate social responsibility

Business Schools must play their role in developing business leaders who are responsible and ethical, argues Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Author of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility, in an interview with David Woods-Hale

The global leadership responsibility imperative has firmly moved corporate social responsibility (CSR) to the forefront of the management agenda. Why is now the right time for you to launch your book Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility

My book captures (and is designed to help lead) a major shift that is currently taking place. CSR has been here for a few decades, but there has been a lot of focus on corporate philanthropy and a narrow way of seeing CSR, not to mention ‘greenwashing’ [a form of spin in which PR or marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organisation is environmentally friendly]. 

The focus has also been on how CSR serves business and shareholders, which is important, but it cannot continue to be the only reason to be more responsible. 

The book emphasises the importance of strategic CSR, which is holistic and comprehensive, about being responsible in everything that we do, including core operations, and with everyone with whom we do business (namely all our stakeholders). It also incorporates a long-term approach instead of a short-term one. CSR cannot continue to be little more than a side show focusing on charity. 

We face tremendous global challenges and business can play a vital role in helping address them through the power of strategic CSR. 

How would you define strategic CSR? 

I have used this definition of strategic CSR by Chandler: ‘The incorporation of an holistic CSR perspective within a firm’s strategic planning and core operations so that the firm is managed in the interest of a broad set of stakeholders to achieve maximum economic and social value over the medium to long term.’ This definition offers a broader view of corporate responsibility, one that is embedded in everything the firm does – from its strategic planning and core operations.

I also see strategic CSR as CSR that is aligned with what the company stands for and what it does best. Instead of ‘random acts of charity’, the company uses its knowledge, resources and capital to make a real difference. The only thing I would change in this definition is ‘maximum economic value’–  maximising profit and growth at any cost is no longer viable. We can make profit, but not maximise profit at the expense of humanity and this planet. 

Do you think sufficient numbers of business leaders around the world are putting CSR into their strategic agendas? 

The business sector is like a huge ship moving slowly in the ocean. It is now shifting direction, but due to its size, it is not always easy to see. If we don’t shift – we will hit the iceberg. I strived in my book to focus on positive examples of corporate responsibility instead of on the more visible corporate social irresponsibility  –  not because I am naïve, but because I wanted the book to inspire others to follow these good examples. 

As such, I focus on inspirational leaders, such as Paul Polman of Unilever, who, with his sustainable living plan, has shifted the entire focus of the company to sustainability, and leaders such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, who leads performance with purpose. There is a shift: CSR is becoming an important part of the strategic agenda for many companies, instead of a charitable sideshow. Is it enough? Not just yet, but we are getting there. 

CSR was previously considered something that could impact the bottom line if done properly. Do we need to move away from this and think strategically, yet altruistically, when it comes to CSR? 

I am glad that CSR helps to impact the financial bottom line. It means that people care about these issues more than ever before when they buy from a company as consumers or work for it as employees. Research shows a strong relationship between being genuinely responsible and employee engagement and performance. Having said that, companies shouldn’t only lead CSR for this purpose. 

There is a ‘catch 22’ here – if you only do good things to achieve employee engagement and consumer loyalty – it doesn’t work. Consumers, employees and other stakeholders can usually tell, even if not immediately, that CSR is not genuine. Usually, there will be some unethical behaviour involved. And greenwashing will lead not only to lack to trust in the company, but to lack of trust in CSR in general.

There is nothing worse than being unethical about your ethical behaviour.

So yes – you need to think strategically about CSR, work hard for real stakeholder integration, avoid shortcuts and above all – be genuine.

Do you feel enough is being done to embed the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) into business strategy? 

The SDGs are so important, not only because they aim to achieve remarkable goals, such as ending poverty and hunger by 2030, but also because they offer a great opportunity for humans to discuss what is important for us as a race and how we can achieve it together. The SDGs present an enormous task and challenge, and therefore require global and cross-sectorial collaboration like never before. 

As I wrote in the European Financial Review, this is not only a challenge for business, but also a great opportunity to align strategy with something that matters to everyone. I see large multinational companies, as well as smaller ones, that choose to focus on several SDGs and take amazing and innovative actions to help achieve them.

There is work to be done to get more companies and stakeholders on board, but I have never seen so many companies aligned around shared goals as in the case of the SDGs. 

What are some of the best ways to implement CSR strategies into an organisation, so employees take these initiatives on board, and so stakeholders, in turn, can see the organisation is making a difference?

If a company wants to adopt strategic CSR, it must integrate and involve all its stakeholders to do so. First, because it is an enormous task, and second, due to the definition and nature of strategic CSR. By definition, it requires working with a broad set of stakeholders and for CSR to be embedded in everything that we do – and you cannot do this with the executive leadership alone. 

There are great ways to involve employees, consumers, shareholders and all other stakeholders in the company’s strategic CSR. Employees can be involved in corporate volunteering and sustainability, but they can also lead the strategic direction of the company’s CSR. In my book, I discuss employee-led CSR and provide some great examples of it. Companies involve their consumers, who show higher levels of consumer social responsibility than ever before, in their giving, volunteering and sustainable development.

