Sustainable Business Education – A Romanian Perspective

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 109 ( 2014 ) 706 – 711

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Organizing Committee of BEM 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.12.533

ScienceDirect

2

nd

World Conference On Business, Economics And Management-WCBEM 2013

Sustainable business education – a Romanian perspective

Ioana Teodoreanu

a

*

a Gheorghe Asachi” Technical University of Iasi, Blvd. Dimitrie Mangeron, no. 29, Iasi,700050, Romania

Abstract

In the light of recent events, like economic “crisis” started in 2008, or notorious Enron scandal, has arisen an increasing demand of ethics courses in universities’ curriculum. If in Western European countries, this process of topics integration like corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability, ethics or associated terms, have known an extensive growth, in developing countries, like Romania, its assimilation and design of a new curriculum still remain a challenge. In this paper, I offer a requirement overview of ethics business education in Romania. From the analysis of the CSR integration in the Romanian business, I summarized a set of key topics, which should be found in university curriculums, in order to provide students with skills and knowledge that allow them to manage sustainable businesses. I then looked over five business universities’ curriculum, and tried to identify those key topics, and concluded with suggestions regarding the design of accountability curriculums.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, curriculum, business requirements, sustainable universities;

1.Introduction

In the current context of globalization and impact of the economical global crisis, the major challenges of the universities are the capacity to promote social values and to give students the education, that not only meet the economic needs of the market, but also the social and environmental requirements, all in one to pave the way for sustainable education. The nowadays challenge of the business, made many voices to ask about the imperative role of CSR education (Matten & Moon, 2004). Examples like Brent Spar, Enron or more recent movement “occupy Wall Street”, arise many questions regarding the correct way of business education (Cavico & Mujtaba, 2009).

Focused at the beginning in North American universities (Carroll, 1999), the topics related to CSR, like business ethics or sustainability became quickly an imperative also in European schools (Wolf, 2002). According to Lämsä et al. (2007) this educational changes are necessary because “today’s business students can be regarded as tomorrow’s corporate decision makers who will be responsible for the kinds of business practices and values that are considered good and appropriate in future society” (p.46).

This new imperative of CSR education became an interesting topic also in Romanian universities curriculum. But are there enough topics integrated in academic programs capable to provide students with the necessary knowledge? This paper offers an answer to this question, by making an overview of most important set of skills, which students * Corresponding Author: Ioana Teodoreanu. Tel.: +49-170-824-1706

E-mail address: i.teodoreanu@cbs-edu.de © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under responsibility of Organizing Committee of BEM 2013.

Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.

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should possess. In the following, I explained the concept of CSR, emphasizing the importance of CSR education. Next, I focused on CSR practice in Romania and established the key topics, which should be found in universities curriculums. Then, by analyzing five Romanian business universities’ curriculum, I try to identify these topics. I conclude with recommendations regarding a sustainable curriculum, in order to fill the gap between business needs and CSR knowledge acquired by the students.

2.Literature review

2.1. CSR – theoretical approach

The idea that business should have a significant contribution on welfare arose in 19th century, when Bowen, in 1953, associated social responsibility with corporations’ activities. The concept of CSR has evolved since then, becoming notorious and rising significant debates. One of the most controversial theory belongs to Friedman (1970) who asserted that business has a single responsibility, that to make profits. In his vision CSR cannot be attributed to a company, because this is not a real person and for that reason, the single objective of a firm is to create money values for its shareholders. However, it must be stressed that Friedman did not denounce entirely social activities of a company, but he mentioned that it is salutary if it is aimed at increasing profits.

Over the years different CSR approaches came out. In Carroll’s (1991) vision of CSR priorities in a pyramidal hierarchy, economic responsibilities, seen as profit objectives, is the bottom line for a company. On the next places are situated legal goals, followed by ethical duties. At the top of the pyramid, Carroll placed the philanthropy, which he explained as being a good corporate citizen.

