Business schools on the barricades for sustainability

During the coronavirus crisis, business schools, like everyone else, switched to online education. They initiated training programs to make companies more resilient and started researching the impact of the coronavirus crisis. That is not nearly enough, however, according to the Chair in Management Education for Sustainability at Antwerp Management School and Breda University of Applied Sciences, which was officially launched December 15th. Business schools need to go to the barricades, pressing for effective sustainability solutions.

Concepts such as Corporate Social Responsibility, green growth or the sharing economy have set things in motion worldwide. But despite all our efforts, five years after the launch of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, not much progress has been made, on the contrary. When it comes to climate, biodiversity, etcetera, the situation is dramatic. The coronavirus crisis has made this painfully clear once again. So this is not the time to celebrate the endless possibilities of technology, nor is it the time to lose heart and despair.

Now is the time for realism, Dr. Lars Moratis and Dr. Frans Melissen, holders of the Chair in Management Education for Sustainability, argue. This unique collaboration between Antwerp Management School and Breda University of Applied Sciences wants to make a case for management education as part of the solution instead of part of the problem. There are more than 16,000 business schools worldwide. Together, they train millions of students every year, equaling millions of opportunities to tip the scales in a positive direction.

But only if management education dares to go beyond merely training managers. The Chairholders have detected three crucial tasks for management education: “Management education must embark on critical studies, thoroughly questioning current socio-economic systems, relationships and assumptions. As business schools, we must also encourage moral imagination and stimulate students to envision new ways of addressing societal challenges. And finally, we cannot remain on the sidelines. Education is not “neutral”, we must embrace activism. An activism that is not aimed at tackling one issue, but at tackling the very systems that have led us to where we are today.”

A broad, international range of interested parties attended the inauguration ceremony. Many business schools that signed the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) were present. The online ceremony ended with a unique inauguration video, realized in collaboration with the students, forcing us to reflect on the kind of ancestors we want to be for future generations. This eye opener set the tone for what we may expect from the Chair in Management Education for Sustainability: a critical exploration of how management education can become a key actor for sustainability.

Watch the inaugural video by Dr. Lars Moratis and Dr. Frans Melissen, holders of the Chair in Management Education for Sustainability:

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