Business schools put ethics at the top of their agendas

A real commitment to ethics is evident across the business education sector. Stephanie Mullins and Jonny Stone from specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education explore how schools are demonstrating this consistently.

Infusing ethics into teaching is more than just a selling feature for Advantere School of Management. A Jesuit institution, Advantere’s focus on responsible leadership goes to the very core. Its mission statement reads:

‘Leadership, management is not just about business…commitment for a better world, sustainability, social justice, is for everyone.’

And, for Advantere, it’s about walking the talk – actions must marry up with rhetoric. Across the school’s MSc suite, a commitment to delivering ‘value to society’ proves a common thread.

Bold in its commitment to a new way of educating the world’s future business leaders, the school takes a wholeheartedly different approach to admissions: ‘Advantere is not for the typical business student,’ says Guillermo Cisneros, Dean at the Madrid-based institution. ‘We want to welcome what we call resolutionaries. Our admission process is designed to identify such individuals.’

Firm in his conviction that business has a far greater societal role to play than it currently does, Cisneros leads with a sense of purpose enjoyed by those running younger, agile institutions.

But Cisneros and Advantere aren’t alone in their endeavour to make ethics a key part of the school’s focus. Across Europe, institutions everywhere are taking initiative and putting themes like responsible leadership, sustainability and ethical business at the heart of teaching and operations. Here a few examples:

ESCP Business School

Turning from an institution still in its infancy to the world’s oldest business school, ESCP Business School hasn’t let age get in the way of its promise to ‘inspire and educate purpose-driven leaders who will make a strong impact on planetary, social and organisational progress.’

With campuses across six European cities, ESCP has long since established itself as a go-to institution for a world-class education. And, with unwavering respect for social responsibility, ESCP infuses ethics into its key programmes. Its Master in Management, for example, even includes an Ethics and Governance Course – in which students are educated around subjects like Insider Trading – as well as featuring a core module on sustainability.

Copenhagen Business School

Much like ESCP, Copenhagen Business School students are educated around Corporate Governance. Copenhagen’s MBA and EMBA programmes, specifically, have a deep focus on ethics and governance, as well as sustainability, which is designed to help those studying understand the importance of such issues for future leadership. And, with other concentrations, such as digitalisation and entrepreneurship, featuring in its MBA, creating not only ethical business leaders, but competent and effective ones is undoubtedly a top priority for Copenhagen.

BI Norwegian Business School

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Scandinavia, BI Norwegian Business School isn’t simply adapting programmes to meet the needs of tomorrow’s business professionals, it’s creating whole new ones. BI’s MSc in Sustainable Finance, an English-language programme based at BI’s Oslo campus, offers those enrolled a broad understanding of the challenges, trends and geopolitical aspects of social and environmental responsibility. And students are also given a deep dive into ‘the ethical issues that may arise when trying to balance interests of investors, employees, other stakeholders, and society’.

ESSEC Business School

For ESSEC Business School in France, ethics isn’t just a “good thing to have”, it’s a prerequisite to graduation. The school’s prestigious MSc in Finance programme, for example, ranked 4th in the FT’s 2022 Masters in Finance Ranking, requires all students enrolled to complete an ethics seminar in order to graduate.

It’s no surprise that ESSEC takes such an impressive approach in ensuring students are educated on the importance of ethics, the school prides itself on ‘infusing leadership with meaning in order to prepare leaders ready to address contemporary economic, environmental and social challenges.’

And, with ESSEC’s very own “Equal Opportunities” Center fast-approaching its 20th anniversary, there are few that can doubt the school’s commitment to ethics and responsible leadership.

Trinity Business School

The same can be said for the convictions of Trinity Business School, in Ireland, which only recently launched a new strategy committing to achieving carbon net-zero by 2030. Unveiling a strategy that would see the school reorient much of its operations to support climate activism, Trinity also demonstrates a deep awareness of the natural world around it through the building that it calls home. Situated in the heart of Ireland’s capital, Trinity’s state-of-the-art building includes a number of features designed to make it more environmentally sustainable. From re-purposing rainwater to a living wall, the school has well and truly made sustainability a part of its very fabric.

Aware of the need for more responsible and ethical leadership to overcome the contemporary challenges that we, as a society, face, business schools across the globe – whether through teaching or operations – are leading by example. Those mentioned are a snapshot of a sector-wide trend gaining momentum. As the years go by, more and more institutions will follow suit. Ethics – as part of the curriculum, and as part of the operations of a business school – is here to stay.