IE Focus - Business Schools and CSRJanuary 2009 | By Max Oliva, Professor at IE Business School

Business schools are playing a crucial role in the evolution of social responsibility. Having proved how important it is, they now face the challenge of how to develop it further.

CSR has evolved considerably in recent years. It has gone from being a stand-alone concept to being more and more aligned with business, with clear added value. Now that the “CSR, yes or no” debate has finally been won, we are in the “how” phase, rather than still talking about Friedmanâ??s theories (1.)

Business schools play a key role, from the dissemination and evolution of the concept, to involvement in the various conversations, how it should be integrated in the business strategy, how it should be gauged and managed, which parameters should be used, etc.

All this without losing sight of the role they play in putting talent in contact with the business world. On the one hand, business is interested in CSR as a strategy; 70% of businesses consider it a way to stand out from their competitors (2.). As far as talent is concerned, the increase in the number of people searching for work that not only satisfies economic and professional career requirements but that also offers the potential for contributing to society has increased by more than 70% over the last five years (3.)Hence, concepts such as social entrepreneurs, who have a social and/or environmental mission, use market strategies to fulfil targets for social change; the development of products and services aimed at the base of the pyramid (4.) , such as microcredits, socially responsible investments, eco-intelligent design and public-private alliances find a place in the curricula of many business schools and are in increasing demand.

For a more detailed strategic examination of these issues, we have considered the concept from three strategic angles: knowledge, commitment and diffusion. Knowledge is a fundamental part of any business school and of research in specialised centres and their integration into the subjects taught on programs in every academic area, such as strategy, marketing, finance and organisational behaviour; it also provides the opportunity for specialising in this field, with optional subjects such as the creation of social corporations, social marketing, business and sustainability, among others.

As far as commitment is concerned, our aim is for students, alumni and professionals to have the opportunity to make a direct contribution to the conversation through groups such as Impact and EcologIE, with internships in NGOs, with social entrepreneurs or businesses. Finally, we have strengthened relations with third parties whose experiences complement IE Business School in CSR and the creation of social corporations.

Business schools not only contribute to the conversation by generating new concepts and ways of doing more sustainable business, but also, by serving as a link between enterprise and talent, they complement the development of management skills with a significant focus on sustainability, which will be an increasingly essential requirement for managing businesses.

1.”The social responsibility of enterprise involves increasing its profits”, New York Times Magazine, September 1970.
2.Global survey to managing directors and senior management, IBM 2008
3.Where Will They Lead? Survey on MBA students, Aspen Institute, 2008
4.4000 million people live life with less than $2 a day.