Business cases for sustainability-integrated management education

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Handbook of Sustainability in Management Education, 2017, pp. 45 - 66
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As the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development has now concluded, it is timely to reflect on progress attained toward embedding sustainability in higher education curriculum. Over this period (2004–2014), a number of scholars worked consistently towards the goal of embedding sustainability in management education, and many exemplars of holistic sustainability-integrated management education (SiME, also referred to as ‘sustainability in management education’) have been published as typified by special editions of leading management journals (e.g. Egri and Rogers, 2003; Rusinko and Sama, 2009; Starik et al., 2010). Reviewing these special editions and other published works, it can be claimed that the dimensions of and principles for holistic SiME have been widely deliberated across the academe of sustainability management scholars. Arguably management education itself has failed because basic capabilities have not been developed in graduates (Navarro, 2008), a situation which can at least, in part, be attributed to a deficit in SiME principles being comprehensively implemented in the design of business and management higher education programs (Waddock and Lozano, 2013). If holistic SiME principles exist and exemplars of their successful implementation abound, important questions arise as to why comprehensive uptake is lacking. Are principles of holistic SiME relevant for the majority of business schools, given the constraints of their extant business model? Or are they only relevant to a limited number of specific programs or courses? If so, is implementation of SiME so limited because universities fail to recognize the business case for sustainability at the institutional level? In an increasingly marketized and globally oriented higher education market, are universities too narrowly developing their business cases through a compliance-based approach, only implementing sustainability as a risk avoidance strategy? Or is the situation such that universities fail to recognize the strategic potential of deeply integrating SiME into their core value propositions as a fundamental principle of curricula? Considering these queries, we propose an overarching question: how can SiME be feasibly implemented and viably sustained within higher education curricula?
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