28th Annual IAJBS World Forum
Bernard Arogyaswamy Professor, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY 13214,USA
Climate change and Jesuit Business Education: The need for curricular change
It has been widely accepted by policy makers, corporate executives, and citizens alike that economic growth is the measure of a nation’s prosperity and well-being. The almost single-minded focus on growth, however, comes at high ecological and social costs. The Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’ offers a detailed analysis of the harm humanity has inflicted on its common home, in part arising from deployment of the” technocratic paradigm”. Recent commitments made by major industrialized nations to reach net carbon zero are encouraging signs that leaders worldwide are gearing up to address the crisis. Numerous large corporations are also signed up to work towards a net zero world by mid-century. This is of particular importance because nearly 75% of all emissions are attributed to around 100 corporations. Reconciling shareholder profit maximization with caring for the earth and its living and nonliving creatures is a difficult endeavor. Some firms justify their sustainability strategies on the basis that they help reduce costs (of energy and materials), lower risks arising from climate-induced uncertainty, offer opportunities for greater profits by creating new markets, and so on. Business schools face contradictions intrinsic to the nature and content of the subjects taught. Though satisfaction of stakeholder needs is often emphasized, the fact remains that regardless of the topic at hand, shareholder returns occupy pride of place. Concerns about social and environmental issues are generally considered only after profitability is assured. However, given the fact that climate change is an existential crisis, one that could spiral out control if the average global temperature rises more than 1.50C, it is incumbent on business schools to act decisively to infuse sustainability into their curricula. A major hurdle to making sustainability an integral part of business programs is that there are numerous dimensions, discussed in this paper, to the problem. In addition to the science underlying climate change, students need to understand the prominent technologies being deployed/developed to lower harmful emissions. These encompass the principles underlying, materials needed for, and economics of renewable energies, storage of energy in batteries and hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and so on. Business strategies for sustainability touching on topics such as circularity, minimizing use of plastics, and adoption of ESG protocols need coverage as well. The impact of climate change on the most vulnerable populations and the need for businesses to incorporate this into their ethical calculus is another aspect of business activities which strikes at the privatization of profits while socializing costs. Individual behavior and social norms tend to create a lock in effect which favors business as usual. Climate change politics could also serve to reinforce the existing economic growth paradigm. Taken in a global context, there is widespread concern over intensifying climate change, but a rising tide of nationalism has created a inward-looking worldview. Jesuit business schools (JBS) seeking to integrate sustainability into their curriculum face a formidable task if they wish to incorporate the diverse dimensions involved in addressing climate change and its impacts. JBS could try to infuse these topics into existing courses or require courses at the junior and senior levels to bring into focus the “cry of the Earth”, educate men and women for others, and pay attention to the future needs of today’s youth. As currently configured, the curricula at many of JBS examined in this paper are far from sufficient to take up the challenge posed by Laudato Si’ eight years after its publication.