In the context of globalization, it is difficult to reach a general consensus, regarding what exactly CSR encompasses. The stakeholder theory (Freeman, 1984) attempted to solve this issue. By identifying the important stakeholders, companies' goals should be to create value for them. On these lines, Freeman et al. (2006) provide a new light on CSR notion, by moving forward to “company stakeholder responsibility”. Starting at the CSR definitional dilemma and its boundaries, it was suggested a movement from CSR to Creating Shared Value (Porter & Kramer, 2011). That new approach is concerning a direct link between business competitiveness and society well being, like a common and interdependent vision. Fifka (2009) proposed a CSR definition, after an examination of the most important aspects of the concept:

Corporate Social Responsibility encompasses the adherence to fundamental economic and legal obligations, which a business encounters in the environments where it operates as well as the responsibility to voluntarily contribute to the social development of these environments in an adequate and structured manner that is in accordance with the resources available to each business and the underlying business strategy. (p. 320)

However, as the author noticed, although there is not a widespread consensus regarding the definition of CSR, this is not an impediment for an organization to embrace and apply it.

2.2.CSR Education

The increasing interest on CSR combined with lately emerged corporate scandals, have risen solicitude within universities, especially in the business education area. More and more studies debate the importance of CSR education and what knowledge could influence students’ perceptions and attitudes, in order to make them responsible citizens (Doh & Tashman, 2012). Therefore, a significant number of researches focused on students, in an attempt to establish their response to ethic issues or sensing of social responsibility. Although some studies claim CSR integration in the universities’ curriculum is sufficient (Borkowski & Urgas, 1998), there are many voices who question that (Ghoshal, 2005).

A series of analyses attempted to notice the difference in CSR perception and attitude, relying on different aspects. Either it treats gender, level of study, work experience (Lämsä et al., 2007; Eweje &Brunton, 2010) or cultural characteristics (Wong et al., 2010; Bageac et al., 2011), all researches aim to find the ways capable to contribute to a better CSR education. Also, still remain in debate how a sustainable curriculum should be designed.

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Some scholars consider that CSR, ethics and sustainability should be mainstreamed in actual disciplines (Christensen et al., 2007), while others assume that topics should be provided in standalone courses (Stubbs & Cocklin, 2007). The role of business education should converge to business needs, in order to provide needed knowledge for sustainable development. Universities play a vital role, through education that it’s provided, in equipping the future graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to create a sustainable future not only for companies, but also for environment and society as well.

3.Research methodology

In order to analyze the sustainability of business education in Romania, first, the study examined the understanding of CSR in Romania. Content analysis is the most appropriate instrument used in website research, a similar approach being used by Milne & Adler (1999) in their paper “Exploring the reliability of social and environmental disclosures content analysis”, or by Jose & Lee (2006) for investigating 200 companies’ environmental practices. In the same regards like Nejati et al. (2011), this paper used a content analysis methodology to look over CSR reports, published on Romanian multinational companies’ websites, and examined specific actions in order to identify some key topics that have impact in the specific national education context. I especially took into consideration the types of activities reported, observing emphases put on different aspects, in order to establish the most important ones that companies assign to CSR core areas.

Then, I focused of how universities’ curriculums encompass these topics, as a direct response to the demands of business. To better illustrate these relationships I chose five universities from Romania, which provide business specialization, located in the most important Romanian university centers: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi, Constanta and Brasov.

4.Results and discussion

The CSR activities in Romania have begun when the first multinational companies established their activities in the country, in the early ’90s. Started at first like occasional philanthropy (Korka, 2004), it evolved, especially after 2007, when Romania became member of the European Union (Iamandi, 2011), having a considerable contribution to social and economic development. Although the CSR has known lately a significant expansion, there are still many things to do, in order to draw a demarcation line between philanthropic actions and real CSR.

