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SA business schools shine in UN guide

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The UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Stellenbosch Business School are among 63 global schools featured in a new guide on the principles of sustainable management education (PRME) launched recently.

The Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education, an initiative of the United Nations Global Compact, was launched in Rio, on the occasion of the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, in conjunction with the Rio+20 Earth Summit and UN Global Compact Corporate Sustainability Forum.

The Guide provides answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the implementation of the Principles for Responsible Management Education and seeks to inspire further integration of PRME by highlighting real world examples of the principles in practice at signatory schools and universities.

Speaking from the Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, director of the GSB Walter Baets said that it is a testament to the innovation of the two South African schools that they are featured in the Guide.

“Business schools in this guide are at the very forefront of new thinking in management education and it is impressive I think that a small country such as South Africa has such a good representation on the global stage.”

The GSB case study featured in the Guide is of the newly launch Social Innovation Lab, which runs as a stream on the MBA programme enabling students to specialise in social innovation and entrepreneurship. The Lab, which is run in association with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the GSB, seeks to expose students to a range of new thinking in this field and give them practical opportunities to work with social entrepreneurs helping them to become more effective as businesses.

Baets said that it is notable that the GSB case study is one of the few that is a practical study. “Other case studies featured in the guide are by and large theoretical. The GSB is one of the few schools in the world that is actually running with some of these ideas rather than just thinking about them.

“My advice, to any school, would be to make sure that what you offer to students is relevant, applied in real circumstances, meaningful, and of use to a real community (of any kind). The key success factor is the degree to which the exercise, the experiment, the ‘teaching’ is systemic.”

Also with a practical element, the Stellenbosch Business School case study featured in the guide shows how the business schools tried to encourage sustainability research within the constraints of a more traditional academic framework, and how its participation in PRME has been of assistance in this regard.