Integrating Sustainability in Management Education


Vinod Sharma
Associate Professor

Heena Joshi
Marketing Manager
Shri Balaji Forest


what does it mean? In real sense, sustainability is the endurance of system and processes. With the advent of information age, sustainability has created a cold draft sweeping across the world leading to economic uncertainty. Sustainability has posed new and unprecedented challenge to human life. It is well predicted by World Bank in their report that with the increased population and flickering needs of people, each year until 2030 there will be burning need of energy (40%) and water (40%) along with other basic necessities. It also report that at least 150 million people will be at the step to enter the cadre of middle class group which will fire up the consumption level. Thus providing for the next generation of consumers a real challenge to spread the warmth and light of sustainable development at each step or human life will be in danger of being snuffed out.

Many firms have already taken a proactive step towards sustainability; they have and are trying to position themselves to succeed in this changing framework by redefining their strategies. But one step taken by the business houses cannot leap forward for equitable change; it requires support from whole world.
During the last decades it was evident that large number of intuitions/ business schools have been incorporating and institutionalizing the concept of 'sustainable development' in their curricula, research, operations, outreach, and assessment and reporting. The topics such as sustainable development, environment philosophy & management, nature writing, land ethics, sustainable agriculture, urban ecology, social justice, women development, and sustainable production & consumption and many others have fired up the concept of sustainable development. Importantly, most of these topics have already been started by some of the premium business schools and interestingly these jargons have been given sufficient amount of importance in the budget too.

Moreover, in response to political, social, and competitive forces business educators are developing and designing sustainable business strategies which will help business houses too in receiving the benefits and minimizing the pinch. Developing curricula will build the knowledge and skills required to enable graduates to contribute to sustainable business efforts. The fresh management graduates must not only understand this term but they should also be equipped to apply a sustainable thought process to the challenges business face today. Management students should apply management concepts to a real-life situation, while gaining a greater awareness of environmental issues and the role of businesses in environmental stewardship.

The concept of sustainability dates back to the ideas first explored in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. The substance of this conference gained prominence in what is called the 1987 Brundtland Report, our common future (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). This report presented an often-quoted definition of sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". In addition, (the Brundtland) Report created a macro-level framework for addressing ways of protecting the Earth's ecosystems while taking into consideration economic and social justice concerns.

Underlying the broad concept of sustainability, the concepts of ecological (environmental), financial (economic) and social (equity) sustainability have coined the 3Es concept. The concept of organic foods, green building, renewable energy, carbon-neutral, and other green movements all are working within the broader context of this sustainability paradigm.

The first 'E' that is Environmental/Ecological Sustainability is the key value and requires long-term health and viability of our major ecosystems that is air, water, etc. However, the second 'E' that is Economic/Financial Sustainability departs from traditional environmentalism in its recognition of the importance of providing secure, long-term economic stability without jeopardizing the health of our ecosystems. Creating a healthy environment, free of pollution and toxic waste and simultaneously providing the basis for a stable economy that will endure for an extended period are viewed as complementary rather than conflicting endeavors. The third 'E' that is Social Equity/Community Sustainability adds a sense of our common welfare to the mix in that members of a sustainable society understand that the well-being of the individual and larger community is interdependent.

According to the Sustainability Education Center, it is an evolving paradigm for planning and decision making. It is a promise. It is a dynamic condition, which requires a basic understanding of the interconnections and interdependency among ecological, economic, and social systems.

The concept of sustainability which, at a minimum, addresses how humans can live on the planet over time in a manner that protects cultural and biological diversity, recognizes and appreciates ecological limits, offers just and accountable governments and economies for all, and draws on the human capacity for adaptive learning and innovation offering a tremendous challenge for education.  It requires marketing educators to rethink their missions and to re-structure their courses, research priorities, community outreach, and campus operations. By preparing students and the whole campus community to be more adept decision makers in the increasingly complex, dynamic, and uncertain future that we all face, integrating sustainability into all of the major activities of management education also presents a tremendous opportunity.

The management education in India has reached to the pinnacle and it has to reflect the present environmental changes in its pursuit of global excellence. In the new knowledge environment, as a key task, business schools should focus more upon maximum public benefit. This could be possible by promoting a broader and more inclusive conception of knowledge. This also requires by the educators to have greater engagement with the society, to have greater contextualization and to have the contestation of the enlightenment model of knowledge produced for its own ends in the splendid isolation of academy.

UNESCO report says, education for sustainable development is a dynamic concept that utilizes all aspects of public awareness, education and training to create or enhance an understanding of the linkages among the issues of sustainable development and to develop the knowledge, skills, perspectives and values which will empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future.

