Corporate and social responsibility (CSR) has become a big business buzzword recently, as companies seek to cope with negative press and reconnect with their customers. But is an MBA specialisation in the field really worth doing?
Corporate and social responsibility is nothing new. At its most basic, CSR really comes down to two questions, which all businesses should be answering: What is business for? What contribution should it make to society
However, somewhere along the line these questions have been forgotten, with companies arguing that social issues shouldn’t be the concern of business. The recession has changed this. Faced with falling sales, many companies have chosen to show their softer sides in order to maintain a customer base – whether this is through engagement in social media channels, charity work or taking more responsibility for society and the environment.
However, companies know that a limited CSR campaign will only work in the short-term. The public are sceptical about the motives of business, and will easily see through any gimmicks or insincere ideas. This is why an increasing number of companies are sending staff onto corporate and social responsibility based MBA courses.
So what will you study on a CSR-focused MBA and how will it change your career?
Firstly, the aim of the MBA will be to equip you with the skills to critically evaluate core business disciplines from an ethically and socially responsible position – and give you the skills to implement the techniques you learn across all areas of management.
One of the most popular CSR based business courses in the UK is at the University of Nottingham business school, which came fifth in a worldwide survey of business school CSR content by the Aspen Institute. The programme is led by the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at the business school, which has been at the forefront of CSR education for ten years.
Its MBA covers the usual finance, operations and management content, but also focuses heavily on ethics, CSR strategy and social accountability. These modules examine how human rights, globalisation and sustainable development can all interact from a corporation’s point of view, as well as looking at how these corporations can incorporate new ideas into their strategies.
Case study Josephine Go Jefferies
Before applying to the MBA in CSR at Nottingham, I had completed a Masters in Criticism and Theory and had begun a part-time PhD in English research whilst working in e-learning for adult skills in the public sector. Before that I had worked for five years on an entrepreneurial social business start up.
The programme provides an opportunity to investigate the theoretical and the practical and to learn how we are concerning ourselves with the impacts of our decisions as global consumers and business people. The MBA provides an understanding of how business and society underpin one another, and that this relationship is a dominant factor in sustainable business decisions. It makes you think about best practice and strategies to make ideas operational.
A lot of people considering an MBA programme may have the same perception that I started with, harbouring fears about not conforming to an MBA stereotype, but I have learned that an MBA would benefit anyone who wishes to be productive in society. The MBA cohort is full of interesting people from diverse backgrounds and the camaraderie has been a real bonus, especially with all the long hours of study that the programme entails. The staff and guest lecturers are very engaging and the ICCSR in particular deserves its high international standing for research and excellent teaching.
The MBA ends for me with an internship at UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment and Finance) and a management research project assessing barriers to alternative investments.