UBC Sauder School of Business is a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), an initiative from the United Nations to make 'sustainability' an integral aspect of business schools around the world.
Since 2007, the initiative has engaged business schools to produce future leaders with the skills and mindset to balance economic and sustainability goals, while at the same time aligning the work of academic institutions with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the work of UN Global Impact.
UBC Sauder has made many strides in the field of advancing academic research, teaching and institutional culture and activities in responsible and ethical business, since becoming a signatory in 2014. The school recently submitted a report to the PRME that highlights this progress made over the past two years.
The document highlights important initiatives, values-based research and efforts undertaken to engage with the business community and raise the profile of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.
Many of the initiatives are borne out of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at UBC Sauder. The Centre was established in 2015 — a year after UBC Sauder's affiliation with PRME — to become a leading international voice in the application of ethical perspectives in business and to support student-led initiatives that help achieve this goal.
"UBC Sauder's affiliation with PRME signals its commitment as part of a global effort to advance responsibility in business," said Christie Stephenson, Executive Director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics. "The report we've compiled this year allows us to consolidate all our initiatives and explain their potential impact in one place."
A more just world
The PRME report covers an exhaustive list of initiatives that have made UBC Sauder a key part of conversations on business and ethics. It highlights, for instance, the role of the UBC Social Enterprise Club, the CUS Sustainability program and the Women in Business (WIB) club founded to encourage women to take leadership roles and advocate gender parity.
In 2017, the school adopted a new five-year strategic plan with a focused approach to achieving the school's vision of building "a more just, sustainable and prosperous world through innovation and responsible leadership." At the end of 2018, in a letter to students and faculty, Dean Robert Helsley, Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy, reinforced the school's focus on the teaching, study and promotion of values-driven business practices.
Achieving this vision starts from UBC Sauder's classrooms. The PRME report details several undergraduate and graduate courses tailored to build skills in sustainability, ethics and social impact. The academic programs also include courses designed to fuel business partnerships and entrepreneurship within Canada's Indigenous communities.
Meaningful social change
While the PRME report is an opportunity to reflect on past work, members of the Dhillon Centre have their eyes set on future opportunities that will emerge from the school. Professor Katherine White, who became the Centre's inaugural Academic Director in 2018, and holds a professorship in consumer insights, prosocial consumption and sustainability, is eager to bring her expertise in consumer behaviour to explore social trends that are influencing corporate decision-making.
"Historically, responsible business has been focused on not doing bad – so the absence of negative elements. But I think socially-responsible business needs to go beyond this - to contribute to the overall social good," said White.
She further added: "The one question that companies may grapple with going forward, is how to broach social issues in ways that can encourage meaningful social change and have maximal positive impact with their core consumers."
A course that addresses this is already in the works. This year, UBC Sauder Executive Education will offer “Behavioural Insights for Social Good: Nudging for Social, Environmental, and Organizational Impact."