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The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) iscurrently hosting their Leadership Summit 2010 in New York City, aimed athighlighting a growing consensus on the criticality of sustainability forbusinesses. The two-day conference also formed the platform for showcasing the GlobalCompact CEO study, co-conducted with consulting firm Accenture, titled "A New Era of Sustainability: CEO reflections on progress todate, challenges ahead and the impact of the journey toward a sustainableeconomy."
Taking its cue from the survey results—whichreported that 93% of surveyed CEOs emphasize and understand the criticalimportance of sustainability today—a key event yesterday on day oneof the conference, was a panel discussing a global sustainability agenda forcompanies. Moderated by Bank of America Chairman Charles O. Holliday, Jr.,the panel discussed sustainability from many aspects—corporate, civicas well as academic.
A key highlight of the panel was University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of BusinessDean Carolyn Woo, who brought up the need for the corporate world to embracethe Principles for Responsible Management Education(PRME). Developed in 2007 by an international group of 60 deans, universitypresidents and business school administrators, these six principles seek to laythe foundation for a global platform for responsible management education.
Acknowledging the increasing corporateconsciousness toward sustainability, Dr. Woo chose to highlight the academicparadigm for business schools by putting forward three requests for companies.Besides resonating with students and informed professionals, these questionsshould serve as necessary pointers for companies as they expand their CSRinitiatives and begin realizing that recruitment is an inescapable part of theequation:
1) Advocate for us: Stating thatPRME had the potential to set forth a curriculum change at business schoolstoward building generations of conscious leaders and entrepreneurs, she askedcompanies for their support. "Send endorsement letters, reach outpersonally and endorse the principles for responsible management,"she said.
2) Be explicit in your inquiry about CSRand sustainability issues in the curriculum: Hitting the core of thedilemma that continues to disconnect students and companies on corporateresponsibility, Dr. Woo emphasized that clear messaging from companies andrecruiters was essential to bridge this gap. "Be explicit in whatyou would like to see change in our curricula to ensure we continue to meetyour recruitment needs and corporate responsibility, just like you ask yoursupply chain to adhere to set sustainability principles," sheexplained.
3) Show us by example: Best saidin her words: "Lead us by your consistency, commitment andcourage so that we can together diffuse skepticism toward sustainability. Sothat when you go into interviews, you can be very explicit in asking them[students] questions and posing alternatives to see whether they live up to theideals and values of your companies."
Finally, she concluded, companies must becomelearning partners. "We cannot learn on our own. Educationalinstitutions need you to join us for internal training sessions, as researchsites for developing new knowledge and skills sets," she said.Her final note, however, should resonate with all of us, regardless of ourposition in the corporate/educational hierarchy. "Mostimportantly, we need you to mentor and advise us. Reach out to business schoolleaders and university administrators and let's make this a dialogue,"she asked.
Dr. Woo's challenging remarks were well-timed. Itwill soon be recruitment season with many graduating MBA candidates from 2009and 2010 still in the job market for sustainable jobs. In the current paradoxof a struggling economy and an ever-conscious generation of graduating classes,companies will be doing a major disservice to their own long-term success bynot shifting their focus to corporate sustainability.
As always, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or connect with me by emailing In Good Companyor on Twitter @VaultCSR.
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