Top business schools taking corporate social responsibility more seriously

Top business schools taking corporate social responsibility more seriously main image

This year’s QS ranking for corporate social responsibility (CSR) shows that more leading business schools are taking the CSR MBA specialization seriously, writes Nicole Willson.

The 2012/13 QS Global 200 Business Schools Report divides institutions into four categories, based on their overall level of employer recognition: Elite Global, Emerging Global, Elite Regional and Emerging Regional.

Elite Global schools dominate the subject specialization ranking for CSR. The top three CSR schools - Harvard, INSEAD and Stanford - all take one of the top three places within their region in the overall rating.

Other Elite Global schools that make the top ten for CSR include Wharton, Columbia and Chicago Booth School of Business, pointing to a strong correlation between strength in CSR and overall employer recognition. This is a zeitgeist area in which Elite Global business schools are taking the lead.

However, while the top 20 CSR schools are mainly those in the Elite Global category, other schools are shown to have a more specialized focus on CSR. Elite Regional George Washington University and Emerging Regional Foster School of Business hold the 11th and 12th spots respectively, a vast improvement on their performance in the overall rating.

Timothy Fort is the Lindner-Gambal Professor of Business Ethics and executive director of the Institute for Corporate Responsibility at George Washington University Business School.  He has been teaching for 26 years and states, “the difference between now and then in terms of corporate responsibility issues is amazing.”

Why are more business schools taking CSR seriously? According to Fort, “Students drove this [change] more than anything.” He says that students knew that these issues mattered more. Fort first observed this change 15 years ago after students began demanding that MBA programs pay more attention to corporate responsibility issues. In addition, enterprising faculty and administrators worked to bring more attention to CSR issues at business schools.

Increased student interest in CSR is also reflected in post-MBA career choices. Helga Kirchner, director of MBA Career Services Spain’s ESADE Business School, has observed that an increasing number of MBA students are interested in CSR, as well as careers in the non-profit sector.

The importance of corporate social responsibility in today’s economy

As corporations come under greater scrutiny for their ethical and environmental practice, employers are turning to a growing number of CSR MBAs. While philanthropy is still important, CSR has become more of a strategic issue than a philanthropic one.

Timothy Fort gives two reasons as to why CSR has become an important part of business strategy. First, since technology has made it easier to report business actions, Fort states that now “reputation matters more than in a time when actions could be more hidden. “ As a result, how a company behaves in terms of corporate ethics and environmental sustainability can affect its bottom line.

The second reason Fort gives is that CSR taps into the aspect of human nature that enjoys doing good.  The human inclination toward doing good is demonstrated by the fact that most people want to work at a company “that is able to connect values and profits.” CSR provides ways for people to contribute to some sort of greater good, either internally or outside of the company. Strategically, this boosts workplace morale since employees believe that their work doesn’t just help their company, it also leads to the betterment of society.

Fort provides two examples of companies that use CSR to give their employees a sense of purpose. The first example is Whole Foods, where employees surveyed stated that they view their employer as “heroic.” The second is Google, which inspired both their employees and their customers by standing up to Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring, based on the company value of the free flow of information.

More companies are hiring CSR MBAs for their ability to implement these kinds of strategies, and as a result, provide real value to companies.

Written by Laura Tucker
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