A few weeks ago I found myself among 500 business leaders. Their professions ranged from quirky entrepreneurs to Fortune 50 executives. They had taken time out of their busy schedules to attend the annual Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference. They spent three days networking, attending workshops and discussing the future of corporate social responsibility (CSR, as it is known in business circles).
Today we stand on the cusp of the greatest societal shift since the industrial revolution. The private sector will be the engine of social change from this century onward. Corporations will lead the charge ending poverty, global warming, even AIDS.
In fact, many of them are already doing so. It may be hard to believe that boardrooms will accomplish what all the altruism of the 20th century could not, but the plain and simple fact is: what's good for society is good for business. For example, every impoverished person in the world represents a missed customer. Imagine you are an executive and all the world's current poor were wealthy enough to afford your product; that's 3 billion more potential customers. Did I just hear a cha-ching? Believe me it's possible (look up Gramene Telecom!).
The Robins School of Business requires students to take only one course in business ethics and zero in CSR. We might as well graduate our students without a course in accounting. The good news for RSB is that our peers are just as inadequate. We therefore have within our grasp an opportunity to be the leading school in corporate social responsibility education.
Ideally, we would add a CSR concentration. This would include courses on topics such as environmental management, social entrepreneurship, and micro finance. Like other B-School concentrations, at least one class from the CSR concentration would be required for the BSBA. Business ethics would be rolled into the concentration as well.
Such a program would be peerless among undergraduate business schools.
Adding a CSR concentration is quite simply the smart thing to do, not to mention the right thing to do. If our business students graduate with a better understanding of their role in society they will be far more successful as professionals and as people. We therefore have before us an opportunity to produce the leaders of the next era of business.