Ethical Performance
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training and education: the current picture for CSR

July 2004

As the UK government’s CSR Academy begins to take shape, EP looks at the fragmented state of education and training in the corporate responsibility field

Pity the corporate social responsibility or human resources manager asked to compile a list of training courses on CSR. The inquirer faces at once both a flood and a drought: a flood, because CSR covers so many different business activities; a drought, because, in the words of an official working party looking into the professional skills that practitioners need, training provision for this area in the UK ‘remains patchy and unstructured [and] courses are difficult to access and evaluate’.

According to the group*, which recently reported to CSR minister Stephen Timms, there are three main types of CSR training facilities: business schools, universities and independent training providers, including professional bodies.

One might add a fourth: companies themselves. Several companies, among them BT and Rio Tinto, have internal CSR training programmes. Vodafone, for example, offers training to staff at different levels within the company, and its most senior managers attend a CSR session as part of the company’s Global Management Development Programme, which takes place over three days in Lausanne. The mobile phone company also says it is integrating CSR into induction training for all employees.

Most business schools have been relatively slow to develop CSR content for their courses, either as lectures within the existing courses or as dedicated modules. Nottingham Business School is an exception, offering an MBA in CSR in conjunction with the school’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. This can be part-time (2-4 years), or full-time (one year). Warwick Business School was also one of the first to enter this market, having integrated CSR into its MBA programme soon after it set up the Corporate Citizenship Unit in 1997.

Ashridge Centre for Business and Society, which is part of Ashridge business school, offers two dedicated programmes. The Sir Christopher Harding Leadership Programme, for experienced middle and senior managers, mixes classroom work with consultancy projects for community groups. Andrew Wilson, Ashridge director, says there is ‘very solid demand’ for the course, now in its fourth year, in particular from utilities and other companies overseen by regulators. This year there were 24 participants. Another Ashridge course, on managing corporate community investment, takes place over three days and is also for middle and senior managers.

For busy managers wishing to study for a university qualification in CSR, the choice is fairly limited. The University of Bath offers a part-time MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice over two years that has been running since 1997. Its School of Management also offers the Bath MBA, which contains CSR modules, over 12 months. Based in Egham, Surrey, The School of Management of Royal Holloway University offers a part-time MSc in Sustainability and Management taught by the School of Management and the Department of Geography.

Other institutions incorporate CSR issues into existing management courses: Canterbury Christ Church University College in Kent has responsibility and corporate strategy as a core module of its MSc in Business Administration, while Glasgow University includes modules on business ethics and CSR reporting in its accountancy degrees.

Apart from degree courses, there is an array of training and learning opportunities for managers, often highly specific. The University of Cambridge Programme for Industry, for example, has been running a course for managers involved in partnerships with NGOs and others since 2002. In Manchester, the National Centre for Business and Sustainability offers a one-week course on social accounting, auditing and reporting that relates to the AA1000 assurance standard, but also covers other standards. The course, now in its fourth year, attracts delegates from all over the world.

However, as the working group notes, some of the best learning opportunities come from training in community-based groups. For advice on secondments, Business in the Community is a good place to start.

Managers looking to broaden their horizons may choose the Continent, where Copenhagen Business School (Denmark), Insead (France) and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School (Belgium) are among established providers. All appear in a new directory of MBA programmes, executive education and undergraduate courses covering CSR offered by 170 business schools in Europe. The list, compiled by the European Academy of Business in Society, an alliance of companies and academic institutions, is searchable by country, issue and individual institution – and provides far more comprehensive coverage of courses than space here allows. This makes it a useful starting point for anyone looking for information on CSR education and training in Europe.

*Changing Manager Mindsets, by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Corporate Responsibility Group.




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