Education About and For Sustainability in Australian Business Schools
Tilbury, D, Crawley, C and Berry, F
Report prepared by Macquarie University and Arup Sustainability for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australian Government, 2004
ISBN 1 74138 0065
- Download Education About and For Sustainability in Australian Business Schools - PDF (mba.pdf - 1106 KB)
The sustainability agenda is gaining significant ground in the business sector internationally – although in Australia this is happening at a slower pace. The limited number of opportunities across Australia, to build capacity for sustainability in the business and industry sector, may help explain why the increasing interest in the area of sustainability nationally has not resulted in a reorientation of business strategy or practice.
In this study, Business Schools in Australia and overseas were examined to identify education about and for sustainability in MBA curriculum and short courses. The study identified current best practice overseas through a benchmarking process which adopted three levels of performance criteria. The same criteria were applied to thirty-three Australian Business School MBA programs in order to understand how they address sustainability content and teaching of skills for sustainability. Four additional Australian Business Schools participated in research studies, independent of the benchmarking process, to provide more in-depth information regarding their MBA degrees and the education content about and for sustainability. Findings from the benchmarking and review of in-depth responses informed the recommendations of this study.
The study found that there are no specialised sustainability MBA programs or core sustainability courses in postgraduate business education in Australia. However, environmental or social sustainability themes do feature in elective subjects and one Business School is planning to offer a sub-major relating to sustainability. The skills needed to empower graduates for strategic change towards sustainability are lacking in the majority of Australian MBA degrees. However there are signs of change with one Business School showing high student demand for electives which address sustainability. The main barrier to education about and for sustainability in Australian Business Schools was a shortage of staff available with the experience and knowledge to teach sustainability, lack of faculty support as well as a lack of demand for such courses.
In addition, executive education offered to professionals who have chosen not to study for an MBA was analysed in this study. Some Business Schools in Australia offer short courses dealing with traditional business, leadership and management topics. However, very few of these courses explicitly include or integrate sustainability content or education for sustainability.
The study also described the extensive range of non-university programs and training courses for sustainability available via public and private organisations in Australia. It was identified that very little training needs analysis has been conducted into the requirements of mainstream business to be able to advance sustainability policies and practices.
The study argues that Australian industry could benefit from educated graduates with the ability to contribute to change for sustainability in corporate Australia. To achieve this there is a need to:
- Identify and build relationships with champions in the corporate sector thus providing a critical link between the sustainability needs of business and curriculum offerings;
- Raise student demand and faculty support for sustainability courses;
- Undertake a needs analysis into business requirements and expectations of MBA and other business graduates in the area of sustainability;
- Provide incentives and support for MBA staff to develop their knowledge and skills in sustainability and education for sustainability;
- Provide incentives and support to Business Schools to revise core courses and develop new optional courses to address education for sustainability;
- Develop new resources to support integration of education for sustainability in core courses - in particular documenting industry case studies;
- Develop industry partnerships that provide work placements and mentoring;
- Encourage integration of international experience to promote change/ research.
This study has recommended a research and development project which seeks change outcomes in short and long-term timeframes. It proposes a project which addresses needs identified by this study and in the short term, would promote the mainstreaming of sustainability across the major business schools. The project would assist with the development of a Leading Edge course (and the demand for that course) which could be established in the longer term.