La Trobe in global push for 'responsible and sustainable' business education

La Trobe University is one of the first two universities in Australia – and among 100 world-wide – that has responded to a United Nations backed global initiative promoting corporate responsibility and sustainability in business education.

Professor Raymond Harbridge

Professor Raymond Harbridge

The University's Graduate School of Management has agreed to a set of Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) unveiled by scholars and leading academic organisation at last year's UN Global Compact Leaders Summit.

The list of participating universities – those that have endorsed the principles – were announced in New York last week. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the principles had 'the capacity to take the case for universal values and business into classrooms on every continent.'

Dr Manuel Escudero, Head of Academic Initiatives at the UN Global Compact, stressed that from this base of 100 institutions, the plan was 'to scale and truly embed the sustainability agenda in the training of future business leaders'.

La Trobe University Dean of the Faculty of Law and Management, Professor Raymond Harbridge, said the principles were designed as a framework to improve curricula and research on issues of corporate citizenship and sustainability, but were not a substitute for existing accreditation and quality assurance systems.

He said the initiative gives academic institutions who have become signatories the opportunity to help define and implement the principles in preparation for the Global Forum of Responsible Management Education to be held at UN Headquarters in New York in December. Dr Suzanne Young, from the Graduate School of Management, will be attending the meeting in New York as a member of three working parties.

Apart from curriculum development for corporate responsibility and research into sustainable management systems, Professor Harbridge said the initiative also has a strong focus on public advocacy and opinion leadership to advance responsible business practices.

La Trobe University – which is also a member of the Globally Responsible Leaders Initiative, GRLI, linked to the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit – has a strong emphasis on teaching which is led by the Faculty's extensive multi-disciplinary research in corporate sustainability and responsibility (CSR).

For example, the Graduate School of Management has been running a unit in CSR as part of both its Master of International Business and MBA programs since 2005 and is embarking on a new, broader program on CSR for 2009. The School of Business is also finalising new undergraduate sustainability units.