By Dr Juliet E. Kele, Research Fellow In HRM
Department of Marketing and Lloyds Centre for Responsible Business, University of Birmingham
Teachers have the power to create safe places for many under-represented student groups. This in turn allows students to express their views and perspectives within the classroom
With organisations becoming increasingly conscious that their responsibility extends further than maintaining profits, a spotlight now shines upon today’s teachers to prepare students for their roles as future leaders.
Embracing good corporate citizenship is important, but there are questions that need to be asked. How can we best teach responsible business within curriculums? Can we achieve the goal of having entirely responsible leaders?
To whom should we teach?
Introducing elements of responsible business education into primary school curriculums can help to inspire and enthuse children (ages 4-11) at a time when their aspirations and attitudes towards learning are just beginning to develop.
By secondary level (ages 11-17) many students will already have an idea of their career aspirations. Providing work experience placements within responsible businesses can help young people to structure their ideas around real-life responsible practice. As well as this, focusing specifically on students from disadvantaged areas can help them to realise their potential and how they can shape the future of responsible business.
Sixth form and college teachers can work in partnership with responsible businesses to design a course that helps their students learn key skills that are necessary within society and the working world. Businesses can support in teaching vocational training courses, with guest classes led by industry professionals. Responsible businesses may also facilitate apprenticeship schemes, which enable students to experience social responsibility through civic engagement – which was the theme for International Youth Day in 2015.
Contributing to this movement is the Sustainable Schools Alliance, which aims to drive change in the education system. Research shows that being a sustainable school raises standards and enhances wellbeing. Sustainable schools not only work hard to engage young people, they also promote healthy school environments and lifestyles through policies that create safe and welcoming environments to benefit both staff and students.
Not just by the book
Teachers have the power to create safe places for many under-represented student groups. This in turn allows students to express their views and perspectives within the classroom; advice is available online around how to create safe school environments.
The impact that a teacher’s guidance has on the aspirations of young people should not be underestimated. However, our fast-paced and technologically-driven world continues to open up new possibilities for innovative and effective learning opportunities.
Creating authentic learning environments, which facilitate problem-based group work and use life-like interactive case study scenarios (such as the online responsible business game AIM2Flourish), can help students learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the vital role that organisations have in achieving them.
Going ‘beyond green’ in higher education: the role of business schools
As part of this revolution, business schools must evolve. Responsible business education is especially valuable in business schools for the following reasons:
- An organisation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts strengthen their reputation; being recognised for strong environmental and social concerns will attract like-minded people. In this regard, higher education institutions should offer safe academic learning environments in which students are able to achieve ‘complex cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal development’.
- Current students, who are also our future business leaders, want to work for responsible businesses and they will incorporate these values into their future careers. Ethical leadership is essential for future business success.
- The growth of green collar jobs – careers supporting environmental responsibility – is exponential. The global renewable energy sector employed 8 million people in 2016 alone – a 1.1% increase from the previous year. With this significant change in mind, it is important that our students are prepared for this new working environment.
Developing tomorrow’s leaders today
Although teaching responsible business is valuable in its own right, it will spark conversations amongst students and teachers that will develop essential transferable skills e.g. analytical and critical thinking, effective communication. Moreover, safe spaces will also further student learning and enhance critical thinking skills.
Responsible business education will help students to develop respect for the diversity of people, cultures and environments, as well as an understanding of social justice, equity and human rights. All of this, as well as creating a space for self-growth, enables students to foster a sense of personal responsibility and responsible citizenship. So for me, responsible business education, is a no-brainer.