You cannot do it alone, you shouldn’t do it alone, and involving your stakeholders is the only way to achieve holistic responsibility in everything that you do. 

Should an organisation market its CSR? If so, how can it do it in a way that is ethical? 

That’s a great question and the reason why I have included an entire chapter on CSR marketing. It was important for me to offer a book that outlines the theories, concepts and models on the one hand, but also the practical tools of CSR on the other. I did not see a chapter on CSR marketing in other CSR books, and decided to write one. 

The chapter focuses on three aspects of CSR marketing: should we PR our CSR, ethical marketing, and social marketing. To answer your question – yes, we should market our CSR, because it is a good way to communicate with our stakeholders, inspire others and be held accountable for what we are doing. BUT – and this is a big ‘but’ – companies should only do it if their CSR efforts are holistic and genuine.

I give examples in the book of companies that were not genuine and holistic, and how CSR marketing backfired. It doesn’t mean that the company needs to be perfect – I don’t know a perfect company – but CSR needs to be holistic. You cannot do harm to people’s health and the planet in your core business and then market your corporate volunteering or company’s giving. It doesn’t work. 

How would you define a responsible leader and what are the challenges they are facing today?

I don’t think we can talk about strategic CSR, let alone achieve it, without responsible leadership. I discuss concepts such as responsible, ethical, sustainable, servant, conscious, and transformational leadership in the book, as each of these concepts bring another important aspect of responsible leadership. 

At the end of the chapter, I offer an holistic definition of responsible leaders that aligns with the one of strategic CSR: ‘People (in any position) with a strong purpose and a vision to better humanity, who incorporate an holistic CSR perspective within a firm’s strategic planning and core operations, work to meet the interests of a broad set of stakeholders, and strive to achieve maximum economic and social value over the medium to long term. 

‘They do so based on a strong purpose and values, while being true to the self and with the aim to serve others. They share the leadership with others in the organisation in order to achieve these goals.’ This definition also emphasises that responsible leadership doesn’t have to come from the top – any employee can help lead social responsibility. 

How important is it to measure the impact of CSR, and what are some of the best and innovative ways in which this can be done?

It is extremely important to measure the impact of CSR for several reasons. It provides constant benchmarking which can help the company improve its CSR; it increases accountability; it helps to communicate with and involve all stakeholders; and it assists in setting clear goals. Social impact assessment (which is processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences) also provides vital information that allows a company to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of its CSR compared to other companies; what it has done in the past and to what it could do in the future. 

It therefore creates a pathway for improvement and a strong impact in the future. There are many ways of assessing social impact, from the basic logic model to social return on investment. What is important is to measure outputs and impact, not only inputs and outcomes, which is what most companies still do. 

You reference management guru Peter Drucker in your writing. He said that in every social issue there is an opportunity. Do you believe there is an imperative for Business Schools to address societal problems? 

Absolutely! As the shift is taking place in the business sector, the attention is also drawn to Business Schools and their role in developing business leaders who are responsible and ethical. There is a great opportunity for Business Schools to rise to the occasion and use their own resources, talent and capital to make a difference. 

I have been conducting international studies together with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), and the voice of millennial students all around the world is very clear: they expect their Schools to deliver responsible management education and to help them lead responsible businesses. 

I see Business Schools that are doing amazing things – from assisting refugees to helping to end poverty, and a genuine shift in mindset, leadership and curriculum. Analysing the mission statements of the Financial Times top 100 Business Schools, I found that 70% of them frame their mission around responsibility and impact. It is a great time to be an educator and a leader in this field. 

Do you think MBAs have taken more of an interest in using their skills to create a more sustainable world over the past few years? 

I don’t think so, I know so. These studies I have been doing with PRME on MBA students around the world demonstrate that the new generation of business students is very different to those that came before. There are many studies from the 1990s and 2000s showing business students to be less ethical and more corruptible than other students and that business education only made them more unethical. But this has changed. Our studies, and others, show that business students now care very much about sustainability and CSR and expect their Business Schools to deliver on this. 

These studies received a lot of attention from the general media, and were mentioned by the New York Times, because they deliver a clear and different voice of the students. One of the most interesting findings was that one in five business students were willing to sacrifice 40% or more of their future salary to work for an employer exhibiting all aspects of CSR. I am very optimistic about the future of our world when I see what MBA students care about. I don’t think we should leave our problems to the next generation, but I know it will be a much better generation of business leaders than previous and current ones. 

Debbie Haski-Leventhal is an Associate Professor of Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), the Faculty Leader of Corporate Citizenship and the Director of Master of Social Entrepreneurship. As a scholar of CSR, Debbie initiated and led the MGSM CSR Partnership Network. Together with PRME, she conducts international studies on MBA students and their attitudes towards CSR and responsible management education. She has published over 100 papers on CSR, responsible management education and volunteerism, including more than 40 peer-reviewed articles in highly-ranked journals. Her book on Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility with a foreword by David Cooperrider was published in March 2018 by SAGE.

Debbie is presenting a live BGA webinar on ‘The role of Business Schools in society – the movement towards purpose and responsibility’ on 6 February 2019. Click here for more information and to take part.