4.1.CSR in Romanian companies – findings

The analysis target multinational companies’ CSR reports from six different sectors: telecommunication, oil &gas, construction, automotive, food and drink industry, and banking. It has to be emphasized the fact that even though all studied companies published their CSR activities, not all have stated CSR as being their core strategy. However, in all reports it could be noticed at least three distinct ways of CSR engagement. Though, from sector to sector the distribution of CSR core subjects is different, the overall analysis reveled the following percentage, presented in figure 1.

Each of the six large categories contains a series of essential topics:

• Community Involvement – regards social action for generating long-term value for a sustainable society.

Key topics: Sustainable Development, Community Management, Specific CSR knowledge, Corporate Citizenship, Business Ethics

• Environment – focuses on projects for environmental protection, green entrepreneurship, measures of greening areas, recycling.

Key topics: Environmental/Ecological Management, Environmental Legislation, Sustainable Development, Business Ethics

• Education – a very complex category comprising many areas like development of entrepreneurship, building citizenship, or providing scholarships.

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Key topics: Specific CSR knowledge, Business Ethics, Innovation, Sustainable Development, Various areas of Management (Strategic, Quality, Intercultural) • Employee involvement – the employees become an important factor in the companies’ decision

regarding the direction of CSR, specifically in corporate volunteering.

Key topics: Community Marketing, Sustainable Development

• Consumer issues – this category is rather correlated with the environmental and educational one, CSR campaigns aiming at consumer education and familiarization with R’s issues: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Key topics: Environmental/Ecological Management, Business Ethics

• Charitable Causes – whether it refers to support cultural or educational institutions, make donation to the Red Cross or help homeless people, the decision of were and what charitable actions should point, it's a strategically one.

Key topics: Specific CSR knowledge, Corporate Citizenship, Strategic Management, Business Ethics

4.2.Curriculum analysis

As it can be observed, main topics of managerial CSR decisions involve specific knowledge from related fields. By making a curriculum analysis, I tried to identify which of these could be found in academic classes. The results are presented in table1:

Table 1. CSR knowledge - a Curriculum Analysis

Key topics University Centers

Specific classes Bucharest Cluj-Napoca Iasi Brasov Constanta

Environmental Management Environmental Economy Environmental Legislation Ecology Sustainable Development Sustainability Business Ethics Corporate Social Responsibility Corporate Citizenship Entrepreneurship and Innovation Strategic Management Quality Management Intercultural Management Community Management Community Marketing

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From the conducted analysis, as it is pictured in the above table, not all subjects are covered by academic curriculums, which highlights the gap between business requirements and academic offering. Paramount topics like sustainability, corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, community management and community marketing, are not enclosed as freestanding disciplines. Also, not in all university centers, faculties’ courses offer has the same dispersion.

5.Conclusions

This paper has analyzed the response of universities, through their curriculum, to business demands. There have been considered only business faculties from university centers mentioned above. The education that students received has a direct impact in the socio-economic development of the country. Universities should be in a permanent connection with business, to identify their demands and adjust accordingly the educational offer. As business, universities are also responsible for society. In order to establish a sustainable curriculum, first universities should assume that. Their role is not just to provide education, but also to provide education for sustainability.

This challenge implies sustainability becomes a way of thinking for universities, a part of day-to-day activities. The simple “adding” of topics to a curriculum already overcrowded, is not the solution. Indeed, the key subjects mentioned above should be provided by academic programs, but there must be integrated in a SMART manner:

• S – Sufficient: finding of a way to provide the right and enough knowledge, in order to ensure that students receive skills and abilities for sustainability

• M – Measurable: developing a set of indicators for testing the level of knowledge and students’ perceptions regarding sustainable topics, to determine feedback and continuously adapt the curriculum • A – Assumed: considering the curriculum rethinking as a part of strategic steps made for achieving

sustainable university

• R – Re-evaluate: obtaining the feedback from companies where graduates have been employed

• T – Time frame: permanently correlating curriculum with the direct demands of society and business

Acknowledgements

The European Social Fund and Romanian Government realized this paper with the support of Posdru Cuantumdoc “Doctoral Studies For European Performances In Research And Innovation” Id79407 project funded. References

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