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Smartening up

19 April, 2021

There’s no question that the business leaders of the future will need a good grasp of social and environmental issues, and how they relate to business success. But despite more business schools including modules on sustainability, there’s still a long way to go for these organisations to really embrace and understand what is needed.  

A story in the Financial Times this week highlights how many schools still base their curriculum content around the shareholder primacy model of capitalism and the pursuit of short-term returns; rather than long-term strategies needed to address complex issues, such as biodiversity, inequality or climate change. Sustainability and ethics, where it is covered, is too often treated as a separate subject, rather than being integrated into the core topics from the outset.  

And that is a problem, because if the leaders of tomorrow are being taught that the non-financial is distinct from, as opposed to inextricably linked to, the financial then how can they deliver the change that is needed? 

MBA application rates were in decline pre-pandemic – though data suggests applications rose last year as the job market stalled – and the return on investment (financial and non-financial!) for students has been called into question.  

If elite business schools want to attract the leaders of tomorrow, it’s time for a rethink. Employers are clear that purpose and sustainability will be at the heart of business strategy in the future. Business schools need to respond by putting a more regenerative and inclusive approach to business at the heart of the way they think about business success – right from the outset.   

By Gemma Coate

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