Linda Tuncay Zayer, Pilar Castro González.
A World in Crisis: The Role of Business Schools in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals
To unite businesses in building a just and sustainable world, the United Nations Global Compact was founded in 2000. This was followed by the Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative in 2007, specifically to cultivate the role of higher education and business schools in this endeavor. At the PRME Global Forum held virtually in June 2020, three crises were highlighted which have profound impact on the lives of people across the globe: COVID-19, climate change, and inequality. Indeed, many of the globe’s existing problems and inequalities were only exacerbated in recent years due to the global pandemic, as well as social and political unrest. This research asks, what should the role of business schools be in this new reality? How is this vision translated into actionable education initiatives? How can Jesuit universities collaborate in these initiatives to achieve greater impact? The 2020 Business Accreditation Standards from the AACSB states that business schools should promote positive social impact through its curriculum (Standard 4) and its internal and external initiatives (Standard 9). A focus on ‘purpose’ is also commensurate with the Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education and the hungers—such as the hunger for integrated knowledge, hunger for moral compass, hunger for global paradigm, and hunger for dignified work and meaningful impact, among others. Further, purpose-driven business resonates with a new generation of students who prioritize purpose, ethics, and global citizenship (Deloitte: Welcome to Generation Z, 2020). Many businesses are turning to the SDGs to measure their impact on their communities and society more broadly. However, how can these broad goals be translated into a university curriculum and what are the challenges and opportunities associated with these efforts? The PRME offers a Blueprint for SDG Integration report, emphasizing four key elements: commitment from all levels, a deep understanding of the organization, visible goals and resources, and a coordinated communication of information and knowledge. However, from a ground level, what might these educational initiatives look like? This research presents the partnership between two Jesuit universities with shared goals and values: Loyola University Chicago (LUC), Quinlan School of Business, USA and Loyola University Andalucía (LUA), Spain on their journey with young people to translate broader social impact goals into meaningful learning experiences through business course collaborations and a focus on the SDGs. Success factors, as observed across through three faculty led programs and one virtual course collaboration will be discussed, along with the challenges. Data from student reflection assignments from 2016, 2017, 2019 (31 reflections) and 2020 (20 reflections) were also analyzed to assess strengths of the collaborations. Successful collaborations entailed 1) partnerships with businesses with a focus on sustainability, including Abengoa, L'Oréal, and Coca-Cola 2) building connection and community and 3) building capacities. In this manner, students were able to jointly work together towards a mutual goal; thus, becoming more aware, empathetic, and competent future leaders. A World in Crisis: The Role of Business Schools in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals Introduction Universities play a fundamental role in the training of young people who will have to contribute to solving society's problems. In particular, Jesuit universities have the mission and purpose of forming leaders who will be agents of change and who will lead organizations to become more sustainable and just. The goal is to cultivate students who are more aware, compassionate, competent, and committed after their formative years at their universities. To unite businesses in building a just and sustainable world, the United Nations Global Compact was founded in 2000. This was followed by the Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative in 2007, specifically to enhance the role of higher education and business schools in this endeavor. At the PRME Global Forum held virtually in June 2020, three crises were highlighted which have profound impact on the lives of people across the globe: COVID-19, climate change, and inequality. Indeed, many of the globe’s existing problems and inequalities were only exacerbated in recent years due to the global pandemic, as well as social and political unrest. This research asks, what should the role of business schools be in this new reality? How is this vision translated into actionable education initiatives? How can Jesuit universities collaborate in these initiatives to achieve greater impact? In a society in which the new generation of students, Generation Z, or those born between 1995 and 2012, value the ethics, practices and the social impact of businesses (Deloitte: Welcome to Generation Z, 2020), universities cannot be oblivious to this reality. Universities that are part of the international Jesuit network (IAJBS) must respond by adapting their curricula to this reality without forgetting their purpose. This focus on purpose is also in line with the Inspirational Paradigm for Jesuit Business Education and the hungers, such as the hunger for integrated knowledge, hunger for moral compass, hunger for a global paradigm, and hunger for dignified work and meaningful impact, among others. However, how can these broad goals be translated into a university curriculum and what are the challenges and opportunities associated with these efforts? The PRME offers a Blueprint for SDG Integration report, emphasizing four key elements: commitment from all levels, a deep understanding of the organization, visible goals and resources, and a coordinated communication of information and knowledge. However, from a ground level, what might these educational initiatives look like? This research presents the partnership of two universities of the Society of Jesus: Loyola Chicago and more specifically its business school, Quinlan School of Business (USA) and Universidad Loyola Andalucía (Spain) on their journey with young people to translate broader social impact goals into meaningful learning experiences through business course collaborations and a focus on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). The