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Business Schools Turn To Responsible Management

Change is afoot in the graduate management education sector as business schools are pushed to respond to the world’s most pressing issues


Wed May 8 2019

Napoleon was still alive the last time real wage growth in the UK experienced a squeeze as tight as the one playing out now. The same story is seen across the Atlantic, as workers in the US bear the brunt of the financial crisis over a decade ago.

Elsewhere, climate protestors in London last month grinded parts of the city to a halt, over a weekend that culminated with the hottest Easter Monday on record in the UK.

Those in power are under pressure to respond. If politics doesn’t change, business must.

That mentality has reached business schools, as graduate management education shifts towards more responsible, socially conscious management.

READ MORE: The Business School Fighting Back Against 'Irresponsible' Business


Changing the way schools are judged

In January 2019, the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking for the first time included a CSR component when assessing a school’s MBA program. It’s part of wider industry shift to put pressure on schools to change.

In February, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) launched the Business Graduates Association (BGA). BGA will accredit institutions rather than individual programs. Schools will be judged on multiple facets, including a commitment to corporate social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Birmingham Business School is one school ahead of the game when it comes to embracing responsible management. In 2018, the school officially opened the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business. It’s a five-year project to build the capacity for responsible business transformation at the school.

Birmingham also has responsible business scholarships available for all Executive MBA students, which can cover up to 50% of tuition. Students are assessed and rewarded financial aid based on their past and future commitment to responsible management.

How the business school curriculum is changing

On the Birmingham MBA, the Principles of Responsible Business module is an example of adapting the curriculum to fit the industry shift. Students learn about responsible capitalism, business ethics, and corporate governance and regulation. A fundamental question that is asked of students is, ‘what sort of social contract is required between business and government on behalf of the people?’.

Birmingham Business School is also one of 752 signatories of the UN’s Principles of Responsible Management Education (UNPRME). UNPRME was set up as a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in schools around the world, and to ready today’s business school students with the knowledge and capability to deliver positive change.

Keen entrepreneurs from any school in the world can also ply their trade to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues through the Hult Prize. Any team of students from any college or university can compete for the $1 million prize; each year the challenge is based around solving a pertinent global issue, with a keen focus on the UN SDGs.

Encouraging prosocial behavior at business school could have much needed positive knock on effects outside of the classroom.

In a paper published earlier this year under the aegis of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), Business School Rankings for the 21st Century, it is suggested social institutions that value and push prosocial behavior influence graduates to do the same in the workplace; those who push self-interest, and principles of stakeholder value first see that mentality carried forward.

What jobs are available for MBAs in the new economy?

Companies are responding, no more so than in the energy sector. In the UK, the government recently announced a plan to generate 30% of its energy from wind power. Employers are after MBA grads who can apply agility, competence, and business acumen to help them adapt and thrive in an era of change.

Felix Ritchie, an MBA grad from Birmingham Business School fitted the bill—he transitioned into the clean energy sector after graduating.

READ MORE: The MBA At The Forefront Of The UK's Clean Energy Drive


The oil and gas sector is one in need of MBA grads to manage a strong industry shift towards cleaner energy use. The Scandinavian giants lead the way. Danish Oil and Natural Gas recently rebranded as Ørsted in a move away from fossil fuels, as did Statoil, who renamed as Equinor, a symbol of its commitment to renewables.

The UNGC’s paper also suggests awarding credit to schools who train students who after graduating work in lower paying, valuable organizations like NGOs or public sector bodies. They would be ranked on their graduates’ positive impact careers.

That paves the way for more students to move into the charity sector, or nonprofits, and to launch careers geared towards social good, not to the detriment of a school’s position in league tables.

Either way, change in the graduate management education industry is afoot. Now is the time for MBA students to take advantage of that.

Those in power are under pressure to change, and it seems only a matter of time before MBA means not only Master of Business Administration, but Managing Business Amicably too.