Workshop committee member Anant Sundaram moderated a final panel of experts from business and academia who reflected on the previous discussions. The panel included Dan Vermeer, executive director of the Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment at Duke University; Laura Clise, director of sustainable development at AREVA Inc.; and Bruce Schlein, director of corporate sustainability at Citi.
Vermeer challenged the group to think about climate change not as a question of responsibility or sustainability, but as fundamental to almost every aspect of a business operation, and hence part of the worldview and repertoire of every business professional. He reminded participants that the world population is not only projected to reach 9 billion soon, but also the share of the population that will aspire to a middle-class lifestyle with its associated energy consumption and environmental impact is projected to grow even more. The likely transformations that are needed to serve this growing number have implications not only for the environment, but also for overall infrastructure, creating new market environments in which future business school graduates will operate. He noted that he heard similar messages across presenters and panels. Business leaders discussed the need for systems thinking, integration of the scientific and social dimensions of global issues, breaking out of silos, development of a growing interest and ability to anticipate and internalize cost, focus on operational risks and costs, and the importance of basic science literacy. University leaders discussed avenues to address climate change in busi-
ness schools, from stand-alone courses to infusing ideas across the entire curriculum and into cases, exercises, lectures, or field experiences. He was reminded of the many options to infiltrate the curriculum in more imaginary ways than another elective or one slot in the core curriculum, including extra- and co-curricular activities and experiential learning.
To Vermeer, the goals for a business school education are shifting and expanding, from a historic focus on core business functions to a broader vision of competencies, including cross-cultural communication, and working across functions and disciplines. He noted that an increasing number of students want to harness the market to create value in sustainable ways, and many students see emerging markets as places for future growth and opportunity. He suggested a role for business schools to present sustainability as a lens for making use of these new opportunities.
Laura Clise started her remarks with two haikus (see Box 5-1).
Clise also stressed the importance of framing climate change as a business issue. She urged a focus on opportunities and solutions that might begin by cultivating excitement from high school to MBA students about how addressing climate change might present career opportunities. She also supported the perspective that climate change could provide a frame for talking about fundamental aspects of business operations like entrepreneurship and innovation, with climate change as the context within which to prepare tomorrow’s organizational and business leaders. She said a new generation of students wants to address big issues by starting something new or by changing existing organizations. Despite coming from an engineering-oriented firm, she questioned whether scientific literacy is necessary, or whether being “multilingual” to develop language that helps bridge cross-cultural differences is more fundamental to success.
Laura Clise’s Haiku Poems
Climate change education
A business issue
Climate change presents
Risk and opportunity
Call it what it is
Bruce Schlein prefaced his remarks by saying that his three-person team on sustainability relies on others in their organization to effect change. He reflected on the qualities his colleagues need and how these qualities translate into a business school curriculum. Schlein said they need to be a “jack of all trades and a master of some.” The ability to be a “master of some” should come from existing core curricula, but more general skills (“jack”) could be obtained outside of the core curriculum or even outside the school itself. Schlein’s biggest question was the optimal balance of the skills necessary for the intersection between generalist and expert. Those include systems thinking and systems doing, bridging different dimensions (within firms and their silos of expertise, with civic society and policy, and internationally), and talking to people with different viewpoints. Schlein noted that not everyone has the ability to acquire these diverse skills. He argued, though, that a process ought to be embedded into the core curriculum for honing the basic skills needed to find the balance, and that topical issues like global health or climate change could then be plugged into this process.
Schlein noted that the expertise to function effectively in the intersection of generalist and expert is too often dismissed as a soft skill, but should be defined and articulated as an essential core skill. Lastly, students need to develop a capacity for innovation and disruption. He explained that Citi, like most other banks, is organized by property asset class lines. Energy issues traverse these lines and are therefore disruptive changes that require new organizational structure entrepreneurs.
Sundaram observed that the first panel described the basic skills of a business school graduate: see new opportunities, understand associated risks, and lead the necessary changes or actions. In the context of climate change, they entail longer-term thinking, recognizing and internalizing externalities, appreciating the materiality of business ventures, embracing nontraditional partnerships, developing “soft skills” to work across industries and sectors, and systems thinking and modeling. Sundaram described his take-away messages from the “deans’ panel”: Climate change might best be embedded into the curriculum, electives can complement a busy core curriculum, the quality of research needs to be improved, and business schools should be vigilant about institutional bias, even as individual faculty express strong personal views.
During a subsequent audience discussion, the issue of new standards for elementary and secondary science education was mentioned (National Research Council, 2011b, 2012a, 2013). Their new orientation toward scientific practices, and the inclusion of climate change and climate science, might mean that in the future, more students with sufficient basic preparation in the natural and physical sciences enter business schools.
Participants noted that climate change has become the context within
which students need to learn and practice core business skills, but that, despite some initial progress presented during the workshop, much work is still needed to prepare the majority of students in that way.
Dan Reicher used a metaphor of getting sick from polluted drinking water: Contamination could occur at the well, during transportation, storage, or consumption. The same is true for climate change, he asserted. Lack of preparation or utilization could occur during the entire “supply chain” of education. Reichert said that he sees no other choice but to embed the issue into the core education of future business leaders. Sundaram ended the panel discussion by noting changes over the last 10 years, when the topic itself would not have been on the horizon for business schools; even five years ago, the conversations were not substantive. Now, he said, business schools are beginning to catch up to where many businesses already are.
Chair of the workshop organizing committee Janet Peace and Martin Storksdieck, director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council, ended the workshop with closing remarks. Peace again noted the key issues raised as competencies that graduates should acquire or hone at business school, including systems thinking, the ability to talk to others (in terms of language and discipline), cross-cultural competency to work in diverse teams, an ability to bridge to science professionals, and the capacity to take the long view. She said business schools should teach critical thinking skills within the context of addressing climate change as a business issue.
Storksdieck reiterated the need for business schools to support the development of a person who is a “jack of all trades and master of some” and something in between. He referred to a recent National Academies’ report, Education for Life and Work (National Research Council, 2012b), which identifies 21st-century skills as increasingly more foundational for success in life. He noted that the workshop discussion showed how business leaders need these skills and abilities, and that core pedagogical concepts from K-12 science education, like learning through relevant practices, are also embraced by an increasing number of business schools. He noted that business schools are good at defining visions and inputs/resources when discussing educational attainment, but concrete learning outcomes with measurable metrics for immediate impact are still missing. Storksdieck also noted the difference between skills and abilities needed to secure the first job and those needed to succeed long term. Are they the same, he queried, and how do business schools decide what to focus on if they are not?
Storksdieck closed by comparing climate change education with improvements to undergraduate science education. While improvements to traditional instruction have been established through research, implementing them more broadly requires a broader systemic approach toward change. The same patient and systemic perspective might be needed to improve climate change education at U.S. business schools.
This page intentionally left blank.