Lifeworth Review of 2007 GOTO Lifeworth Review 2007: The Global Step Change
Jem Bendell
Adjunct Associate Professor,

Griffith Business School, Australia

Founder, Lifeworth, Switzerland

The responsibility of business schools In July, the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (UN PRME) were launched in Geneva. They call for the incorporation of universal values in curricula and research, and are offered as a guiding framework for academic institutions to advance the broader cause of corporate social responsibility (see Box 1). The Principles have been developed by an international task force of 60 deans, university presidents and official representatives of leading business schools. The initiative has been co-convened by the United Nations Global Compact, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program, the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) and Net Impact.

Autistic academe There is much to collaborate on, because if management education is to be transformed it will require a changing of the incentives for the current unhelpful patterns of behaviour by faculty. This is an issue for all social science, not just management education. The Economist's analysis of the challenge facing business schools alludes to one of these broader challenges: the incentives shaping research. 'Business-school faculty members often seem to place greater weight on winning the approval of peers in their academic discipline than on gaining the approval of their business-school colleagues'. The way to win that approval is by publishing in the A-rated academic journals. This is because, in the name of accountability, around the world, academics' performance has increasingly become rated on the basis of their publications in journals that are held in high regard in a particular discipline. Aside from the fact that this discourages multidisciplinarity, the highest-rated academic journals usually uphold a particular concept of valid research, which expects research questions to arise from theory rather than practice, and incorporates many hallmarks of a positivist paradigm of science. Consequently, these assessment systems have promoted three main hallmarks of an academic approach around the world. First, a focus on particular details at the expense of context to a degree where one's analysis is irrelevant, often coupled with an elaborate verbosity on minor details. Second, a dislike or inability to explore the values and emotions of others as significant phenomena in society and a dislike or inability to reflect on one's own values and emotions as key in shaping one's research. Third, an inclination for repeating procedures, as in particular research methods, rather than changing one's approach depending on circumstances in order to achieve useful outcomes.

Those who teach can do The old saying goes that 'those who can, do; those who can't, teach'. With corporate responsibility it is important that this negative view of teachers and scholars does not gain further support. The authenticity of academic institutions professing responsible business, manifested by how they themselves operate responsibly, is important. Although not yet an explicit principle, the UN PRME explains how signatories 'understand that our own organizational practices should serve as example of the values and attitudes we convey to our students'.9 Fortunately during 2007 there were signs of significant progress in one area of this: the environment.

New Europe, new drivers A UN Development Programme (UNDP) study on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Central and Eastern Europe revealed that civil society is a missing element in holding corporations accountable for their impacts on society and environment in the region. In contrast to Western Europe, where CSR is influenced by the active pressure from various civil society organisations (CSOs), the CSR agenda in Central and Eastern Europe is driven mainly by companies themselves, especially large corporations and international organisations present in the region.13 The impact of civil and consumer groups is still limited owing to underdevelopment of the non-governmental sector. Indre Kleinaite of the Lithuanian sustainable enterprise network told JCC that 'the Soviet system formed a passive society who then developed an obsession with the market economy as a panacea for all their inherited problems, and paying most attention aspiring to Western ideals of consumerism'.

Donor accountability and innovation In July, One World Trust published a report on the accountability of new institutions created to donate large sums for the long-term funding of post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building.18 These 'Multi-Donor Trust Funds' aim is to ensure coherent funding rather than piecemeal, ad hoc cherry-picking of projects by donors, smoothing out lumpy income streams and providing consistency. However, the report argues that as they are multi-million-dollar funds for the reconstruction of a country or region it is also essential that there are adequate accountability mechanisms in place, and provides recommendations for improvement. This was the latest report in an emerging trend to consider 'donor accountability'.

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