collaboration between the two universities began in 2015 with the signing of a Dual Degree Program in which its undergraduate students in business could earn two degrees, obtaining European and American degrees by studying abroad for a year and a half. After seven years of collaboration, ten generations of students and almost 140 students in total, this program and others of shorter durations (faculty-led programs) have become examples of collaboration between Jesuit universities that share values, purpose and a great concern for the social impact of their initiatives. Proof of this is that both are signatories of the Principles for Responsible Management Education and incorporate the SDGs in many of their courses. Faculty-led Programs: Promoting Positive Social Impact through the Curriculum In a world in crisis and with increasingly changing and globalized environments, the internationalization of students becomes even more important. Some studies such as Whatley, Landon, Tarrant, and Rubin (2020) demonstrate the positive impact of student reflection and student interaction with the faculty (highlighting the possibility that the faculty is also from the home-institution) on the development of a global perspective during faculty-led short-term study abroad programs. Although numerous barriers still exist, these programs have a positive impact (Davis & Coryell, 2020; Interis, Rezek, Bloom, & Campbell, 2018; Perry, Stoner, & Tarrant, 2012), as well as personal and professional benefits for students (Curtis & Ledgerwood, 2018). Some course designs, such as those focused on Challenge-Based Learning, are gaining significant momentum given the need to prepare students to solve real problems in organizations. Some leading universities in teaching innovation, such as TEC de Monterrey, are developing and applying this innovative pedagogy through challenge-based learning (based on experiential learning) with great measurable success among their students since 2013 through Tec21 model (Membrillo-Hernández, Ramírez-Cadena, Caballero-Valdés, Ganem-Corvera, Bustamante-Bello, Benjamín-Ordoñez, & Elizalde-Siller, 2017). In addition to the development of discipline-specific competencies, this pedagogical approach motivates students to learn by connecting them to the environment and solving real problems. Generation Z prefers learning by doing (Rothman, 2016) and this methodology actively involves the student working in a team to find a solution to a real and relevant problem. For some scholars like Malmqvist, Rådberg, & Lundqvist (2015, 90), this learning is often multidisciplinary, developed in an international context to find a solution that is “environmentally, socially and economically sustainable”. Other studies have shown that it is essential to have an industry partner in the Challenge-Based Learning experience. In this way, the complexity of the challenge can be increased and that helps students become more aware of the challenge and the level of uncertainty, and dramatically helps to expose students to real-life professional problems that need to be solved (Membrillo-Hernández, Ramírez-Cadena, Martínez-Acosta, Cruz-Gómez, Muñoz-Díaz, & Elizalde, 2019). A recent literature review of the 100 most relevant articles on the methodology (Gallagher & Savage, 2020) has identified 8 common characteristics: global themes, real world challenges, collaboration (between students, academic and extra-academic actors), technology, flexibility, multidisciplinarity and discipline specificity, innovation and creativity and challenge definition. Method Three faculty-led experiences developed jointly by the universities as well as in the face-to-face-virtual activity carried out during the pandemic were examined to determine success factors. Data from student reflection assignments from 2016, 2017, 2019 (31 reflections) and 2020 (20 reflections) were analyzed to assess strengths of the collaborations. Successful collaborations entailed: partnership with companies, connections and a sense of community and building capacities. Findings First, partnerships with companies focused on sustainability were selected for company visits, experiential activities, and course projects. These firms included Abengoa (a leader in solar energy), L'Oréal (recognized for its leadership in sustainability and for placing the SDGs at the heart of its strategy) and Coca Cola (a multinational that has been focusing its strategic, social, and environmental priorities on these objectives for years). Specifically, faculty-led programs between the two universities took place in 2016, 2017, and 2019. In 2017 and 2019, LUC students’ experiences were enhanced by providing the opportunity to present their work on a marketing campaign for L’Oréal to the executive team in Madrid, Spain. The model used for this project entailed LUA students to act as “consultants” to the LUC students. The LUA students advised and sensitized LUC students to the cultural nuances and on-the-ground realities of the Spanish market. L’Oréal’s sustainability efforts as part of their overall strategy were highlighted throughout the project. LUC students presented their work at the Spanish headquarters in Madrid and received real-time feedback from L’Oréal executives and faculty from LUC and LUA. Students discussed the personal and professional skills gained from the experiential projects. One student from the program in 2017 discusses the impact of a hands-on company project, “I am now much more interested in learning about cultural differences between countries...the hands-on field learning provided by this class cannot be compared to any classroom experience…” One student from 2019 commented, “by far the best experience of my MBA program…It really gave me a taste of work experience that no other class has given me, and it truly increased my confidence as a professional. That alone is a priceless transformation…” During the pandemic in Fall 2020, a virtual collaboration was developed between the universities in which the role of technology was front and center in developing community and connection as well as allowing for a virtual partnership with Coca Cola. LUC students in the Baumhart Scholars MBA program (a graduate program focused on marrying profit and purpose and elevating social impact) worked with LUA undergraduate students (some of them from the dual degree with Loyola Chicago) in a marketing management course to complete a Sustainable Christmas