INSPIRING ACTION FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS: A FIVE-PHASE APPROACH

K. Kirstein, J. Diamond

City University of Seattle (UNITED STATES)
Given the serious nature of environmental and social problems that currently face the world, it is imperative that business programs offered by higher education institutions provide a balanced approach to educating future business leaders. Part of a successful approach to business education will involve inspiring a sense of urgency among students regarding the needs of many aspects of society. This paper will describe a sustainable business course intended to teach graduate business students the importance of leading businesses that balance economic, environmental, and social concerns. Presented in five phases, a detailed description of the structure of the course is provided. The concluding sections of the paper contain an analysis of what was learned from the course design process along with a discussion of sustainability education issues that need addressing in the future.

Introduction

Traditional business education has focused, nearly exclusively, on economic factors where students are taught strategies to maximize profits. However, decades of experience have shown that a singular focus on economic factors produces business leaders who carry these perspectives into the community and run organizations that frequently maximize profits at the expense of the environment and society. A new approach to business education is needed to ensure that students understand that running a successful business involves more than the short term economic factors that often define an organization. Increasingly consumers are paying attention to the environmental impacts of companies and are using this information in purchasing decisions. This is becoming an important driver in business strategy.

Changes in the way business is conducted cannot come quickly enough. The world is in need of a new approach to organizational leadership. Both business and academia can be at the forefront of these changes with intentional action. Business must choose strategies founded in social and environmental responsibility while higher education institutions must prepare the drivers of these strategies.

This paper will introduce a course on Environmental and Corporate Responsibility that was designed and delivered at City University of Seattle in 2010. First, the need for the course will be reviewed, followed by a description of its five phases addressing specific outcomes that the course designers intended. The paper will conclude with an analysis of the extent to which the course was successful in accomplishing its goals.