By Alan Millin, Meghana Millin, and Purba H. Rao
This article assesses the importance of including environmental management and sustainable development as part of the MBA curriculum in the Indian education system. As per the environmental performance index (EPI) for 2018, India is ranked at 177 out of 180 for its environmental performance, based on various indicators such as health impact, air quality, water, and sanitation.
The growing international pressure on India to commit, and improve on greenhouse gasses and emissions is cascaded to Indian businesses, which are now equally under pressure to improve their commitment to the environment. To be able to generate profitable businesses that commit to, and improve on, environmental and sustainable development initiatives, it is vital to equip our leaders with the right tools and knowledge. This article also explores the topics that are considered important by practicing managers, to be included in their MBA syllabus.
Organisations around the world have undertaken significant efforts toward establishing environmental management initiatives, which are in line with a new breed of globally recognised companies, that are environmentally and socially responsible. The driving forces could be the desire to stay ahead of the increasing environmental regulation or to satisfy socially responsible customers, who prefer to be associated with business, and brands that showcase a distinct environmental/ social commitment.
There has been an upsurge of public concern about the negative impacts that businesses have on the environment due to poor waste management, excessive and irresponsible utilisation of natural resources, and the generation of greenhouse gasses that are contributing to climate change.
This is mainly due to international and multilateral bodies such as the United Nations, and other national organisations, that are using the global platform to drive policy change, and public awareness on the severity of this matter. To address this concern, and to operate efficient, socially responsible businesses, corporate leaders need a comprehensive understanding of the potential impacts of their operations.
The role of MBAs and business schools
The influence of business schools on business practitioners is considerable, with a significant proportion of corporate leaders holding a degree in business administration.
In India, the mining and energy industries are significant contributors to environmental degradation. To address unsustainable practices, business leaders need the knowledge, and tools that are only moderately addressed at graduate, and post graduate level in India today. Additionally, these business leaders need the will to protect the environment. This will can be fostered within the academic environment of business degree courses.
While there are sustainability-related MBA’s offered in India, these are far from being considered mainstream courses. The institutions that offer such programs make up only a small fraction of the total number of Indian universities and institutes offering more general MBA’s.
Other researchers have also previously called for improving the integration of sustainability-related aspects into MBA programs through research focused on MBA student feedback. Educational institutions and governments should consider including topics such as social responsibility, ethics, and the triple bottom line aspects of sustainable development—people, profit and planet— into MBA courses.
According to a 2015 study, Indian business leaders currently lack the will to fully integrate sustainability into their operations. Based on their study of power generation companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange BSE500 index, the researchers concluded that there is still scope for improvement in triple bottom line reporting, and that there is a lack of objective and informative reporting. This sub-optimal standard of reporting results in a lack of transparency, and could mask negative environmental, and sustainability aspects.
The will to operate as responsible corporate citizens, with full consideration of an organisation’s impacts on society and the environment, is critical if India is to maintain its seat at the table in the global boardroom, and establish itself as a world leader in terms of global MBA programs.
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