Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers

Embedding sustainability and responsibility across all functions

Currently, business schools teach business by studying each field separately (see Figure 2). Over the past decades, there have been three different evolutions in teaching business:

a)        Integration of functional approaches: Teaching methods have evolved to include the case study approach, thus moving from transmitting functional concepts and theories to simulating the complexity of real-life business situations and decisions.

b)      Integration of learning and action: To overcome the lack of integration between theory and practice, some business schools have complemented their learning approaches with forms of applied learning (action learning, experiential learning), placing learning directly into the field.

c)       Integration of values and ethics: To respond to growing societal concerns and critics, values and ethics have been added to the business curriculum, albeit as a poorly integrated add-on.


Figure 2 – The silo approach to teaching

Sustainability and responsibility, the current challenge to business studies, are likely to be added – and marginalized ­- in the same way. It is no longer possible to patch-up the existing system of business education with new add-ons, trying to fix systemic weaknesses.  It will need a more fundamental approach, based on reflections about some of the underlying paradigms.

Author: Katrin Muff PhD

Katrin Muff is a thought leader in the transformative space of sustainability and responsibility. From 2008 to 2018, she led the Thought Leadership activities in the area of conceptual design at Business School Lausanne, where she acted as Dean from 2008-2015 until self-organization made such a title redundant. Under her leadership, the school focused its vision on entrepreneurship, responsibility and sustainability in education and research. Her business experience includes 10 years at ALCOA (GM in Russia, Industry Analyst for Global M&A in the U.S. and Business Analyst Europe), 3 years as Director, Strategic Planning EMEA at IAMS Europe (Procter&Gamble), and 3 years as a co-founder of Yupango, a coaching consultancy dedicated to start-ups and training management teams.

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