Campus - 14.10.2013 - 00:00 

More time for contemplation

How can HSG better integrate responsibility and sustainability in its courses? A recent panel discussion at the university considered the question. Its conclusion: an ethical attitude is more than just an academic pursuit; it’s a frame of mind that business schools, especially, should encourage.<br/>


11 October 2013. Panelists included President Thomas Bieger; Dieter Euler, professor of business education; Stéphanie Hagmann, HSG student body president, and Fabienne Meienberger, president of the oikos student organization.

Business schools bear responsibility
Professor Thomas Dyllick, HSG delegate for responsibility and sustainability, kicked off the discussion by reporting the results of a survey: “More than 80 percent of managers think that the business world has to take a stronger lead in the area of sustainability.” As a business school, HSG’s responsibilities include training future business leaders who contribute to the health of the economy and society through their actions.

Those responsibilities are not properly emphasized in the university’s core subjects, said oikos president, Meienberger: “One should not just concentrate on ethical issues within the St.Gallen Management Model, in contextual studies and in freshman year.” Hagmann added that responsibility is not merely a course-work topic. “I think responsibility should be a key part of every student’s basic outlook, especially since we will be expected to make decisions as managers in our careers.” The university has the task of developing a broad awareness in its students, President Bieger said. Prof. Dyllick added: “Our programs already include several sustainability initiatives. Nonetheless, we must sharpen the focus on ethical aspects in some subjects.”

Awareness and tools of the trade

A bachelor-level student in the audience noted that pressure of the workload tempts students to organize their studies as efficiently as possible. Many, therefore, consider core subjects like business administration and economics more important than courses in topics like critical thinking. Such optional courses often are secondary considerations. “Students should not be able to avoid the topics of responsibility and sustainability,” Prof. Dyllick responded. “A basic awareness of the importance of sustainability can also be communicated in economics and business administration,” noted Prof. Euler. “We give students the tools of the trade to accompany them in their professional careers. And we encourage them to think about the broad responsibilities that managers carry.”

Communicating values in everyday university life
Bieger noted that students’ contact with role models is a key component of their education. Social responsibility and sustainability awareness arise from contemplation, but above all from the analysis of specific social problems. “The importance of committing oneself to society should be an inherent part of management education,” said former HSG President Peter Gomez. “Our students should not participate socially just because it is part of a perfect CV,” Euler added.

Ideas about values, such as how to define success, are also communicated in everyday university life and by future employers. “Students need more opportunity for contemplation,” said Euler. Team teaching by two lecturers representing different specialties facilitates the inclusion of sustainable aspects in the core subjects, said Thomas Beschorner, professor for business ethics.

New platform for sustainability
At the start of the panel discussion, Prof. Dyllick and his assistant Nico Frey presented an overview of HSG’s current responsibility and sustainability activities. In addition to briefly reviewing the topics of economy and environment at HSG, they also presented the new responsibility and sustainability platform, which will be expanded on a continuing basis:

In addition, four core HSG institutes and centers showed how they include the topics of responsibility and sustainability in education and research. Rolf Wüstenhagen introduced the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ-HSG), Prof. Beschorner provided insights into the work of the Institute for Business Ethics (IWE-HSG). Prof. Gomez presented recent research work at the Center for Leadership and Values in Society (CLVS-HSG), which offers citizens public platforms to express their views. Stephan Böhm, director of the Center for Disability and Integration (CDI-HSG), explained how the center is helping people with disabilities participate in the work force.

Picture: oikos / Robert Stürmer

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