In most of the developed countries the sustainability has exploded onto the higher education within the past few years. Student affairs professionals, faculty, business officers, campus planners, and the national associations for these and many other campus personnel have made sustainability the focus of recent conferences, publications, and trainings. The call for sustainability has come from state systems of higher education and even the United Nations (via the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2015). Local, national, and international attention to sustainability becomes more focused each year as our global predicament becomes clearer such as, exponential growth of the human population and our unyielding consumption of finite resources are unsustainable and are causing profound damage to our global ecosystem. A new way forward is needed. Government, industry, aid organizations, and other groups of people around the world are looking to institutions of higher education to create sustainable solutions to environmental, societal, and economic challenges.

Integration Strategies

Green Orientation:
Colleges and universities should demonstrate their commitment to sustainability on student's first day on campus, which occurs for many students during the summer before their first year of college. New student orientation programs are generally one to two-day campus visits when incoming students affects students, their studies, and future career prospects.

Graduation Requirement: Environmental literacy is an important component of sustainability education and, as such, was the focus of two national studies that looked at the extent to which sustainability concepts have been incorporated into higher education. While a number of colleges and universities stand out for educating students in all disciplines about sustainability, the survey found that, unless they are majoring in biology or environmental studies, students in many institutions may complete their studies without gaining basic environmental literacy.  Sustainability education experts say that sustainability and environmental literacy must become the premise for all education. A required course in sustainability is a step in the right direction but one course is not enough to expect that students will understand complex relationships between environment, society, and economy. Students need to continue to learn about sustainability throughout their years in college.

Campuses as a Model Sustainable Community: Greening campus operations are a critical piece of the campus sustainability movement. Institutions are striving to reduce environmental impacts and operating expenses by replacing lighting fixtures, bathroom faucets, heating and cooling equipment, and other inefficient energy and/or water systems, especially if there is a relatively short payback period on the initial investment. Energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions are the primary focus for the more than many colleges and universities that have pledged to become carbon neutral; however, many schools are also involved with projects that are less carbon-focused such as creating on-campus organic farms, developing zero-waste operations, and building stronger connections between campus and the surrounding community.

4p's Approach: A well known name in the field of marketing, Prof. Philip Kotler wrote a book named 'Marketing 3.0', says that the 4Ps marketing mix typology (product, price, place/distribution and promotion) is a useful means of categorizing the sustainability concepts and tools relevant to marketing decision making because it allows readers to identify those concepts most appropriate for inclusion in specific management courses.

Product Strategy can address the issues of sustainability in product development at both the introductory and advanced levels of marketing education. It helps us in knowing that how decisions about raw materials, package design, manufacturing processes, and product disposal can be modified to incorporate principles of sustainability the disposal of one product becomes the 'nutrients' of the next product, eliminating waste.

Pricing Strategy is a major concern in integration of sustainability. Currently, the methods used in product pricing and cost accounting do not include environmental or social costs incurred through such activities as resource extraction, manufacturing processes, or unhealthy working conditions. There are firms, however, that does incorporate full cost accounting into their business model and find not infrequently that they can actually reduce costs and prices. It was only after analyzing his products' life cycles including resource usage; manufacturing processes, and product disposal methods and coming up with sustainable alternatives that management discovered that these changes would also result in cost savings and lower price points. Pricing strategies can also affect the usage of previously thought of free goods, internalizing what used to be externalities.

The addition of environmental and social issues to a chapter on ethics and social responsibility in principles of marketing and advertising textbooks is a good beginning when approaching the integration of sustainability into promotion strategy decisions there are a significant number of firms who are promoting their sustainability efforts through advertising and public relations efforts. It is also evident that some firms are guilty of the unethical practice of green washing, whereby firms promote the environmentally friendly nature of their products while making very few actual changes in its composition.

Dual Degree Programs: A student is earning two degrees simultaneously, making the program fast-paced. Since the degrees happen in different departments, the level of integration of sustainable environmental practices directly Connected with management is much less than that of the green MBA. These forces each Individual student enrolled in a dual degree to incorporate environmental awareness into their business classes: the program is ideal for highly self motivated students. Systematic integration of the two independent programs can be somewhat haphazard and dependent on spontaneous student motivated activities. The dual degree is also the longest in existence of the green MBA options. Thus, the dual degree green MBA is an Option for large institutions that have an MBA program as well as a strong Environmental sciences graduate program. These schools could potentially heighten their competitive advantage by increasing the integration of these two programs.

So, the wheels on sustainable development have got hotter as not only firms but business schools are digging the jacks up by supporting this wave to integrate sustainable development in Management education.


   Published on 08/03/2016

 Source: E-mail 07/03/2016

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