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Academic Interest Grows in the "S" of ESG

While the world’s universities jumped on environmental sustainability as a major focus for research and education, educators have only slowly embraced education about the “S”, of Environmental, Social, Governance or related reform efforts. That has slowly begun to change, with signs that new education will accelerate based on the announcement of investments by the Hewlett Foundation and a new MBA program at a business school in Milan. 
Last year, ESM reported that Grand Canyon University has incorporated the principles of “conscious” capitalism into its business education with plans to expand its educational offerings in this area. See ESM: Grand Canyon Among First Known Universities to Focus on Stakeholder Capitalism Principles.
Recently, the Hewlett Foundation in partnership with the Omidyar Network, a social change advocacy organization, announced a significant effort to finance multidisciplinary centers on business reform at leading academic institutions, and a Milan, Italy business school has launched what it calls a “next generation MBA.” 
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced it will provide more than $40 million in grants to support the creation of “multidisciplinary academic centers dedicated to reimagining the relationships among markets, governments, and people.” It starts by helping fund and expand centers at Harvard Kennedy School, Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Johns Hopkins University, and Omidyar Network is providing funds to develop an academic center at the Santa Fe Institute.” 
The Hewlett-led effort has a social agenda. According to the announcement, this “marks the beginning of “a major philanthropic effort to fund higher-educational institutions to help rethink and replace neoliberalism and its assumptions about the relationship between the economy and society. For more than 40 years, neoliberalism has dominated economic and political debates, both in the US and globally, with its free-market fundamentalism and growth-at-all-costs approach to economic and social policy. Neoliberalism offers no solutions for the biggest challenges of our time, such as the climate crisis, systemic racism, and rampant wealth inequality — and in many ways, it has made those problems even worse. The new academic centers will contribute to the growing movement to articulate a better approach to political economy and find systemic solutions that build a more equitable and resilient society based on a new set of economic values.” 
In the meantime, the Milan, Italy MIP, the Graduate School of Business has announced “a new generation” MBA, as reported by Bloomberg. In an interview, the school’s director, Federico Frattini of MIP, explains “There’s a chasm between what we teach and what we preach as researchers and management scholars. There’s a lot of momentum around rethinking the foundations of private businesses so they can become actors for positive change. We know this is what society needs from future business leaders. But business schools use a framework that hasn’t changed over the past 40 years. We’ve added sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and Environment, Social, Governance (ESG), and impact courses—but only as elective modules around a program that remains exactly the same.”
The new “program will start with workshops and modules run by The Mind at Work, a London company that specializes in psychology applied to leadership and management. We want to lay the foundation needed for more responsible and purposeful business leaders. Then when the hard skills and core courses start, every week or so there will be a half-day workshop where we’ll take what the students are learning and discuss how these skills can be applied to run organizations with a higher purpose than simply maximizing profits. It’s a continuous conversation that we want with our students, to discuss what they’re learning to generate purpose at the organizational level.” 
The school’s director says, “We’re not saying companies need to be societal actors or political actors. We want to engage them in a conversation to make them aware that having a meaningful organization can also deliver results to shareholders. If too many people think what you’re suggesting, we’ll have empty classes. But companies that recruit our students tell us, ‘You’re preparing wonderful, skilled leaders, but they’re not rich enough as human beings.’ Too much focus on outcomes really reduces critical thinking, systemic thinking, and understanding complexity.” 

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Master the “S” of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG), A.k.a. Stakeholder Capitalism
The Enterprise Engagement Alliance at is the world’s first and only organization that focuses on outreach, certification and training, and advisory services to help organizations achieve their goals by fostering the proactive involvement of all stakeholders. This includes customers, employees, distribution and supply chain partners, and communities, or anyone connected to an organization’s success.
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