Education and Corporate Social Responsibility International Perspectives: Volume 4

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Table of contents

(19 chapters)

In the West, just as much as in Eastern civilisations, a concern for respect and civility, and therefore mutual and complementary development of all the parts involved in an action, has been a philosophical driver for more than two millennia. In a practical way this implies, for the ‘human individual’, that the consideration of others’ realisation and accomplishments are as equal and important as her/his own. As an example of this mutual co-development, European humanistic thinkers have written and reflected about the need of having a humanistic orientation on any social action; in this respect the work of Rousseau (1712–1778) and Montaigne (1533–1592) are especially notable. This line has also been explored more recently by the American philosopher Dewey (1909). Moreover, within this humanistic concern, other philosophers such as Socrates (in Plato's works – 399–384 B.C.) and later Kierkegaard (1851) reflected on the responsibility of action regarding the whole, for which it is necessary to consider the meaning of existence as the representation of the soul – in a spiritual context – that affects this ‘whole’ inter-related development. We talk then about the need to explore the sense of actions, the results pursued and their consequences.

Corporate entities of whatever shape or form (profit motive or not-for-profit) aspire to be successful in whatever they do. Success can come about through many means. In recent times, corporate entities around the world have come to realise that success can be achieved when they are perceived by their stakeholders as being socially responsible; these stakeholders tend to warm to what the entities do or stand for, which consequently makes a big difference in terms of achieving or not achieving their strategic objectives (Aras & Crowther, 2009). This has become even more apparent during the recent economic and financial crisis where the socially responsible organisation has prospered while others faltered and CSR has been adopted as a survival strategy (Crowther & Seifi, 2011). A socially responsible corporate entity takes cognisance of the impact of its actions on its communities, its stakeholders and the environment when formulating its corporate objectives and in its decision making process. It strives at all times to either minimise or totally remove the adverse effects of its activities on the environment, employees, business contacts group, suppliers of funds and credits, governments and other affected members of society. Corporate entities around the world now consider that being socially responsible is not just very ‘trendy’ but also good for business and so an essential part of their strategy, quite a dramatic change over the last decade.

The social and environmental challenges facing our society, coupled with financial scandals and crises, have led to increased focus on and expectations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) (Ditlev-Simonsen, 2009; Knox, Maklan, & French, 2005; Midttun, 2007; Samuel & Ioanna, 2007). However, in order to meet this expectation, business students need education in the CSR field. The amount of attention to CSR in business education varies widely (Evans, Treviño, & Weaver, 2006) and the lack of a CSR curriculum in some countries has been severely criticised, with calls for more focus on the subject (Aronsen & Bue Olsen, 2009). In Norway, for example, propositions to the Parliament about CSR urge The Research Council for Norway to pursue and strengthen their programme for financing research in this field (Utenriksdepartementet, 2009). CSR addresses normative and ethical issues, and students’ self-awareness, attitudes and understandings of others are key elements (Banaji, Bazerman, & Chugh, 2003). CSR-related situations comprise a set of dilemmas with no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. In this sense CSR education is different from most of business school education format, and therefore requires different educational tools.

This chapter examines the development and implementation of a sustainability module at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in the UK and assesses how this is embedded within the undergraduate business curriculum. The objectives are to explain the background to the development of the module in the context of the University as a whole and to examine the issues and potential benefits concerning its implementation. The chapter explores how sustainability can be integrated effectively within the curriculum and focuses on a module for the academic year 2011/2012 ‘The Sustainable Organisation’ (SO) and its underlying principles from the perspectives of members of the module team. It also reflects on previous and concurrent modules incorporating sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The module's connections with industry and related research will also be discussed within the chapter. In conclusion, the wider implications of offering the SO module within a business school will be assessed.

Many believe we are suffering from an ethics crisis (Perry & Nixon, 2005). The increased incidence of irresponsible behaviour by business, recent examples being the global financial crisis and the BP oil spill, and the devastating consequences on society have focused attention on the role business schools play in educating future business (and other) leaders. There have also been criticisms of business schools failing to take into account the ‘factually impossible notion of unlimited growth in a world of limited resources’ (Giacalone & Thompson, 2006), and continuing to encourage business strategies which are at odds with the growing challenge of sustainable development, which include issues of climate change, inequity and resource depletion (Giacalone & Thompson, 2006; Shrivastava, 1995; Waddock, 2007). Indeed, business schools have been criticised for encouraging a self-interested, profit-oriented focus that ignores the wider responsibilities of business to society (Gioia, 1992; Kochan, 2002; Mitroff, 2004). Starkey, Hatchuel, and Tempest (2004), for example, claim that the business school has become “ethically compromised because the values it espouses have been implicated in recent corporate scandals.” McPhail (2001) suggests the inclusion of business ethics into accounting and business education as a possible remedy. Cant and Kulik went further and claimed that “business schools would be remiss, if not unethical themselves, if their ethics education efforts were not increased in light of recent events.” (2009).

