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Michael Powell |
Pro Vice Chancellor (Business)
Griffith University

The dominant paradigm for business success is changing to recognise the absolute necessity of social and environmental sustainability in tandem with financial viability. No longer is it enough to focus solely and simply on the bottom line defined in terms of profitability but business success requires management of environmental impacts and emissions as well as ensuring employee wellbeing. Not only are 'Generation Y' employees demanding this but the environment itself is focussing our minds. Climate change, global warming, widespread droughts, and encroaching deserts are just part of the changing landscape within which business has to operate. So too are the rather different values of many of our employees who want to be assured that our businesses are not just exploiting the world we live in, but refreshing and sustaining it.

Business schools which have the responsibility of educating our future business leaders need to address actively the changing context of doing business. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that our students are aware of the issues associated with the paradigm shift that is occurring, know why this is important and how they can make a difference. Griffith Business School in Queensland, Australia, is one business school that has made a commitment to follow this path, acknowledging that it is no longer enough to ensure that business ethics are taught, important though that is, but that we broaden our attention to include consideration of how to manage responsibly the environmental and social impacts of doing business. Students, young business leaders among our alumni and even entrepreneurs see this as an important part of the education we provide and of the research we undertake. The cognitive frames around the business disciplines are changing, and our curriculum, research and community outreach needs to reflect that change. While we believe it is important, our constituencies and stakeholders are increasingly demanding it of us.

As a consequence, Griffith Business School is currently actively engaged in the process of embedding principles of business sustainability and corporate responsibility into its curriculum both undergraduate and graduate. This is not a simple matter as it involves working with academic faculty to change their approach and mindset, educating them in the importance and criticality of this new direction, and assisting them with resources and appropriate teaching materials. Business schools are also about research and the dissemination of research findings so we are also developing research in this area along with partners from industry and commerce. We are also reaching out into the business community with a series of seminars and workshops around the theme of sustainability.

And then it is important that we practice what we preach! So we are looking at all our processes, resource utilization and so forth to ensure that our own environmental footprint is minimised, that our resource usage is carefully managed and that our policies ensure that our people are able to balance, or blend, their working and personal lives.

This is an exciting journey for a business school, and we are not alone in taking it. Griffith Business School is a partner in the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) that is supported by the UN Global Compact. Our partners in this initiative are other business schools and universities, and a number of businesses from across the globe. Together we recognise the importance of educating responsible business leaders for the future. And we believe that the recent reports on global warming and climate change has led to public concern reaching a "tipping point" where educators and industrialists alike have to pay attention to the new paradigm for doing business in our changing world. Consequently we are delighted, along with Nottingham University, to co-sponsor this Annual Review from Lifeworth, as illustrates well how many assumptions and values in society are shifting as the scale and urgency of the challenges we face finally sinks in. Business schools have a crucial role to play in the transition to a sustainable economy and society.

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