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Equipped for Responsibility? Studies of business education for sustainability
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0045-1587
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Calls for the inclusion of ‘sustainable development’ in the business curriculum have increased in the wake of financial crisis and increased concern about climate change. As a result, new initiatives are emerging and new teaching approaches are being developed with the expectation that business students will be better equipped to address environmental and social challenges. However, in relation to the business curriculum, education for sustainable development has been argued as being particularly challenging (Springett 2005). The challenges relate to assumptions underpinning orthodox business theories (Hühn 2014) and that sustainability issues often are uncertain and complex. Uncertainty and complexity is particularly challenging for predominant responsibility regimes relying on science as a source of independent, objective and reliable knowledge.

To facilitate an analysis of the applicability of different responsibility regimes for addressing complex and uncertain sustainability issues, Pellizzoni (2004) has developed a typology of responsibility regimes. Liability regimes are based on laws and regulations and can be likened to the ‘polluter-pays-principle’. Accountability regimes are characterised by ‘good governance’ or ‘the audit society’. Care regimes are based on normative beliefs, e.g. the idea that the welfare state should take care of its citizens or, from a business perspective, the ‘good master’ taking responsibility for the needs of his workers that he knows the best. Responsiveness regimes implies taking responsibility by anticipating the needs of others without being prompted or without the need for previously established principles. Different responsibility regimes have different implications for what a responsible business person needs to know and do. These include knowing and following laws and regulations in the juridical system (liability regime), formulating and following up on self-imposed principles (accountability regime), knowing and providing for the needs of one’s workers as the good master (care regime) and listening to what stakeholders want before deciding what to do (responsiveness regime).

When acknowledging uncertainty and complexity as a permanent condition, a rupture occurs in the linear process from scientific knowledge to legislation that industry could rely on to operate ‘safely’. This implies a deficit with regard to liability regimes, because the system requires a state that knows what to ask for and how to apply control and sanctions. This deficit can be seen as a backdrop to the development of accountability regimes. Proponents of accountability regimes emphasise the benefits of the integration of environmental concern in corporate decision-making. However, in face of uncertainty and complexity, accountability regimes suffer from the same deficit as liability regimes, in that both regimes depend on predefined principles (expressed in law or in the form of voluntary regulations). In contrast to liability and accountability regimes, care or responsiveness regimes do not rely on pre-defined principles. Either one just knows, like a mother is assumed to know the needs of her child (care regime) or one makes a judgement by listening to others needs in a given situation (responsiveness regime). In the absence of principles, personal feelings are necessary ‘tools’ when listening to the needs of others and deciding what to do. Considering the deficits of liability and accountability regimes in the face of uncertainty and complexity, Pellizzoni argues (without discarding other regimes) for an increased attention to responsibility understood as responsiveness (Pellizzoni 2007).

Against this background, it is important to contribute with knowledge about how education for sustainable development can enhance responsible business practices. The purpose of this article is thus to contribute knowledge about the roles of a business person that are articulated in business education when the concept of sustainable development is included in the curriculum, and how these roles can make students, as future business people equipped to address uncertain and complex sustainability issues.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keywords [en]
environment and sustainability education, business education, responsiveness, uncertainty, complexity
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Environmental Sciences; Subject Learning and Teaching; Sociology; Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-150202OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-150202DiVA, id: diva2:1192937
Conference
ECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 21-22, 2016
Available from: 2018-03-24 Created: 2018-03-24 Last updated: 2018-03-26Bibliographically approved

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