Two weeks ago, Audencia hosted the New Year’s event of the association of responsible managers in Western France. More than 200 CEOS from SMEs focused on the forthcoming legal status for “companies with a mission” that is largely inspired by the B Corp Certification.
B--or Benefit--Corporations are businesses that meet high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability, to balance profit and purpose. The future legal status will allow companies to make their currently voluntary commitment to CSR mandatory for future shareholders. At the end of the evening, 80% of the participants declared their interest in further exploring this legal status for their own company, highlighting their willingness to redefine success in business and their commitment to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
I doubt that many business schools have truly recognized the importance an increasing number of businesses gives to social and environmental challenges by integrating these challenges into their curricula and their research agenda. Although courses, programmes, articles and conferences on CSR are multiplying, they usually continue to be considered as nice add-ons, without questioning the fundamentals of business education and research. My frequent discussions with business leaders show me that business is ahead of business schools!
This observation was confirmed last week at a meeting of the France-Benelux Chapter of the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education that I co-organized, at which I led a panel discussion and a workshop with top managers and deans. The managers, including those from major multinationals, called on business schools to revise the content and form of business education in order to train leaders for a more inclusive and sustainable economy. However, most deans expressed reluctance to undertake such a shift. For them, encouraging students to work for NGOs or B Corporations and potentially to accept to earn less would create a negative impact on their school’s rankings mainly based on alumni’s salaries, and thus lower its attractiveness.
Shouldn’t we adopt a more sustainable strategy? If business leaders have the courage to lose short-term oriented shareholders and choose instead to attract socially responsible investors looking for long-term performance, we as business schools should not lag behind!
Let’s choose to partner with those companies that have made the shift. Let’s choose to attract those students who want to be actors for an inclusive and sustainable economy. Let’s move from Business schools to Benefit schools!