The Haub School of Business leads colleges and universities worldwide toward meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
By Kristen A. Graham
For business schools around the world, socially and environmentally sustainable management education is an increasingly important objective. But how do you educate future business leaders to achieve goals like eradicating poverty and hunger, and promoting gender equality and clean water — and how do you measure their impact?
Enter Saint Joseph’s Haub School of Business, which recently announced a landmark partnership with the United Nations to assess business schools’ success in delivering ethical and sustainable management education.
Through the U.N.’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative, Saint Joseph’s has developed a new data analytics tool, the PRME SDG Dashboard. It’s a concrete way to capture, measure and showcase how hundreds of business schools around the world are working toward the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Specific targets detail aspects of the SDGs, such as no poverty, affordable and clean energy, economic growth and reduced inequalities, and help to form an action plan for increasing global quality of life and environmental stewardship. PRME signatories aim to achieve those goals through a global movement of management education as part of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
No less a global and moral authority than Pope Francis supports SDGs. On Sept. 25, 2015 — the same day that world leaders endorsed the SDGs — the first Jesuit pontiff addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York, highlighting the importance of the work toward sustainable development.
The dashboard and the relationship with the U.N. vault Saint Joseph’s and the Haub School front and center, marking the University as a leader in an important international movement championing sustainability and social justice.
“This is a way for the Haub School to expand its recognition internationally, and it also happens to fit nicely with our core values and the things that we find important,” explains HSB Dean Joseph DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. ’70, who says the program will be a major focus for the school going forward.
The relationship between PRME and Saint Joseph’s enables the University to advance the broader U.N. mission to take action on issues confronting humanity and the planet.
“We are becoming a driver on a global stage for business schools to adopt the SDGs, change their educational practices and use their influence to make the world a better place,” says David Steingard, Ph.D., associate professor of management and associate director of the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Business Ethics, who leads the charge on the dashboard and is responsible for its development.
Part of the U.N.’s Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, PRME was introduced in 2007 at the U.N. Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva. It quickly became “the most effective and globally recognized business school association focused on responsible and sustainable management education,” says Steingard. Separately, world leaders agreed to the 17 SDGs in 2015, and they came into force in 2016. That same year, Saint Joseph’s joined PRME as an Advanced Signatory member, one of a group that numbers 650 academic institutions worldwide.
How does HSB measure up?
Stephanie A. Tryce, J.D., assistant professor of sports marketing, compiled the Haub School’s PRME Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report — the same report that schools opting to use the dashboard will ultimately receive. “We do work in and out of the classroom in all of the PRME principles, and all of the SDGs,” she says. “We have faculty who have a real commitment to these values.”
HSB’s devotion spans from the Arrupe Center to a speaker series Tryce organizes about the role of sports in justice and social change. “There’ll be a certain SDG that makes sense for you in terms of the areas you teach, and you’ll gravitate toward that, whether it’s in the form of a reading subject or project for students,” says Tryce. “We should be doing that anyway — and the dashboard gives us a very specific way to describe it.”
For Haub School Associate Dean Vana Zervanos ’07 (MBA), it was an important moment. “You’ve got more than 600 business schools in the world who are PRME signatories; you’ve got the U.N. that is inviting the business academy to take part in this initiative,” she says. “Previous U.N. initiatives involved primarily government or corporate sectors. This is the first time that business school academia is incorporating these goals. This is significant.”
The time was right. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) — through which HSB has earned accreditation in business and accounting, one of only five percent of business schools worldwide to do so — has focused its attention on sustainability, saying that its own vision “is to transform business education for global prosperity. Business and business schools are a force for good, contributing to the world’s economy.”
On sabbatical in 2016, Steingard began to think about joining the SDGs with PRME. “What would it look like if the PRME business schools and others started to seriously incorporate these SDGs into their outlooks, their relationships with communities, into everything?” he wondered. “That question had never been asked. We need to effectively bring the efforts of these business schools — who are already doing great work — into the SDGs.”
Steingard developed an extensive survey that prompts business schools to showcase all of the work they are doing toward fulfilling the SDGs — through teaching, academic research, community work, outreach, campus integration and partnerships.
