Why Stewardship Is Now At The Forefront Of Business Education

Business schools play an important role in educating the leaders of our future, in fact, they are perfectly positioned to influence issues like sustainability. Business education experts Stephanie Mullins and Kate Mowbray from specialist consultancy BlueSky Education take a closer look at how graduates should become “stewards of the future of humanity and the earth”.

As we become more concerned about the challenges facing our planet and its inhabitants, responsibility becomes even more prevalent.

Stewards, by definition, should not only make responsible use of their power but leave behind enhanced conditions for future generations. Yet to create more “responsible stewards”, profound changes in the way business leaders and their organisations act are required – and business schools have to play a role in this change.

At Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, this sits at the core of their strategy. They define stewardship as “feeling responsible for promoting the long-term sustainable interests for people, the environment and society”.

The school’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Governance & Stewardship helps contribute to the stewardship mindset for their current and future leaders and the professionals who participate in their programmes in various ways. This encompasses valuable aspects of life, including nature, fair institutions, solidarity, relationships, research and more. They believe that enacting stewardship requires a mindset of care, commitment, purpose, and integrity to be a force for building a viable future.

This year, Nyenrode and KPMG are setting up an ESG chair. Aiming to make the latest knowledge accessible to any organisation that wants to accelerate its sustainability efforts. The ESG Innovation Institute of Nyenrode and KPMG is the first academic collaboration in terms of sustainability between a major accounting and consulting firm and a university in the Benelux.

POLIMI Graduate School of Management also sees the importance of stewardship. They have recently launched their New Generation MBA, which will train future leaders to deliver more impactful and sustainable performance. The New Generation MBA will not only deliver advanced management skills but will combine these with tools to unleash the latent power of purpose and enable a new generation of leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Aware of the responsibility that major business schools have to lead by example in encouraging their students and stakeholders to commit to a more ethical way forward, ESSEC Business School has also launched a number of initiatives to support climate action and responsible business education.

For example, ESSEC’s Diversity Fresco – which was initiated through a partnership with Belugames, a company specialising in educational games and cooperation – is a tool designed to help fight against discrimination in the same way as the famous Climate Fresco does for climate issues. The Diversity Fresco is a tool designed to help build awareness about discrimination and to challenge preconceptions surrounding issues of discrimination and inclusion within organisations.

Meanwhile, ESSEC has also sought to align its educational offering with its commitment to creating a better world. The school’s MSc in Sustainability Transformation, for example, equips students with the knowledge, tools and network to make a sustainable impact on the way business is done, effectuate change in an increasingly volatile world, and capture new opportunities from sustainability.

Earlier this year, Trinity Business School in Dublin unveiled its new strategy – and, in doing so, dramatically shifted towards a more sustainable future. The school has made a number of major commitments, including the notable pledge to achieve carbon net-zero status by 2030.

Mannheim Business School, also recognising the existential challenges such as the global climate crisis, a general scarcity of resources and severe biodiversity loss, have launched a new master in Sustainability and Impact Management. This aims to help students successfully manage sustainability, such as their own company’s impact on people and planet. Giving them the skills to make sustainability a key success factor and enabling companies to gain a competitive advantage because of it.

At the University of Sussex Business School, the Principles of Responsible Management are embedded into the curriculum so that students are able to understand the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and consider how they apply to business practice.

As we know, business schools can be a powerful force to transform our cultures and economies to deliver a sustainable future. Hopefully, more business schools will further embrace stewardship and equip students with the skills to make the changes required to help save our planet and face tomorrow.

Stephanie Mullins
A formally-trained journalist, Stephanie is now a Director at UK communications firm BlueSky. Utilising her personal experience as a reporter, she has extensive experience in managing communications outreach for business schools and universities around the world, working with recognised names such as; HEC Paris, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, ESMT Berlin, the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, University of Edinburgh Business School, NEOMA Business School, King’s Business School, Durham University Business School, ESCP Business School, UCL School of Management, and many more across the world.