Mousumi Bhattacharya, Associate Professor, Charles F. Dolan School of Business, Fairfield University, 1073 N. Benson Rd, Fairfield, CT, USA
REORIENTING BUSINESS STRATEGY COURSE TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS
Business strategy courses mention ‘triple bottom line” as goals of corporations. However there is a lack of concentrated focus on sustainability, one of the triple bottom lines (other two are corporate social responsibility and profits). Most textbook have not incorporated sustainability as a focus. As a result students perceive ‘profitability’ as the main goal. It takes a lot of effort to orient students towards sustainability using traditional textbooks. However the benefits of sustainability focus far outweighs the efforts because students develop a better understanding the managerial challenges of the future where sustainability is a critical issue. Based on the Jesuit tradition, Fairfield University, CT, USA, adopted a university-wide focus on “Water” for the years 2014-16. Students, faculty, staff, and the community at Fairfield University were engaged with each other to learn more about ‘Water’ issues and consider solutions for this. Courses were reoriented, events and panel discussions were organized, documentaries and films were screened – all to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the issues surrounding ‘Water” as a natural resource that is in crisis worldwide. https://www.fairfield.edu/hostedfiles/staging/lifeatfairfield/artsminds/universityfocuswater/ This paper illustrates how this sustainability theme was adopted as the focal point of the Business Strategy capstone course for senior-level students. This course is particularly suited for emphasizing sustainability as a goal or corporations. I used water as the theme for illustration of concepts from most of the chapters in the textbook. A wide range of water-related for-profit companies were chosen for discussion of concepts from each chapter. These were residential and industrial water providers, Waste-water management companies, bottled water companies, water technology companies, water-based entertainment companies (Cruises, water parks, aquariums), as well as companies that reply heavily of water in their input and output of business process (Restaurants, carbonated drinks manufacturing companies, agricultural product based companies and so son). A semester-long group assignment was given to perform a strategic business analysis of a water-related company. Over the two years, about 230 students took the water-theme based Business Strategy capstone course. A survey was given in the beginning and end of the course to assess the level of student awareness of sustainability issues. Analysis of pre- and post-course survey data reveal a significant enhancement of student understanding of sustainability as part of strategic decisions of corporations. Students realized that sustainability is one of the triple bottom lines that contribute to the competitive advantage of the firm and that focus on sustainability help businesses perform better. Analysis of various factors that can influence student awareness of sustainability issues in business strategy, revealed that female students exhibit greater awareness of the complexities of sustainability issues. In addition, we found that students from certain disciplinary background grasped the complexities better. We discuss the implications of our findings and how sustainability can be easily built into the Business Strategy course, integrating it with the textbook concepts. We also discuss how this prepares the student as better managers for the challenges of the future, in the Jesuit way.