This past April, two months before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, ESADE signed the Commitment to Sustainable Practices of Higher Education Institutions, an initiative launched by the UN as part of Rio+20. This commitment reinforces our aspiration to be an increasingly socially responsible and sustainable academic institution.
Two months after signing the commitment, Enrique López Viguria, who is responsible for ESADE’s Social Responsibility Master Plan, and Professor Daniel Arenas, Research Coordinator at ESADE’s Institute for Social Innovation, participated in two events associated with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio: the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education and the Corporate Sustainability Forum of the Global Compact. The more than 250 business schools and educational institutions from all over the world that participated in the Rio conference produced a Declaration to reaffirm their commitments.
This Declaration contains a “roadmap to 2020” featuring the following points:
- We need to work collaboratively to reassess the purpose of HEIs in society.
- We need to rethink the nature of management and leadership education, enabling graduates, through transformative, trans-disciplinary learning, to lead for the long-term in ways that promote the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, creating benefits for the company, society and the planet through innovation in products, services, processes and business models, and in dialogue with all stakeholders.
- We need to give purpose to our research so that it supports organisations to serve the common good.
- We need to redefine the purpose of the firm and adapt our core assumptions, like agency theory and maximisation of shareholder value, so that they are fit for purpose in a society that works beyond the short term to the medium and long term.
- Sustainable development is too often seen as a niche approach (e.g., one dedicated programme, one research chair, one green campus policy) and not as a core element for HEIs. We need to change this by seeking coherence among curricula, research, training and daily operations on the campus.
At ESADE, we have given our commitment tangible form by drawing up a Social Responsibility Master Plan. This plan sets out specific actions that will move us toward our goal of becoming socially responsible in our training, research, social debate and institutional policies.