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Sustainability Curriculum Consortium: Join the Movement

Centre directors, faculty members, and deans are invited to join an international consortium that meets annually to advance business sustainability teaching.

You don’t have to tackle sustainability teaching alone. Educators can learn by sharing best practices with one another and talking to managers about the sustainability competencies required in the workplace.

Centre directors, faculty members, and deans globally are invited to join an international consortium that meets annually to advance business sustainability teaching. The consortium’s activities are described below.

Members are invited to:

  1. Register for the consortium’s two annual events: The Partners in Business Ethics (PBE) Conference and the Curriculum Think Tank Meeting. Both activities are described below.

  2. Join the PBE Executive Committee, which plans the PBE annual conference (Email Mark Meaney to enquire)

Mark Meaney, Executive Director of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR) at Leeds School of Business, has been a key player in shaping this consortium. He describes the consortium’s activities and history below.

A Merger of Two Initiatives: Curriculum Think Tank and Partners for Business Ethics

For many years, CESR engaged in two separate yet complimentary curriculum groups. CESR coordinated the Curriculum Think Tank (CTT) and was a member of Partners in Business Ethics (PBE).



PBE members meet at an annual conference that fosters deep discussion between academics and managers on ethics teaching. The CTT enables international academics to share teaching best practices and to work collaboratively on projects.

When CESR was asked to host the 2015 PBE Conference, Meaney saw the opportunity for synergy. If the two groups met in sequence, PBE Conference discussions could inspire the collective action of CTT members.

So in May 2015, CESR hosted the annual PBE Conference and planned its CTT Meeting to follow. The outcome? The two events drew an all-star roster of international attendees who discussed opportunities to improve teaching at the PBE Conference, then planned a collaborative project at the CTT Meeting. Co-hosting the events also resulted in a membership merger, whereby members of the two groups now form a single consortium. This has helped both groups build an international membership with critical mass.

The Groups’ History

CESR founded the CTT in 2012. Membership now includes 32 business school academics from China, Germany, the United States, Denmark, Spain, Mexico, Austria, the United Kingdom, and Canada. From 2012 – 2015, members met regularly using conference calls. They discussed best practices for teaching ethics, social responsibility, and sustainability, and they planned related projects. CTT members will now replace conference calls with annual, in-person meetings, held in conjunction with the PBE Conference.

Launched in 2011, PBE is a group of academics and managers that meet at an annual conference. This group’s formation was motivated by the frustration of C-suite executives from American Express. Executives were seeing a disturbing trend – new recruits struggling to engage in basic moral reflection. American Express brought the challenge to a small group of American universities who organized the first PBE Conference. This groups has now has expanded internationally – 2015 participants included deans, faculty members, and managers from 9 countries. It is currently one of the only venues for corporate and academic discussion on (1) ethics curriculum development and delivery, and (2) ensuring consistent application of ethics training in the workforce.

2015 Events

Who Participated?

In preparation for the PBE Conference and CTT Meeting, Meaney recruited international participants, including 30 deans, 30 faculty members, and 34 corporate leaders. The group contained individuals who influence and deliver curricula, and those whose input can improve curricular relevance.

And members have tremendous influence. For example, Xiang Bing, Founding Dean of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in China is a member. “CKGSB alumni include more than 2,500 Chinese CEOs and Chairmen whose companies represented 13.7% of China’s GDP in 2011,” says Meaney.

What Did They Do?

“I wanted to do something very unique,” says Meaney. “I didn’t want a bunch of talking heads. I wanted to leverage participants’ collective expertise to do work!”

During the PBE Conference, participants collaborated to solve two sets of case studies, drawing conclusions about (1) what makes a good case study, and (2) how academics and managers write and solve cases differently. These case studies were delivered by corporate leaders, presenting case studies based on their own experience; and academics, sharing cases they’d written.

According to Meaney, the debrief from these sessions unveiled two insights:

  • Top down vs bottom up: Managers solve cases using a bottom-up approach. They collect facts, make a decision based on their experience and intuition, then think about how their decision maps onto ethical theories. Academics take a top-down approach. They consider how facts map onto a given theory, then calculate the most ethical way forward.

  • Reality is messy, so messy is better: In general, both academics and managers preferred working through manager-inspired cases. These cases were messier, including a larger range of morally relevant facts. But manager-inspired cases also better reflected real ethical dilemmas, providing a more engaging learning opportunity.

The CTT Meeting that followed allowed academics discuss (1) what makes a great case study and (2) how to effectively leverage guest speakers in presenting a case. They then developed a collaborative plan to measure the impact of their own programs and courses. Members plan to create a list of relevant teaching impact factors. Each member will then survey students at his or her school both during the students’ education and 6-10 months aftergraduation. This survey will allow members to assess current and future impact of their programs. The project builds on the work of consortium member Dr. Douglas May (School of Business at University of Kansas).

More Information

For more information these curriculum development activities contact Mark Meaney or visit CESR online.

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  • Chelsea Hicks-Webster
    Writer and Editor
    Network for Business Sustainability
    MSc in Biology with Environment and Sustainability, Western University

    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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