Inaugural blog: Beyond discussion

by Lars Moratis and Frans Melissen /

What should responsible management education look like against the background of a world that is on a trajectory of a two degree Celsius temperature rise by 2050?

Which roles can business schools take to tackle systemic challenges such as pandemics, the biodiversity crisis, and inequality and oppression across societies around the world?

What responsibilities do we, as business school administrators, management educators, management researchers, and management students, see for ourselves in spurring the much-needed transition towards a more healthy, inclusive, just, and prosperous society? How can we best take on these responsibilities?

The systemic challenges we see ourselves confronted with are nothing short of daunting – no matter how you look at them. Take the climate crisis, for instance: while global warming is leading us to irreversible tipping points in the Earth system, it is also a manifestation of environmental racism. And whereas the climate crisis and biodiversity have long been treated as separate problems, they appear deeply interconnected – and tackling them as such is crucial for human wellbeing.

If anything, these challenges call for quick, smart, concerted, inclusive, massive efforts. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions. As Johan Rockström, one of the authors of the famous ‘Hothouse Earth’ paper said in a recent interview for the Guardian about climate change: “We need all forces. (…) Why? Because we have only 10 years to cut emissions by half. We cannot change the economic model in 10 years. We can’t forbid everyone to do things in 10 years. We can’t re-educate whole populations in that time.” His statements provide a glimpse of what is needed. Mobilizing all forces cannot be done without recognizing the cultural, spiritual, psychological, and economic dimensions of these systemic challenges and without a deep understanding of how these are linked.

Hence, the only viable way forward is to rise to these systemic challenges to the best of our abilities and recognize them for what they are. In order to do so, we need to challenge ourselves in all ways possible: challenge our interpretations of global problems, challenge what we are currently doing to solve them, and challenge our ideas of what ‘the right solutions’ are.

Trailblazing the world of management education, the PRME community is and should remain among the first to rise to the occasion. The fact that we are well-positioned to take up the gauntlet comes with a duty to do so. It is nothing more than the maxim laid down in Iron Law of Responsibility (or the Law of Long-Run Self-Interest) formulated by Keith Davis in the 1960s that we are all too familiar with: “In the long run, those who do not use power in a manner that society considers responsible will tend to lose it.”

Indeed, we consider this to be a serious risk. Perhaps the main question is not so much to what extent we are sufficiently equipped to respond to these systemic challenges, but whether or not we are really prepared to do what it takes. In the end, we are talking about political and societal engagement here – engagement that reveals a deliberate ideological course of action aimed at changing a system for the better. As such, true engagement not only requires critically evaluating our current ways of working, teaching, and research, but also the very identities and worldviews of the institutions and professions that we are in.

When we take that seriously – and we should – this would imply engaging in activism within and beyond the boundaries of the business school. As University of Kent’s Charlie Gardner and his colleagues recently posited in a thought-provoking article that is part of the Special Issue ‘Re-Purposing Universities for Sustainable Human Progress’ in Frontiers in Sustainability, academics should move “from publications to public actions and engage in advocacy and activism to affect urgent and transformational change.” Sure, moving from publications to public actions means that we should engage in activities that are relatively uncommon within management education and that may feel uncomfortable to many – but in order to fulfil the potential of management education and business schools we need to move beyond the discussions that we have been having so far. It is time to elevate our thinking. It is time to elevate what we are doing.

Launching the revamped PRME blog should be seen against this background. The blog will function as the online chronicle of UN PRME, publishing timely, engaging, cutting-edge, and provocative content developed by the broad community of professionals involved in responsible management education. Emboldened by an activist streak and not shying away from critical views, it aims to serve as a mechanism for reflection, a point of inspiration, and a call to action for protagonists of responsible management education within academia, business, and broader society.

The PRME blog aspires to give voice to uncomfortable truths, some might even say it is characterized by a touch of anger, and it definitely mirrors impatience in challenging the status quo. After all, its presupposition is that there should be no other form of management education than responsible management education – and there is no time to waste in realizing this ideal. For these reasons, the blog wants be immediately relevant to contemporary issues, providing expert commentaries, insights, and ideas in-sync with the news cycle, helping our readers to reflect on controversial issues as they happen.

We feel honoured to be acting as the editors-in-chief of the PRME blog, and we are especially proud to be working with our colleagues that have committed themselves to the blog’s Editorial Board. It is a great prospect to embark on this journey together.

And we are looking forward to be working with you, too. We invite everyone that wants to contribute to this blog. Particularly, we are looking for blog posts that reflect the ideas and aspirations of the PRME blog. Whereas written blog posts should have a vivid, accessible style that ensures making its contents attractive for a broad community of interested readers, we are also open towards other types of contributions, notably videos and podcasts. We are excited to take this initiative forward – way beyond discussion. Welcome to the PRME blog.

Lars Moratis and Frans Melissen are the Chairholders in Management Education for Sustainability, a joint initiative by Antwerp Management School and Breda University of Applied Sciences and the Editors-in-Chief of The PRME Blog.

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