Business Schools Strive For Good
“Greed is good.”
The famous line by Gordon Gekko in the film, Wall Street, mirrors a traditional image of capitalism as a world focused on profit above all else. However, this “Greed is good” has grown increasingly unpopular among business students.
The Economist recently reported that business schools are increasingly making business ethics a staple of their MBA programs. In addition, a number of schools have implemented courses in corporate social responsibility, or CSR.
Harvard’s Leadership and Corporate Accountability course
At Harvard Business School, Leadership and Corporate Accountability (LCA) is a required course for MBAs. The course is intended to teach students the complex responsibilities business leaders face.
“Through cases about difficult managerial decisions, the course examines the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of corporate leaders,” Harvard’s website reads. “It also teaches students about management and governance systems leaders can use to promote responsible conduct by companies and their employees, and shows how personal values can play a critical role in effective leadership.”
Joseph Badaracco is the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard Business School and established the semester-long LCA course. Badaracco tells The Economist that MBA programs should create good managers who can exercise good judgment. This is exactly what courses like LCA are trying to teach.
Badaracco says globalization means global firms must understand and comply with countless international rules. Social media also now puts companies on the spotlight, which means they’re expected to do and say the right thing.
“Things that were kept private in the past can and do get out, and you’ve got this transparency, whether you like it or not,” Badaracco tells The Economist.
Opportunities at Leeds
At the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) was created to educate MBAs in areas like business ethics, CSR, sustainability, and diversity & inclusion.
The mission of the center is “educating current and future values-driven leaders to engage and positively impact ethical, social, environmental and economic challenges,” according to Leeds’ website.
Leeds School of Business has had a long history in pushing for business ethics and sustainability. The Economist reports that in 2001, the Leeds family – the business school’s benefactor – formalized business ethics and sustainability in clauses written into the school’s funding agreement. In addition to taking required CSR courses, Leeds students also have the opportunity to visit companies committed to good business practices.
Mark Meaney is the executive director of Leeds’ Center for Education on Social Responsibility. Meaney tells The Economist that a strong foundation in business ethics may be the key to standing out in the job market. While a majority of MBA positions aren’t directly related to CSR, Meaney says, candidates with CSR experience will be seen favorably.
The days of “Greed is good” may be over. And now, it seems that the business world is shifting to simply do good.