Ethical inside job

August 30, 2012

Making businesses more ethical must begin with the business schools ("Learning to do the right thing - and swear to it", News, 2 August). However, making students take an "MBA Oath" is not the answer.

In my discussions with many MBA groups, this is often considered a gimmick that has no lasting impact. Longer-lasting and more effective change requires a more radical revolution in business school education - and that of universities more generally.

The United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative aims to inspire and champion responsible education, research and thought leadership. Among UK business schools, only a tiny number have taken up the oath, but almost half have signed up to PRME.

Aston University, one of the earliest signatories, has been embedding ethics, responsibility and sustainability issues into its curriculum, and its 2020 University strategy aims to ensure that all students - not just those on business courses - will be literate in terms of social responsibility and sustainability by the time they graduate.

Although some may question whether teaching ethics makes a difference to behaviour, my research tells a different story. After studying at schools that have signed up to the initiative, many students have changed their approach to business and some have even resigned from companies where ethics were abandoned in the pursuit of profit.

Only when we change the education of our future business leaders will we begin to rebuild business so that it is embedded in society rather than undermining it.

Carole Parkes, Co-director, social responsibility and sustainability, Aston Business School

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