In a few months, heads of nations will come together to decide on a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) that will govern local, regional, and global agendas for the next 15 years. Unlike the millennium development goals (MDGs) that was crafted without much consultation, the proposed 17 SDGs and 169 targets is a result of open and collaborative discussions among 70 countries that began meeting after the Rio+20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
The new mandate is to eradicate poverty and hunger at all fronts by 2030. It is a tall order when we consider that there over a billion poor people around the world. Yet, these are goals that challenge nations to work together to protect our planet. Already, the United Nations initiated the Global Compact where businesses work with civil society and other agencies to uphold ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption.
To help industry, the United Nations also initiated the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) so that academic institutions can champion responsible management education. In this way, our new generation of business leaders will consciously work towards an inclusive and sustainable global economy.
In the recently held 6th annual PRME meeting of academicians in New York City, there were discussions on how to mainstream responsible management in the business curriculum. While some institutions have been able to integrate sustainability throughout the curriculum, the great majority is finding it hard to do so.
Many institutions find themselves stuck in a vicious loop where faculty and administrators are driven to raise their rankings and comply with accreditation requirements that do not favor time spent educating students about sustainability and the general concept of the common good. The higher the rankings and the more prestigious the accreditations, the better it is for the school reputation. This means that graduates are able to secure high paying jobs within months of graduation. Employability increases student applications and allows business schools to be more selective. Selectivity improves the quality of the students.
In the Philippines, the undergraduate curriculum is jampacked with technical courses. College teachers, who were likely educated in the traditional manner and exposed to the traditional curriculum, feel compelled to cover the entire syllabus since that is the expectation of industry. Consequently, adding sessions on sustainability and responsible management is viewed as taking valuable time away from the mainstream courses such as finance, accounting, operations, and law. The mainstream courses are marketable skills that improve the odds of landing a good paying job but not necessarily the probability of developing an ethical manager.
Fortunately, the Commission on Higher Education had required the inclusion of Business Ethics and Corporate Governance (though none on sustainability) in the business curriculum. Even then, a single course is insufficient to stir the passion to work towards inclusive and sustainable global economy. What is needed is a business curriculum that awakens the sensitivities of students to the environment and to society so that this forms part of the mindset. If we start today, we would have, by 2030, a pool of young business leaders who would have contributed to the achievement of the SDGs.
Dr. Santiago is a Full Professor at the Management and Organization Department, of De La Salle University. She teaches Corporate Social Responsiveness, Sustainable Organizations, Leadership in Organization, Family Business Management, Human Resource Management, and Finance in Education. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org