Last week, Associate Dean Stig Lanesskog served as a moderator at a Corporate and Social Responsibility conference in New York. Learn more about the conference and his thoughts on the importance of incorporating CSR into the MBA curriculum.
I had the opportunity to attend a conference on corporate and social responsibility (CSR) in New York. The event, held at Columbia University, brought together leaders from higher education and industry to discuss CSR and the broader issue of creating responsible leaders.
There was much debate regarding whether CSR and ethics could be taught. The academic panel, consisting of four professors, acknowledged that methods such a single class on ethics is not enough. There was consensus that students need significant experiential learning opportunities to be able to apply CSR principles so that they are best able to appreciate the implications of decisions they will face throughout their careers.
This couldn't be more true at Illinois. The College of Business, home of the Center for Professional Responsibility is athought leader on the topic of CSR.Within the MBA program, students just created the Kola Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on improving the standard of living for those living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota (read more about their trip to Pine Ridge on our student blog).
I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of Senior Talent Management executives. The panel comprised of the Global Head of Talent Management at Marsh McLennan, the Senior Director of Talent and Organization Develop at AIG, Vice President of Talent and Strategy at CIT and the Director of Workforce Intelligence at jetBlue. They reinforced the notion that CSR type behaviors could be taught and were an emphasis within their firms. To accomplish this, senior leadership must not only make it a priority, but that it must also consistently and visibly practice these behaviors so that it can be reinforced throughout the company.
All of the speakers discussed the Millennial Generation (i.e., most of our current MBA students) and how important CSR is to this group. The speakers noted millennials (as newer employees) have a stronger ability to influence a company's leadership than any age group in history. This is backed by a recent survey that indicated that 93% of CEOs believe that CSR is critical, but 50% of them do not know how to implement this within their organization and are therefore looking for ideas from all levels of the organization.
At the end of the event, we heard from a current Columbia MBA student. She also serves as a leader within the campus ethics and CSR organization. When asked how students today weight a company's CSR practices when determining which organization to work for, she gave a very interesting analogy. She indicated that soon, in New York City, all food items would not only be labeled with the number of calories it contains, but also with its food miles. The food miles illustrate how many miles the food has been transported prior to ending up at the store. It is a surrogate for the items carbon footprint. She said that at the end of the day it is another piece of information available to allow you to make an informed decision. Corporate values and CSR practices are the same. Ultimately, a student must decide what is most important to them.