GLOBAL: Responsible management initiative takes off

A United Nations-sponsored global initiative to encourage business schools to teach and promote social and environmentally responsible commercial practices has gathered a critical mass of support. More than 100 business schools worldwide have now signed up to the Principles for Responsible Management Initiative.

Launched last July with the active support of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the initiative's organisers are now preparing for a major conference at the global body's headquarters in New York this December. Supporting business school deans and administrators will there design a detailed road map for the months ahead.

Meanwhile, Dr Manuel Escudero, head of academic initiatives at the UN Global Compact and one of the co-conveners, said support had grown exponentially: "Thanks to the joint outreach by all partners, the PRME initiative has reached this critical milestone of 100 signatories," Escudero said. "This will enable the initiative to bring good efforts to scale and truly embed the sustainability agenda in the training of future business leaders."

Signatories thus far include the University of California, Davis' Graduate School of Management, La Trobe University Graduate School of Management, Australia, the London Business School, UK, Belgium's Louvain School of Management - IAG, the Netherlands' Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, the University of Dubai, and South Africa's University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Under the initiative, participating institutions make a commitment to align their work with six PRME key principles. These are that business schools will:

- Encourage and train their students to undertake sustainable business practices;
- Incorporate in their curricula themes of social responsibility, as defined by international initiatives such as the UN Global Compact;
- Create education materials promoting responsible business leadership;
- Research how businesses can create social and environmental benefits as well as profits;
- Work with companies in promoting corporate social and environmental responsibility; and
- Promote public debates on responsible business practice.

In March, the initiative set up five working groups to develop good practice on some key issues: starting corporate social and environmental responsibility programmes, changing curricula, research into the topic, new learning methodologies, and reporting to businesses and other outside groups about these programmes.

Business schools in 41 countries are at present participating in the project and they range from Australia to South Africa, Brazil to Belgium, Britain and Bulgaria, China to Colombia and Costa Rica, Japan to Jordan, and South Korea to Spain, Sri Lanka and Switzerland.

Other co-conveners of the PRME are the AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), the US-based Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the Brussels-headquartered European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), the US-based Aspen Institute Business and Society Program (BSP), the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), the European Academy of Business in Society (EABIS) and a non-profit group Net Impact.