Ethics, CSR and Sustainability at COBE
During the 2010-11 academic year, at the urging of Dean Patrick Shannon, a group of faculty looked closely at the undergraduate curriculum of the College of Business and Economics with the goal of determining what changes and improvements would create a “state of the art” program, and help produce a “signature student.” This Undergraduate Task Force (UTF), led by Prof. Doug Lincoln, collected information from alumni and professional experts, read many reports, studied the curricula of other colleges of business, and produced a set of five recommendations in May 2011. One of the key suggestions was:
COBE should provide more learning opportunities to help students become more knowledgeable about and skilled at making ethical and socially responsible decisions.
The recommendation was based in part on these rationales:
- Previous COBE Assurance of Learning activities identified senior students as deficient in ethical and socially responsible decision-making skills.
- Both the Summer 2010 COBE Alumni and Area Employer surveys identified this area as one in which COBE graduates are deficient.
To follow up on this recommendation, another faculty team, called the FIT (Faculty Implementation Team) met regularly during this (2011-12) academic year. This group carefully analyzed our current COBE undergraduate courses, examined what many other colleges of business are doing, looked at the curriculum changes already underway in the COBE and across Boise State University, and studied various recent reports on ethics, social responsibility and sustainability in business.
We have concluded that our College of Business and Economics can and should do more to educate, expose and prepare our students to proactively meet the many issues in these areas that affect all aspects of business in the 21st century—and that these changes should be integrated across our curriculum. This report represents our research and recommendations regarding the integration of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and sustainability throughout our COBE curriculum.
After discussion, the FIT team came up with the following recommendations. These recommendations should only be required if sufficient resources are provided for implementation.
- That there be an explicit recognition by COBE that Ethics, Social Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) are core subjects and fundamental business disciplines. That COBE state a commitment to Ethics, Social Responsibility and Sustainability in its Vision and Mission.
- That GENBUS 101 include instruction on ERS in a way that establishes connections with all COBE major disciplines, to build on the content of University Foundations 200.
- That each COBE core course have the equivalent of one 75 minute class period’s worth of material on ERS-related issues and application of concepts. This could be spread out over multiple class periods.
- That there be the integration of ERS content in all COBE Principles courses.
- That all major courses include such ERS content as relevant. Such objective to be aided by the documentation of how such content relates to issues in each major discipline.
- That each major should have a course (preferably a 400 level course) dedicated to ERS issues. Once each major has a 400-level course dedicated to sustainability (if possible,) that there be created a certificate in ERS that requires that the student complete X number of the ERS courses across the BBA curriculum.
- That ERS content be included as an integral part of GENBUS 450.
- That COBE demonstrate a commitment to ERS in its extracurricular events and offerings, such as the Speaker Series, support of student groups such as Net Impact, and in its engagement with the business community. That COBE could also make a commitment to implement the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME).
- That COBE dedicate (additional) summer faculty teaching/research awards specifically to designing ERS classes or content and ERS-focused research projects.
- That COBE partner with the geosciences, biology, engineering, etc. — to (fund and) design classes/modules that are ERS-focused for the natural and physical science majors, based on the premise that as these students will eventually enter the professional workforce and that they will need training in ERS issues. As these colleges are all considering multi-disciplinary degree programs, this will give us a foot into the door with regards to providing the social science component that they will be looking for. We may also think about dual-degree programs that are targeted at practitioners in these fields that are management-level; ERS courses will find a natural fit here.
- That COBE continue to support the established Sustainability minor.
- That the Dean should convene a committee of faculty drawn from each COBE discipline every academic year to review developments in the fast-changing areas of ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability. The committee should be charged with monitoring progress in increasing ERS content in the COBE curriculum and updating relevant portions of this report (and its related web content). Members of the committee should act as “champions” for ERS topics in each department by encouraging and supporting colleagues within their disciplines in increasing the coverage of ECS topics in their courses.
- The deans’ office and other staff should raise funds from the donor community to support ERS initiatives; and the deans’ office should provide financial support for teaching ERS, including classroom coverage (e.g. hiring faculty to teach ERS or funding instructors or faculty to free up existing faculty to teach ERS course or generate other ERS programming).
- The COBE should take steps toward the establishment of a Center for Ethics, Social Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS), which would include development of a mission statement, plan of action, a budget, and make fundraising for the creation of such a Center a priority, so that it becomes a reality within 2 years. A draft proposal for such a Center within the COBE was developed a few years ago as a possible starting point.