Mon, April 22, 2024

When Will B-schools Begin Caring for Nature?

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  • When we accept doing this makes good business

Even as I embark upon my latest Business Sutra column, Mother Earth is being buffeted by extreme weather blows. Neighbouring India and Pakistan have been hit by a cyclone. Many Asian countries were ravaged by heat waves as early as April. Several European countries are suffering the savagery of soaring temperatures, storms, droughts and floods simultaneously. Smoke and smog generated by Canada’s wildfires are choking cities in the USA. Climate change has come to stay and punish us. We have time and again discussed how environmental disasters are man’s own making. We being the culprits, we have to pay. But are we willing to do so? Governments and countries have been talking of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions targets. But the latest research shows that hardly 5% of the targets are credible. Reports by a team of investigative journalists from Reuters have recently revealed that climate funds have been stolen by some affluent countries which directed the money to unrelated and dubious causes. These are the very countries which have brought the environment to this ruinous state because of their unending pursuit of profits since the Industrial Revolution. It is in this context that I wish to discuss the role of B-schools. After all, it is the B-school alumni who have been lording over businesses, industries, commerce and economies over the years, apparently with little concern for the damage their activities are inflicting upon our habitat. They have turned our food, water and air toxic. Yet, the guilty feign ignorance. “No company, city or region can any longer claim not to know what a credible target looks like,” Alexis McGivern, net-zero standards manager for the research initiative Oxford Net Zero, said in a statement. “Using the good practice and areas of consensus within the accountability ecosystem, policymakers now have the tools to shape regulation to create a level playing field enabling companies to accelerate down the pathways to net-zero.” But that, as I earlier said, is just not happening. Our B-schools may be paying lip service to sustainability but their faculty and students do not have their hearts in it. The lure of the lucre can be mighty magnetic. It blinds us to the catastrophes heading towards us like unstoppable tsunamis.
Governments and countries have been talking of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions targets. But latest research shows that hardly 5% of the targets are credible.
How many management institutions teach and promote environmental issues and sustainability in business? No doubt, some of the B-schools have incorporated courses and initiatives related to managing environmental challenges. These courses may cover areas such as sustainable business practices, environmental risk management, green marketing, renewable energy, and corporate social responsibility. Case studies may involve analysing the impact of environmental challenges on businesses and exploring strategies for managing them. But this domain of study is a pale shadow of established streams like finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, economics, organisational behaviour, consumer behaviour, operations, business communication, business analytics, etc. – all of which fetch fat salaries to students and top dollar consultancy assignments to the professors. There is a wide variety of textbooks available on the long-established subject domains. Upgrades, revised editions, web portals and e-books keep students up to date with the latest developments, tactics and strategies. But that is hardly the case with environmental studies linked to business. ‘Business and Its Environment’ by David P Baron, ‘Environmental Management: Readings and Cases’ by Christine Jasch, ‘Sustainable Enterprise: A Macro-marketing Approach’ by Mark Peterson, are among the few known titles available to B-school students in this arena. Some Ivy League schools like Yale, Harvard and Stanford, and London Business School and INSEAD do focus on environmental issues, energy and corporate sustainability. While the Yale School of Management offers a stream called Sustainability Concentration, Harvard Business School runs what is called a Social Enterprise Initiative. Stanford Graduate School of Business conducts courses, such as ‘The Business and Environment Practicum’ and ‘Managing Sustainable Operations’. Its Steyer-Taylor Centre for Energy Policy and Finance focuses on clean energy and environmental entrepreneurship. INSEAD of French origin with campuses in Europe, Asia, Western Asia and North America has a reputation for integrating sustainability into its MBA programmes called ‘Business Strategies for Sustainability’ and ‘Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation’. London Business School has a Sustainability Club and also research units such as the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. But we can count such premier B-schools at our fingertips. Most B-schools today are no better than coaching shops. Yet, they are mushrooming all around. These institutions hardly ever promote environment-linked business education. Frankly enough they are not equipped to do so and are unable to attract good faculty. Original and indigenous research remains an alien idea on such campuses. But can we blame only B-schools for this sorry situation? No! That would be plain injustice. If most parents prod their progeny towards cushy jobs all through their life, then can they expect the kids to suddenly turn humane and caring? Perhaps it would be better to make children and college-going students aware of the perils they could face if they neglected nature. Sometimes fear is the right key. READ ALSO:
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MARCH 2024

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