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Setting Responsibility as a Priority from Day One

Copenhagen Business School welcomes students with Responsibility Day, showing students across disciplines the importance of responsible management.

For seven years, Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has welcomed students to campus with Responsibility Day. Held on the first day of the academic year, Responsibility Day shows students the importance of responsible management for all business disciplines. Below, CBS’s Kai Hockerts (academic director of responsible management education), Lene Mette Sørensen (senior advisor at the Office of Responsible Management Education) and Marie Koustrup Frandsen (project manager) describe Responsibility Day and offer advice for centres seeking to do something similar.

How Does Responsibility Day Work?

Responsibility Day brings together students from all 19 of CBS’s undergraduate programs. The event has three main components:

  1. A responsible management case study, general enough to apply across all business disciplines.

  2. A motivational speaker from the case.

  3. An optional case competition.

At the 2015 event, students attended a keynote talk by Veronica D’Souza, co-founder of the social enterprise Ruby Cup. Ruby Cup sells affordable, reusable menstrual cups to women. For every menstrual cup purchased, one menstrual cup is donated to a schoolgirl in a developing country. Veronica shared real life examples of responsible management, inspiring students and faculty.

In the afternoon, students were divided into their programs, ranging in size from 60-650 students. Faculty members from each program then led discussions about a Ruby Cup case study.

Following Responsibility Day, students were invited to participate in a case competition. They had one week to form groups and complete the case. The 2015 competition garnered 136 submissions and recognized one winner from each program. A jury then reviewed the best 3 overall submissions; the jury included (1) a business developer from Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship, (2) the president of oikos (CBS’s largest sustainability-oriented student organization) and (3) Kai Hockerts, academic director of the CBS Office of Responsible Management Education. The jury selected a grand prizewinner, whose submission was forwarded to Ruby Cup executives for consideration.

Why Responsibility Day Is on the First Day of School

The event is students’ first exposure to CBS education and showcases the school’s strong commitment to responsible management. Having it on the first day of the academic year also helps raise attendance, as students are eager to meet fellow classmates, faculty members and management staff.

“At CBS, we believe that the attitudes and behaviour you develop along your student career signify the values and norms that will influence future societal conditions. Thus it is important to focus on responsibility from day one,” says Jan Molin, dean of education at CBS.

Responsibility Day Yields Results

In 2015, more than 2100 students, or 74% of CBS’s first year cohort, attended Responsibility Day; an impressive turn out for an optional event. However, it’s not only students who are engaged. Responsibility Day has helped strengthen:

  • Curriculum development: As faculty teach the responsible management case, they too become inspired to continue embedding responsible management within their courses. This involvement meshes with a separate CBS initiative, which seeks to embed responsible management across all bachelor courses. “All our 19 study programs now deliver a responsible management case at the start of the year,” Hockerts says. “This helps to create a shared CBS identity around responsible management education.”

  • Organizational collaboration: The organizations involved in planning Responsibility Day, particularly student groups, build relationships with one another through the event. These connections foster collaboration on future responsible management events.

Advice on How Centres Can Run a Similar Activity

  1. Use a top down and bottom up approach: Lene Mette Sørensen says Responsibility Day relies heavily on both faculty members and top management. “[CBS] would not be able to do it without teachers who like teaching this day, or the mandate from top management to dedicate the first day of school to Responsibility Day.”

  2. Choose a broadly applicable case. CBS invests time to find a case that is applicable to all 19 undergraduate programs.

  3. Train faculty on case delivery. Faculty members may not be familiar with how to tailor a responsible business case to their programs. This is especially true when a single, broad case is being applied across programs. Providing strong teaching support is crucial to successful case delivery. CBS hosts teaching workshops and provides teaching notes and presentation slides.

  4. Start small: “Slowly grow your event from an optional event into something that becomes anchored as the way to start the first semester,” says Hockerts. “It is important to have the senior management present in the early days, to grow their support of the idea.”

More Information

Learn more about Responsibility Day or contact Martiina Srkoc, Helena Aalholm Rasmussen, or Kai Hockerts for further information.

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  • Chelsea Hicks-Webster

    Hi, I’m Chelsea. I have a Masters degree in Sustainability, where I studied ecosystem health. I'm also a Certified Life Coach. I used to be the Operations Manager for NBS, but now I just focus on my favourite part of that job – the writing! I also run a social enterprise, called Creating Me, dedicated to strengthening maternal and family well-being. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to balance career goals, impact, and one’s own well-being. When I’m not working on my own impact goals, I offer executive coaching and writing support to help researchers and change-makers grow their impact and well-being. (creatingme.ca/sustainability).

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