This course has made me observe the international business environment in a completely different light, and has made me think about whether a ‘win-win situation’ is ever possible in an international business context, where the organisations are involved in extremely complex supply chains. (Dianne from Estonia who studied in a UK business school)

In the early 1990s while working on my PhD in ethical green marketing, I was approached by my then Deputy Head of Department to write a module with a similar title. His argument was that current research should feed into current teaching. I was delighted with this request and prepared the module called ‘Marketing Ethics’. It was offered to the final-year students of under-graduate courses and proved to be a popular option especially amongst the law cohorts. At the time we had a flourishing business and law school that attracted large numbers of students locally, nationally as well as internationally. The module was later taught by me and a colleague with a keen interest in philosophy and as such the syllabus was modified to include philosophical as well as marketing aspects of ethics. However, the balance was maintained whenever possible. While on that particular subject, Schlegelmilch and Oberseder (2000) refer to almost 50 years of research into marketing ethics in their paper. With reference to the 1990s which coincides with the teaching of the above mentioned subject, they discovered 239 marketing ethics articles in 58 journals. That decade interestingly witnessed a move away from general marketing ethics topics to a focus on perhaps more specialist areas such as marketing education (e.g. Lane, 1995; Shannon & Berl, 1997), promotion (e.g. La Tour & Henthoren, 1994) and so forth. This at a glance highlights the growing importance of ethics in different shapes, forms and guises.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a well-known practice among organizations around the world. It has become a refreshing alternative of conceiving and doing business that encompasses economic, social, and environmental operations for achieving competitive advantage.

Issues concerning society are everybody's business. Therefore, individuals, larger or smaller groups, formal or informal entities, public or private firms, governmental or non-governmental organisations who are key stakeholders of society must always aspire to champion societal concerns. Society's welfare should be everybody's business. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a broad sense can be viewed as the relationship of organisations with society as a whole, and the need for organisations to align their values with societal expectations (Atuguba & Dowuona-Hammond, 2006). In reality, it is a set of standards by which organisations can impact their environment with the potential of creating sustainable development (Helg, 2007). It is critical that society educates everyone to be responsible. From all societal actors, universities are the ones educating the future elites of a country. What they teach and do not teach may make or break a nation's future and well-being. As noted by Dashwood and Puplampu (2010), there is a greater need for crafting a sustainable, strategic and mutually beneficial set of responsible actions in embracing the right approaches to CSR. According to them, such actions should emanate from a genuine recognition of, and attention to, economic, traditional, historical, as well as business arguments from the perspectives of the stakeholders and interest groups.

In the last decade, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a significant topic on both governments’ and companies’ agendas. Moreover, the citizens and other social actors started to engage in promoting social responsibility and sustainability. This trend is reflected by the increased debate on these topics in the national and international environment.

Maladies afflicting the higher education system in developing countries are well represented by what is happening in India and have been discussed in detail by many researchers and educationists (Anandakrishnan, 2008; Balram, 2005, 2008). The Government of India has formulated different projects and programmes for improving the education scenario in the country. The successive education commissions from Radhakrishnan (1949) through Kothari commission (1966) discussed various issues related to the higher education system and suggested many steps to resolve them. Recently, the Committee to Advice on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education (2009) headed by Yash Pal discussed the challenges faced by the Indian higher education system and recommended complete revamping of the higher education system and evolving it as an Indian model. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC, 2006–2009) in 2007 while recommending several measures to keep up the pace of higher education with the developments of knowledge society and knowledge economy observed that ‘We recognize that a meaningful reform of the higher education system with a long-term perspective is both complex and difficult. Yet it is imperative.’ The view that the reforms cannot easily be carried out is more strengthened by the fact that the vision and recommendations of the Kothari Commission of 1966 (based on which the 1968 educational policy was formulated) are still valid and useful even now (Sam Pitroda, 2007).

The goal of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is to ensure that organisations embrace social responsibility and cultivate activities that provide positive impact on the environment, society, consumers, employees, communities and all other members of the public sphere. Therefore, it is highly important to enhance and augment the teaching of CSR across various disciplines in higher learning institutions. Since 2006, most organisations in Malaysia have been highly encouraged to carry out their Social Responsibility activities, with the government providing support for CSR policies through its tax reduction incentives. Various CSR awards and acknowledgement of the awards provide high value and positive reputation to the organisations that implement CSR-related activities. As a result there is an increasing awareness among businesses to focus beyond compliance with laws in order to respond to the dynamic economic, societal and environmental changes.

Ruby Melody Agbola is a lecturer at Department of Management Studies, Central Business School, Ghana.

Cover of Education and Corporate Social Responsibility International Perspectives
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Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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