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Enhanced MBA Focus On Sustainability Develops Responsible Leaders

Copenhagen Business School says that future leaders must embrace sustainability – an increasingly popular topic among MBAs.

Copenhagen Business School (CBS) MBA students are on a quest for leadership.

Two pillars of The Copenhagen MBA – sustainability and leadership – have been merged and developed further to make up the central Responsible Management theme. The new course will focus on topics such as corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

Denmark, the school’s base, is a leader in business responsibility and MBA students are able to soak up insight in the field. Leaders in this area will interact with the MBA, acting as guest lecturers and mentors to students.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis policy makers have focused on reviving economic growth, rather than implementing sustainability measures.

But companies are realizing the reputational and efficiency benefits of initiatives like resource conservation or promoting a low-carbon economy.

Poul Hedegaard, MBA director at CBS, says in this interview with BusinessBecause that future leaders must embrace sustainability.

Why is responsible management an important theme to Copenhagen Business School?

We have observed over the years that for the current generation of MBA students, the focus is not first and foremost on making money for themselves, but rather on developing a strategy which sets companies and themselves up for long-term success. This is in line with our own vision for what the global leaders of tomorrow look like, and resonates well with what the world looks like in the wake of the financial crisis.

Furthermore, Denmark and Copenhagen Business School have a great reputation when it comes to corporate sustainability and are global forerunners with regards to implementing CSR practices. Naturally, we would like our MBA students to soak up as much insight and knowledge as possible within this field, so they can bring this perspective to future roles and become the responsible leaders we need in the future.

What affect does this focus have on the MBA curriculum?

For the next intake, the two program pillars of The Copenhagen MBA – sustainability and leadership – have been merged and developed even further to make up the central Responsible Management theme.

From the very start of the program, students will further their knowledge within this important field through a rigorous, 50-hour course divided into four broad topics – Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, The New Global Rules of the Game, Business Imperative, and Earning Trust with Stakeholders.

In addition, CSR and sustainability is incorporated into most of the core courses, equipping students with a holistic skill-set and an ability to implement CSR across different business units. 

Many companies run specific leadership development programs. Is it now more important for MBAs to be taught leadership skills to be prepared for the jobs market?

It is very important, but leadership is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it is important to identify your own personal leadership style.

Students in The Copenhagen MBA will discover this by exploring their unique strengths and weaknesses in our Leadership Discovery Process. Through lectures and seminars, peer-to-peer coaching sessions and mentoring by executives, group discussions, immersive learning experiences and a series of individual reflection papers, they will create a distinctive leadership style, suited to their own personalities.

But is there a misconception about what a "leadership" is?

Perhaps. Good leadership can mean many different things. What we aim to teach our MBA students is the ability to deal with complexity and diversity, yet be able to set common direction and goals.

We send our students on a quest for leadership and the journey starts with the discovery of each individual student’s “raw material” for leadership.

We then extract these findings and put them in a team/organizational perspective. At the end of the day, leadership is all about knowing yourself and being able to translate that knowledge into others. And this is really the cornerstone of our approach to leadership.

Policy makers have focused on reviving economic growth, rather than implementing measures that promote resource conservation or a low-carbon economy, for example. What role can business schools play in championing sustainability?

We can champion the importance of this skill-set in future leaders, and we can equip future leaders with the necessary hard business skills. Responsible management is not just a leadership style; it also demands the practical know-how [needed] to predict how financial planning and reporting are impacted, or how to implement and communicate a CSR plan to stakeholders.

What opportunities are there for MBA students to be involved in sustainability?

In addition to having direct access to the latest research and developments in this field, they will meet practitioners within CSR and sustainability, who interact with the [MBA] program and are guest lecturers and mentors. This is a great opportunity to find out how CSR is really implemented across corporations, [and to] understand the challenges and how to overcome them.

Students will also have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of corporate sustainability and how it relates to their daily life and the workplace by joining the Net Impact global network and other communities on campus.

What economic benefits are there for sustainability?

This is a question with no quick answers, yet are there numerous benefits. The most obvious ones are often related to efficiency gains, such as reduced energy costs, and the re-use of materials, energy and waste.

Secondly, there are often gains in accessing new markets, as customers are increasingly attracted to sustainability attributes. There might be reputational gains, which can increase customer-employee-investor loyalty.

Working in a sustainable way can also easily be a gateway to new knowledge, which can improve sourcing, marketing, product, and service development.

But the real joy must lie in knowing that you are leading your organization on the right path – to embrace sustainability is the right way forward.

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