Corporate Social Responsibility in Management Education: Current Status in Spanish Universities

Article excerpt


In the context of education for sustainable development, the purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a study in Spain into the extent to which corporate social responsibility (CSR) is taught in management schools. The study makes an exploratory and descriptive web-content analysis of the curriculum and subjects on Business and Management degrees at all universities in Spain. Our findings show that a high percentage of universities include CSR-related subjects on their curriculum. CSR content is taught as either specific CSR subjects (stand-alone CSR subjects) or as part of various subjects on the academic curriculum (embedded CSR subjects). Although at first sight our findings may seem promising, a more detailed analysis shows that few universities include stand-alone CSR subjects and that although many universities have embedded CSR subjects, the CSR content is by no means fully developed.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility (CSR), business ethics, higher education, curriculum, management/business schools, CSR teaching programs

In 2001, Kofi Annan argued that the biggest challenge of the new century was to make everybody on the planet aware that sustainable development was a reality not an abstract concept (United Nations, 2001). By this he meant that the quality of life of present and future generations needed to be improved by reconciling economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), the aim of which was to promote education as a basis for a more sustainable human society and to integrate sustainable development into education systems at all levels. It also designated the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the lead agency to promote the Decade. Education is the key to sustainable development so it should be reviewed at all levels and there should be a clear focus on the development of sustainability-related knowledge, skills, perspectives and values for the benefit of current and future societies (UNESCO, 2005).

In management education, universities have a vital role: to equip the next generation of business leaders with the skills they need to cope with an era of globalization, and create economic growth and a sustainable future for people and the planet (Ethical Corporation, 2006). Business educators are responsible not only for providing students with opportunities to build business skills, but also to help them to understand the powerful effects that business decisions and actions can have on society and the potential collateral damage they can cause. In this regard, teaching ethics and social responsibility is a critical step towards helping business students understand this balance (Kolodinsky, Madden, Zisk, & Henkel, 2009).

Furthermore, graduates need to be made aware of the importance of honesty and integrity. When recruiting, business schools need to ensure that students are equipped with the ethical integrity to meet challenges in the real business world (Giacalone, 2008). As Jackson (2009) suggests, the incorporation of course units that address business ethics and corporate social responsibility are obvious attempts to counteract any negative influences on graduate skills.

At all levels - undergraduate degree, master's degree and doctorate - universities must encourage students to develop skills in business ethics and CSR. So how are Spanish universities facing up to this challenge? Are they offering their students training in CSR so it can then be applied in the workplace?

The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a study conducted in Spain in 2007 on the extent to which CSR is taught in the management schools of Spanish universities. In more specific terms, it provides an overview of teaching in the broad field of CSR in Business Administration and Management courses in Spanish universities. …