The tool takes something that can be intangible — the concept of a commitment to sustainability — and makes it real. “It’s about data points, consistency, benchmarking,” Zervanos says. “It’s a functional toolkit, both practical and theoretical, where faculty can say, ‘This is what we have done to educate students about ending poverty, or in my research, I’ve uncovered this trend.’”
Kathleen Campbell Garwood, Ph.D., assistant professor of decision and system sciences, supported the creation of the dashboard by taking Steingard’s extensive survey and using data visualization tools to show a clear picture of what business schools’ sustainability work looks like. “It gives people insights to see where the strengths and weaknesses are,” she says, “and where the opportunities are for partnerships between schools and beyond.”
At first, Saint Joseph’s worked on a pilot study of the dashboard with 12 business schools from around the globe (including SJU), and DiAngelo, Steingard and Zervanos presented the results at PRME’s 2017 Global Forum session for university presidents and business school deans from around the world. Then, in October, PRME Head Jonas Haertle and DiAngelo signed a formal memorandum of understanding with PRME at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration conference, held at Saint Joseph’s. The three-year agreement allows PRME signatory schools to use the dashboard, which is now in the second phase of the pilot stage; by 2019, up to 150 schools could participate.
“When the international community adopted the SDGs in 2015, it was clear that success would require active engagement and participation by a diverse range of stakeholders,” Haertle says. “Business schools are key partners in helping to achieve the global goals [SDGs], as they are instrumental in shaping the mindsets and skills of future leaders, while producing research for a more sustainable and inclusive global economy. The PRME SDG Dashboard will allow us to quantify exactly how universities are engaging with the SDGs.”
Why would schools want to use the PRME SDG Dashboard, to submit themselves to be measured against a lofty set of goals? Simple, Steingard says, because “responsible management education is both the right thing to do and, increasingly, a good business practice.” It gives schools an opportunity to expand on the kind of impact they can make in the world. “SDGs are increasingly well-known, a globally desirable platform for bringing the values of positive social and environmental impact to the world,” he says. “Now we have a set of goals, a report card. It provides a lingua franca for making the world a better place.” The framework, too, will give business schools a reality check, a way to benchmark how they’re doing compared with other institutions around the world.
“Responsible management education is both the right thing to do and, increasingly, a good business practice.”
David Steingard, Ph.D.
Alec Wersun, Ed.D., senior lecturer and CPE fellow in the School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, says, “The dashboard has the potential to highlight areas where we do not do very much, which will help us consider whether that is because the SDG is not particularly relevant to our expertise or if the gap represents an opportunity for us.”
Undergraduate and graduate students at Saint Joseph’s worked to shape and develop the dashboard; students in the business intelligence and analytics (BIA) major will be involved in the analysis when schools complete the survey. “I love the sustainability angle,” says current MBA student Nicole Crisci ’17 (B.S.), who worked on the dashboard as an undergraduate dual major in accounting and BIA. “You hear about companies moving toward sustainability efforts and being environmentally friendly. It’s great to see how business schools are doing it, too.”
Cate Cardamone, a sophomore BIA major who also worked on the project, has come to appreciate what it means for the world. “I have learned a great deal about the U.N.’s SDGs and the progress that is being made,” she says. “It serves the greater purpose of motivating colleges and universities to make a larger impact in the world concerning the 17 SDGs.”
Steingard, Garwood and Virgina Miori, Ph.D., associate professor of decision and system sciences, presented information about the PRME SDG Dashboard at a recent SJU Board of Trustees meeting. “The reception was extremely positive,” Steingard says, and not just because of how the relationship with the U.N. puts Saint Joseph’s in the spotlight. “If you look at the goals — ending hunger and poverty, promoting peace and justice — so many of those goals are core to the Jesuit mission.”
Pope Francis called for justice for the marginalized and pointedly affirmed the need to protect the environment when he spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, echoing a call he laid out in the encyclical he issued earlier that year, Laudato Si. For Steingard, it’s another sign that their work is going in the right direction.
“Now,” he says, “we have a system of goals and metrics that really support our aspirations to do the kind of work that Catholic institutions should do in the world.”
Kristen Graham is a freelance writer.