The Positive Impact Rating (PIR) concept was developed in a multi-step prototyping process by a large group of committed and engaged academics, students and business school stakeholders from many different countries. Katrin Muff is a thought leader and Director at The Institute for Business Sustainability, Lucerne, Switzerland, and Professor of Practice at Luiss Business School in Rome. She co-directs the Diploma in Advanced Sustainability and is President of the PIR Association.
The Positive Impact Rating (PIR) is a new rating conducted by students and for students. It is the first time that students around the world assess their business schools on how they perceive their positive impact in the world. The positive impact of business schools goes beyond their contribution to business and the economy; it addresses the need for their positive impact on society.
The larger role of business schools
Business schools are traditionally seen to serve students by developing their management competencies and to serve business organizations by providing them with educated talent, insights from research and continuous education for their staff. Business schools thereby support business and the economy. Providing a positive impact for society has not been considered as core to business schools, but demands for it have steadily increased in the past decade as exemplified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This new business school rating responds to these demands.
Students provided an incredible wealth of constructive comments on how their schools can increase their positive impact. This rating is a further sign that 2019 was the year where the youth spoke up and the global consciousness shifted regarding not only the climate crisis but also social justice.
Students are very clear in what they want their schools to STOP doing: 1) Stop investing in fossil fuels; 2) Stop treating sustainability & social entrepreneurship as second-class topics; 3) Stop partnering and accepting funds from unethical companies and individuals; 4) Stop hiring professors who do not care about doing good, 5) Stop emphasizing profit maximization, 6) Stop flying students abroad for a course just because it’s cool to do so.
A tool for collaborative learning and action
The purpose of the positive impact rating is to enable learning at and across schools, rather than creating a competitive ranking. A rating offers the safety of groups rather than individual ranks and intends to foster collaboration. Schools, therefore, are positioned in five different levels, where they are featured alphabetically. Students and the management of each participating school receive free online access to a dashboard featuring their school’s results across the different areas in comparison with the average of all schools. This allows them to actively work towards increasing their positive impact. Some students have reported that meetings are already scheduled with school management.
How to measure the impact of business schools?
The ambition of this rating is to be a lever of change in the much-needed deep transformation of business schools. Rankings have become increasingly important and this rating builds on this phenomenon by offering a new and hopefully better way to assess business schools in the 21st century. The impact of business schools is measured in three areas (energizing, educating, and engaging) which are further divided into seven dimensions. These dimensions include assessing the programs offered and the learning methods used, and how students actively engage. It assesses a school’s culture and governance, which are predictors for becoming a positive impact school. And it looks at how members of the school are seen to engage in public as well as how the school is seen as serving as a role model in the eyes of students.
PIR learning = Peer learning
Students around the world are clear in their assessment that schools have much room for improvement when it comes to preparing them for dealing with sustainability challenges in their jobs and for a school reporting on its responsibility and sustainability performance (the role model dimension shows the lowest score). Students also critique their schools regarding their public engagement as well as the low level of student engagement (second and third lowest scores).
The nine top-rated schools on level 4 are recognized by their students for including sustainability and societal engagement in their mission and for the degree to which these are seen as a driving force for the school (23% higher than average). These schools are also recognized by their students for having a culture that is aligned with their school’s purpose, for most of their people being highly motivated beyond self-interest and for strongly supporting personal development (18% higher than average).
By students for students
The international student organizations Oikos, AIESEC, and Net Impact have joined forces with WWF Switzerland, OXFAM International, and UN Global Compact Switzerland to launch this radically new business school rating. Together, these stakeholders represent the environment, society, business, and the next generation. In addition to changing business schools, they want to provide a more relevant selection tool for future students. Many of these future students care deeply about making a positive difference through their professional lives, yet they don’t necessarily know how to find the right business school. This rating is a tool for this next generation of change agents and as such is a response to widespread demands for a positive impact of business schools.