Leading the charge for responsible business

Birmingham Business School

With big issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and modern slavery making headlines daily, the question on modern business’ minds isn’t when should we act, but how?

This dynamic shift has also permeated the world of business education. Wider accrediting and ranking bodies, such as the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2019 and the Association of MBAs (AMBA) Business Graduates Association (BGA), are starting to include commitments to corporate social responsibility as a rating metric. Now, Birmingham Business School have gone one step further.

Advocates for responsible business

The Centre for Responsible Business officially opened in October 2018, with £2.5 million of external funding by Lloyds for a five-year project focusing on building the capacity for responsible business transformations.

After nearly 8 months promoting business as a force for good, Ian Thomson, Director of the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business, explains how the initiative works:

“It’s about getting people to think more about the consequences of the decisions they are making. If you change supplier, is that ultimately a good, or bad thing? The decision should not be based solely on cost.”

It’s this mentality which has led to developing and modernising the content of the Executive, full-time and Online MBAs offered by Birmingham Business School. For example, the curriculum has been upgraded to integrate aspects of responsible business across the board, such as learning how to enhance diversity and inclusion, changing your career to set up a social enterprise or building a new business model to shift the strategy of businesses towards a greater focus on social responsibility.

How can we take advantage of this locally?

Going forward, Ian Thomson explains that local businesses need greater agility in order to adapt to this growing shift towards responsible business and future leaders will need to have the ability to look at a company and reflect on what it does ethically and what it can still improve on. However, it’s also important to have the resilience to stand your ground and say ‘no’ to working for a company where social ‘irresponsibility’ is present.

“The phrase is intelligent risk taking,” adds Ian, “look at all the business leaders of previous years and none of them followed the rules.”

Ian uses the analogy of driving along a motorway; you want to be environmentally friendly but everyone around you is driving at 90 miles per hour. You decide to break principle and go along with them. In the business context, how do you have the moral courage and resilience to say to everyone else, ‘you’re all doing the wrong thing’?

It doesn’t work to have a single lane for those wanting to drive responsibly, it involves all the lanes to shift to a shared mentality. And one of the biggest challenges, Ian believes, is teaching this responsible mentality across the board, from the outset. “You need to get rid of the bad stuff,” Ian explains. “If we are going to be responsible let’s look at the nuts and bolts of the basics, and not teach the irresponsible stuff.”

For modern professionals, Ian has this sound advice: “if you want to be a leader, don’t look at what’s happening now, think one or two steps ahead of where average practice is, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The triple-accredited (AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS) Birmingham Business School offer a range of MBA programmes designed to attract driven local professionals using business as a force for good. To find out more about what this Russell Group institution has to offer you and your future career, download a brochure today.

An original version of this article can be found here.