Two years ago, I sat in an audience of 200 business students
watching a special screening of “The Corporation”—a
depressing and somewhat disempowering documentary based on a book written
by Canadian law professor Joel Bakan called Corporation: The Pathological
Pursuit of Profit and Power.
After a desultory panel discussion, one of the students stood up and asked
why—in his entire time at business school—he had never heard
the issues discussed in the movie raised in the classroom. He wanted to
know if his school might learn from other institutions how to incorporate
social and environmental content into the business curricula.
After spending the previous five years trying to do exactly that as a
teacher in the same business school attended by the student, I was a little
disappointed by the question. This school regularly ranked in the top
few schools globally on its inclusion of sustainability and corporate
social responsibility in the MBA program.
Fast-forward to summer 2007: I am visiting a friend who teaches at a top
U.S. school also known for its world-leading embrace of sustainability
and social responsibility at the MBA level. This senior academic described
to me how the vast majority of MBA candidates sail through their programs
en route to well-paid careers in consulting and finance, untouched by
broader questions of the environmental and social impacts of business.
He also told how the senior champion for these issues at his school struggles
to overcome a credibility problem with his mainstream colleagues.
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David Wheeler is the dean of management at Dalhousie University in Nova