What do Students Think about Responsible Management Education

Every two years, The United Nations- supported Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) and Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) Associate Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal collaborate on an international study that measures that attitudes of business students around the world have towards responsible management education and corporate social responsibility.

The results are increasingly positive. As would be expected, a growing number of students around the world are not only aware of, but requesting more focus on sustainability within their business degrees. Here are twelve insights pulled from the survey data.

  1. Students understand how important these topics are to business. 92% felt the overall effectiveness of a business can be determined to a great extent by the degree to which it is ethical and socially responsible, 96% believe that social responsibility and profitability can be compatible, and 95% believe companies should be doing a lot more for society and the environment.
  1. Of these, a growing number understand the importance of it also being taught in business school. Between 70 and 80% of students believe that schools should teach them about business ethics, environmental sustainability, the SDGs, CSR. 59% of students reported to have been educated about business ethics to a good/excellent degree.
  1. But not all students are being reached, and not all to the same degree. 26% percent felt that there was already too much emphasis on these topics in their business education. Between 20-30% felt that schools shouldn’t teach students about sustainability topics at all. 
  1. The students that are interested want more: Only 40% of respondents felt their school met their RME expectations to a high degree or better. 28% wanted their school to teach them more about these topics, particularly around ethics and environmental sustainability.
  1. General sustainability topics are being presented but what about specific topics and to what extended? Respondents felt that while topics such as business ethics, CSR and diversity were being taught to a good degree, more specific topics within sustainability, such as anti-corruption, human rights, fair trade, social entrepreneurship not as much with between 11 and 16% of respondents saying that had not learnt about these topics at all.
  1. Students are not aware of some of the key players that will increasingly be relevant in their post degree careers. 24% of students were aware of the UN Global Compact, 26% were aware of their schools involvement in PRME (67.5% were unsure) and only 37% had heard of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  1. Students want to know what they can do to get more involved, especially on a daily basis. Respondents showed that they regularly engage in sustainability behaviour through their products they purchase (over 90%), boycott ‘bad’ companies (81%), buy organic (85%)
  1. Students also want their schools to get more involved. When asked if students felt their business school was doing enough to help develop responsible leadership Over half of the students felt that schools provide either just enough or more than enough, 28% felt their school was helping but not enough and 6.5% suggested their school wasn’t helping at all
  1. Students not only need to be exposed to sustainability, but perhaps more importantly, how to use it within their post degree jobs. 38% of respondents felt that they were either well equipped or very well equipped to apply their CSR knowledge in real life (16.7% felt either not very well or not at all equipped).
  1. Engaging in sustainability goes beyond just teaching. It is also about students getting involved in their community and causes that are important to them. 33% of respondents were involved in volunteering activities and over three quarters of respondents participated in no social movements.
  1. Students are willing to take a pay cut to work for companies that take CSR and sustainability seriously: 88% of respondents felt it was between fairly important and absolutely essential to make a lot of money. However, half of the respondents would give up more than 20% of their initial financial benefit to work for a company that cares about employees. One in five students would sacrifice 40% or more of their future salary to work for a company that demonstrates several aspects of CSR.
  1. Students have some good ideas as to what schools could do to increase their teaching of responsible management. When asked what else business schools should do to increase responsible management the respondents suggested adding additional topics and contents to their programmes, utilising real life case students and industry speakers to explore the topics, and providing more encouragement for students to engage further these topics.

Nearly 1800 students responded to the online survey mainly from Brazil, India, the US, Spain, Canada, Mexico and Australia. The average age was 27 and 46% of respondents were female. Respondents included by undergraduate and MBA students. To read the full report click here.

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