Corporate Social Responsibility is engaging the attention of the business community and B-Schools that touches on a diverse gamut of business nuances. Simply speaking, CSR talks about the responsibilities of businesses and business leaders towards the societies within which they operate. It is about embracing responsible business practices for the well-being of all stakeholders, including the general public.
Businesses realise they cannot prosper if the society they serve fails. B-Schools carry big responsibilities Business schools have the onus to provide practitioners with training in the basics of CSR ethics. It would ideally act as a catalyst to stimulate socially and ethically managed business organisations. Management and business students should know the importance and role of CSR. It will help them grooming for future job roles at several management and business positions.
It essentially means that the demand for socially conscious business executives is expected to surge in future. In response, B-schools in India have leaped into the social responsibility movement aptly labelling it as “responsible management education”. B-schools and the graduating students understand that they can play a decisive role in spreading the message of CSR revolution and sustainable development initiatives.
Accordingly, all prominent Bschools have taken active steps to integrate CSR courses into their core curriculum. In February 2019, University Grants Commission came out with draft National Framework and Guidelines for “Fostering Social Responsibility and Community Engagement in Higher Education Institutions in India.” While spreading CSR is on the top of the mind of all B-schools, the pertinent issue is whether these temples of higher education are geared up to deliver industry-relevant CSR courses?
Whether CSR is a buzzword, or are B-schools really serious about translating CSR issues into action? Formulation of CSR policies Teaching social responsibility is not an easy task, as it is an abstract subject. However, the CSR course outline and delivery have become increasingly demanding after the introduction of the Companies Act 2013 (Section 135, Schedule VII). This section provides a broad framework for eligible companies to formulate their CSR policies, including activities to be undertaken in the right earnest.
Need to incorporate CSR into business curriculum Grooming budding managers into responsible citizens require changing their attitudes and valuesystem. For this to happen, B-schools need to fine-tune the curriculum with the ultimate aim of spreading social consciousness among the MBAs. More specifically, CSR courses should be designed to prepare the students to become change-masters through adopting or advocating sustainable business practices.
Also, more and more business schools around the world need to integrate social responsibility into their curriculum, including their research and teaching missions, as higher education is better off when it gives back to the society that is responsible for funding it. Good news is that studies on the effectiveness of social responsibility related courses in higher education endorse that management graduates’ mindsets are evolving towards their civic obligations.
There seems to be a consensus among MBAs that together with traditional courses like accounting and finance, marketing, operations, IT, and strategy etc., understanding of the societal commitments is equally relevant in the changing business scenario. Millennials are now open to enter into meaningful dialogues on issues concerning social responsibility, ethics and environment by emphasising on sustainable development goals.
Teaching CSR courses in isolation, without aligning them to other management disciplines, is not likely to bring in the desired results. CSR- a moral obligation The impression among business leaders is that CSR has not gone mainstream among B-school students. CSR practitioners opine that the real purpose of offering CSR courses is to sensitise and bring about behavioural change in the attitudes of the MBAs.
Reason: social responsibility is not just about what students think, but what they will do as a result of what they will learn. Social responsibility is an ethical construct where an individual or an organisation has a moral obligation to act for the community advantage at large. It enunciates that crucial stakeholders are accountable for fulfilling their societal commitments. This necessitates that upcoming business executives and entrepreneurs have to simultaneously shoulder the dual responsibility of increasing shareholder’s wealth as well as meeting social obligations.
Premier B-schools follow a holistic approach in designing and delivering these courses. The faculty continually strive to make CSR courses practical and contemporary. They make earnest efforts to establish linkages between CSR courses and CSR programmes of prominent corporates. In addition to explaining theoretical concepts of CSR, faculty pushes students to gain hands-on experience in sustainable business practices.
Students are encouraged to develop ideas to undertake CSR projects of realworld significance. For this to materialise, subject matter experts and executives directly engaged in formulating and implementing CSR plans are regularly invited to share their experiences with students. Based on real-life learning, students can come up with concrete solutions to the problems they see in their social set-up on themes like health and hygiene, illiteracy, gender inequality, exploitation of child labour, environmental degradation, rural infrastructure, and woman empowerment. Providing conceptual knowledge of CSR coupled with experiential learning can groom MBAs into socially responsible business leaders.
This indeed is extremely important for the advancement of future managers, businesses, and society. And Covid-19 outbreak is the right time to encourage B-school graduates to embrace social responsibility and community engagement initiatives as part of their professional career. They can collectively add value to the overall societal effort to combat the virus impact.
(The writers are professors at FORE School of Management, New Delhi)