Leaders in corporate social responsibility have called on business schools to do more and faster to solve social and economic challenges.
The Early Career Researchers (ECR) Sustainability Management Community have penned a letter to School deans, faculty heads and professors outlining their role in addressing problems including rising temperatures, declining biodiversity and worsening wildfires, droughts and flooding.
The academics, from Bayes Business School and other leading universities across the world, believe that only through interdisciplinary collaboration can these issues be tackled.
This includes the need to reward “real-world impact” – such as ensuring research projects give clear recommendations to policy makers or collaborating with leading organisations to support changes in structure and social systems. For example, field experiments should investigate the factors adopting an ecologic shift through workshops and other projects with companies. These can be achieved by working with scholars outside of management, especially with scholars in natural sciences – such as geographers, climatologists and biologists – and practitioners.
The paper argues that, while business schools have made progress in incorporating sustainable targets as part of their strategies and offering new sustainability courses, these steps remain disconnected from wider interdisciplinary conversations on sustainability and are restricted to the assumptions and methods of traditional management fields.
Dr Lucrezia Nava, co-signatory and Lecturer in Corporate Social Responsibility at Bayes, said that to contribute to the world’s most pressing challenges, business schools must break down preventative “structural barriers”, such as departmentalisation which hinder the hiring of employees with necessary sustainability skills to build a working culture on the subject.
"In order to achieve net zero emissions goals, leaders are increasingly required to extend their focus and have expertise in areas that straddle the social and natural sciences. Management has an important role to play in solving global sustainability challenges. However, management's mere focus on social and economic sciences alone has precluded important considerations in terms of order of magnitude, ecosystem loops, and other biophysical factors that have led organizations to worsen sustainability issues"
"Given that sustainability issues are generated in the complex interrelations between social and ecological systems, solving them requires collaboration between social and natural scientists and practitioners. It is essential that business schools begin to collaborate with professionals from other fields to research and teach new topics and methodologies, such as planetary boundaries and integrated assessment models, that consider both social and ecological factors. Business school leaders have the power to act, and now, to remove the structural barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration and create the space for such collaboration within business school walls"
Professor Bobby Banerjee, long-time researcher of sustainability issues and teacher of an undergraduate module on Climate Change and the World Economy said:
“This is a brave and inspiring contribution to a highly important topic. The next generation of sustainability scholars are raising points that are challenging pre-existing structures – it is all our responsibility to keep pace with the changing world and its challenges and ensure conversations result in positive action.
“I have been working in this field for 30 years and there is a clear need to develop interdisciplinary projects with the natural sciences. For this to happen, we must stop this pathological obsession that UK business schools have on publishing in allegedly 4* journals.”
Bayes Business School is committed to embedding sustainability in its teaching and learning. Professor Bobby Banerjee teaches an undergraduate elective on climate change and developed a new MBA international elective on Business Sustainability which started in 2022. Work continues to further integrate addressing climate strategies and interdisciplinarity in Bayes subjects.
City, University of London is actively working to reduce its environmental impact and play its part in responding to the global climate challenge. More information on sustainable development can be found here.