Marketing Campaign in collaboration with the Brand Manager of Coca-Cola Europe. Specifically, the students were challenged to evaluate Coca-Cola and its sustainability initiatives and develop marketing strategies to engage the youth target (18-22 years old) during Christmas, with particular focus on promotional (social and digital) strategy. Their analysis had been informed by the UN SDGs (particularly SDG#12 & #14), the secondary and primary research they collected, and the brief provided by Coca-Cola Europe (‘the client’). Students utilized technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to work collaboratively throughout the term. Faculty at LUC and LUA facilitated an online kick-off meeting and mid-point check-in and encouraged regular communications between the students. At the conclusion of the project, the class collaboration was featured in various media and press outlets in Spain. One student involved in the online collaboration stated multiple benefits, “Working with our fellow students in Spain helped me to feel connected to parts of the world I’ve never seen. The experience was both personally and professionally fulfilling. I genuinely enjoyed speaking and laughing with the students of Loyola Andalucía; Covid-19 has created more stress th[a]n laughter, so connecting with them in a very human way, and listening to their life experiences, was very enjoyable. Expanding my professional capacity by exploring business trends and objectives in Spain was also fulfilling. It expanded my view of opportunities and possibilities which exist around the world.” Second, in each faculty led program, the students formed connections and a sense of community with each other. Students in the courses over the various years express the unique experience of getting to know and bonding with their international student counterparts, whether that was learning about their respective cultures, working in a multicultural team environment, or simply the joy of connecting. One student from 2016 reflected, “I really respect that in Spanish culture there is such a strong sense of connection among people. Forging relationships is very important part of marketing, and business in general and I think we can learn a lot from Spanish people…” Another student from 2019, “Working on the proposed challenge has allowed us to learn…together with a multicultural team…without a doubt…allowed us to leave our comfort zone.” In the 2020 online collaboration between the two universities, the use of various technologies and guided communication facilitated a sense of connection even before the students were in physical proximity. One student involved in the online collaboration commented, “…it was very special to have time with the Loyola University Andalucía students. I have spent time abroad studying, living and traveling and deeply appreciate those experiences. This affected me in a similar way and at a crucial time, without the ability to travel due to the pandemic. Connecting with the students, learning about their lives, their holidays, their experience with COVID brought me out of my tiny zoom bubble and into a much needed and appreciated international space…I feel very bonded with the students and have connected outside of our school work emails. I hope we can stay connected, I think we will. I look forward to future travel and am grateful for this inclusive and accessible way to spend time with people in different places and cultures. It really enriched the class and first quarter in general.” Lastly, it is important to note that each university partner brought unique capabilities together with the goal of building capacities. Moreover, with each iterative collaboration, learnings from prior collaborations were incorporated in an effort of continuous improvement and an enhanced engagement with the SDGS. That is, early efforts discussed SDGs in the context of company visits, while later iterations explicitly incorporated the SDGs into the experiential projects and course content. Indeed, tapping into the Jesuit network was a benefit specifically mentioned by the students. One LUC student discusses the transformational impact of the online collaboration between LUC and LUA in 2020, “It was a changing experience for me because in a virtual world we were able to connect with students all the way across the globe and it felt familiar as they share the Loyola education. I liked we were able to do this exchange and leverage the huge Loyola education world in order to have a much richer environment. I am hoping to have more of these experiences during the MBA but am very thankful to have had it during my first MBA class.” Implications and Future Research By engaging in partnerships with businesses, building a sense of connection and community, and building capacities, students were able to jointly work together towards with a mutual goal of fostering responsible consumption through an understanding of the SDGs; thus, cultivating future leaders who value social impact. The shared values, mission, and appreciation for sustainability was critical in the collaborations that led to not only transformational educational experiences for students, but also to work, in some small way, to alleviate the larger societal problems (and crises) facing our communities and the world. We will continue to collaborate in the future as signatories of PRME and sister universities contributing to six principles: purpose, values, methods, research, partnerships, and dialogue. In the near future, we would like to develop new faculty-led programs that allow us to evaluate the transformations experienced by students after the global crisis situation we are experiencing. Our role as Jesuit business schools and educators will play a fundamental role in forming these agents of change. They should be people who walk with the excluded, who discern and make complex decisions in different areas, who care for the Common House and who contribute to the creation of a more just and hopeful future. References Curtis, T., & Ledgerwood, J. R. (2018). Students’ motivations, perceived benefits and constraints towards study abroad and other international education opportunities. Journal of International Education in Business. Davis, B., & Coryell, J. E. (2020), “Relationships, Participation, and Characteristics of a Community of Practice in Short-Term Adult Study Abroad”, Adult Learning, 31(1), 17-26. 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