How business schools can lead the way in developing responsible leaders

Business Impact: How business schools can lead the way in developing responsible leaders
Business Impact: How business schools can lead the way in developing responsible leaders
Business school leaders from WU Vienna, ESADE, ISEG Lisbon and IIM Indore on the need for quick and collective action on sustainability to future-proof tomorrow’s leaders

Business schools play a vital role in preparing students for future employment by giving them the tools and skills needed to succeed in their professional lives.

While this is a key component to improving the future, and building more awareness to responsible management, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and sustainability. It ultimately lies within the business school to lead the way by trendsetting, innovating and evolving to the needs of our planet and to develop leaders of the future.

At the AMBA & BGA Global Conference 2022, Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA’s Board of Trustees, was joined by Josep Franch, Dean of ESADE Business School, Ramon Llull University, Clara Raposo, Dean of ISEG Lisbon School of Economics and Management, and Himanshu Rai, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Indore, to outline the main issues surrounding CSR, climate change and sustainability. They also discussed how, as a global community of business educators, we need to act collectively – and quickly – to future-proof leaders.

Schlegelmilch described the era into which business education is moving as a “vortex”. He explained:

“We have so many developments going on, and they’re all connected to each other. We need to deliver different contexts.”

“We have a very different geographical footprint, but we have competitors coming in from different countries. We need to focus on the social impact we make, and how new priorities are shaping business schools, and we need to think about our purposes as business educators.”

Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA’s Board of Trustees

Stimulating the discussion, Schlegelmilch asked the panellists whether they were optimistic about what business schools were achieving in terms of developing responsible leaders.

Raposo explained:

“I think we are doing a better job than five years ago. From my experience, we are doing a lot. We are on the right path, but we need to take sustainability as an objective into the mission of our schools. The pandemic has shown how we are interrelated – but we must pass the message to all our students, so they can relate the work they do to the impact they have.

“We have to take sustainability seriously – talk about it and make it part of the culture of the school. Our students must be open-minded and understand the impact they have on others.

“Equally, faculty have to be aware of how their teaching and research contributes to sustainability, within a structure of motivation. We need to refocus our research and intellect to understand the big challenges the world is facing – and pass it on in the curricula.”

Clara Raposo, Dean of ISEG Lisbon School of Economics and Management

Picking up the conversation, Rai moved to suggest what business education could do better.

 “Five years back, we were paying lip service to terms such as sustainability,”

“We never practised what we preached. There is a lot of effort going in, but a lot more that can be done. We need to move beyond empathy and move to compassion, and this can only be done through experiential learning.”

Himanshu Rai, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Indore

Concluding the debate, and commenting on the pressure on business schools to adapt MBA programmes or to make them shorter, Franch added:

 “The right word here is ‘transformation’. You can be under pressure, but [schools] need to have an identity. I couldn’t care less about the threat of ‘three-month MBAs’ – that’s not my game. [My concern is that] business schools need to change attitudes.

“We have courses on sustainability and there is an urgency around including sustainability modules for rankings, but sustainability must be at the core of all courses – from marketing to finance. We must redesign our core and change attitudes at our schools. My recommendation is that students are a tremendous force for change in your organisation. Use them. You need to have a vision, change attitudes and focus on transformation.”

Josep Franch, Dean of ESADE Business School
Front cover of the July/August edition of Ambition Magazine

This article has been adapted from one which originally appeared in the July/August 2022 edition of Ambition, the magazine of the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

Read more Business Impact articles related to sustainability:

Business Impact: Taking care of planet Earth

Taking care of planet Earth

“There will be no more business if we do not take care of others and the planet,” warns professor José Maillet, as he tells Tim Banerjee Dhoul about Gaïa, Audencia’s new school of ecological and social transition, and the course it offers on its Grande École programme

Business Impact: Tackling global challenges

Tackling global challenges

Rather than seeing a trade-off between doing good and making money, today’s leaders need to aim to achieve each through the other – and schools must prepare them to do this, writes Matt Gitsham


Read previous editions of the Business Impact magazine:

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