Business Schools for Climate Leadership initiative launched
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure business schools effectively address climate change issues by integrating … critical subjects within the business schools’ ecosystem,” said Sherif Kamel, the dean of the school of business at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
The initiative will apply to projects, teaching and business development activities, among others, he was quoted as saying at a 7 November round table for African business school deans held at AUC in Egypt.
Dr Roze Phillips, an adjunct faculty at the Centre for Business Ethics at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, told University World News the institute welcomed the establishment of BS4CL Africa as “timely” and as adhering to the saying, ‘Nothing about us without us’.
“BS4CL Africa gives voice, advocacy and action to Africa’s unique requirements as we craft our fit-for-purpose responses to what is fast being recognised as a climate catastrophe bearing down on Africa and the world,” Phillips said.
BS4CL Africa is based on the model inspired by the European Business Schools for Climate Leadership (BS4CL) group, which was initiated at the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom, by eight of Europe’s leading business schools.
The BS4CL Africa participants are the School of Business at the American University in Cairo, Egypt; ESCA Ecole de Management (ESCA School of Management) in Morocco; the Lagos Business School in Nigeria; the School of Tourism and Hospitality at Strathmore University, Kenya; and the Gordon Institute of Business Science and the Stellenbosch Business School, both in South Africa.
Also supportive of the BS4CL Africa initiative are the Association of African Business Schools, or (AABS); the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC; and Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) at the United Nations Global Compact and the PRME chapter in Africa.
The initiative will also invite contributions from the private sector and civil society, and will mirror the ambitions of COP27 taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Which challenges will BS4CL Africa address?
Professor Thami Ghorfi, the president of ESCA Ecole de Management (ESCA School of Management) in Morocco, told University Word News: “BS4CL Africa’s agenda focuses on four significant axes, including the redesign of business education curricula to align them with the continent’s needs and realities; contextualisation of research to serve Africa’s priorities; reinforcement of relationships with corporations and stakeholders to co-construct sustainable solutions for climate leadership, and mobilisation of the pan-African collaboration on joint courses and research as a transformative force to lead climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.”
“BS4CL Africa is a unique opportunity for Africa and African business schools to actively contribute to a better future for the continent and the world,” he added, but warned that time and funding may be challenges.
“It’s an urgent matter. We must collectively mobilise all our resources, student bodies, faculty members and administrators.
“We must work with our stakeholders, corporations from the private sector, NGOs and state representatives. We want to produce relevant knowledge and disseminate it abundantly,” said Ghorfi.
According to him, the six founding schools will start concrete projects, research, student competitions and the production of business cases, joint courses, and executive programmes.
A sustainable future
“Focusing our energies on equipping current and future business leaders to build climate resilience and avert a climate catastrophe is vital and noble, but not enough,” GIBS’ Phillips said.
For her, there should be a “preoccuption” with the skills and capabilities that are needed for a sustainable African future. “We will need to question the very basis of business school education and what business schools stand for,” Phillips added.
She said the starting point should be revisiting the core management teaching of business schools, but also to have “the intellectual humility to question the very premise of what responsible management education means for a business school and addressing some potentially uncomfortable home truths,” Phillips pointed out.
“It might mean fundamentally rewriting existing curriculums if educational and leadership transformation is to be achieved,” she noted.
For Phillips, one of many aspects on the agenda will have to be dealing with the social justice dilemmas that will have to be addressed as Africa transitions to a post-carbon society.
“The best solutions that truly do ‘leave no one behind’ will have to come from collaboration, not just across the BS4CL Africa business schools, but also within the broader academic and education community, public sector, private sector and civil society,” she said, adding that “everyone’s voice will have to matter if sustainability on the continent is to be achieved.”
A post-carbon African society
Phillips stated that business schools must straddle academia, activism and action. “They should serve as places of responsible management education advancing the just transition to a post-carbon Africa,” Phillips emphasised.
A round table on ‘just transition’ was held on 7 November at the ongoing Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit (COP27) in Egypt.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) describes ‘just transition’ as “greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind”.
For Phillips, this is pertinent to business schools. According to her, they should lead as “safe convening spaces for the uncomfortable conversations that academia, government, civil society and business individually and collectively need to have about the ongoing exploitation of human capital and extraction of planetary capital for the benefit of ever-expanding but unsustainable economic and financial capital”.
“Finally, the ‘just transition’ movement is an invitation, an opportunity, an appeal for business schools to extract themselves from the invisible ideological hand of capitalism that still drives much of the management curriculums,” said Phillips.
“It is time for business schools to examine capitalism as a phenomenon-within-reality as opposed to the flux of reality itself,” Phillips pointed out.
“If we do not break from our one-size-fits-all myopic growth dependence model, we will fail to imagine alternative post-carbon futures that are not underpinned by principles of capitalism, but rather mainstream the development of new ways of cooperation, such as energy democracies with the direct ownership and control of energy systems by communities.
“As such, educating and advocating for a post-carbon African society should not feature under ‘elective’ courses in business school curriculums. A post-carbon future should also consider a post-capitalism future,” Phillips pointed out.