Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Seven Years of Development: United Nations-Supported Principles for Responsible Management Education

Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Seven Years of Development: United Nations-Supported Principles for Responsible Management Education

Article excerpt

This article reflects upon the seven-year development of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) since its inauguration in June 2007. PRME is at once a set of principles (see Table 1) and an initiative. The PRME initiative is a partnership between higher education institutions (HEIs), especially management and business schools that endorse the PRME Principles and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)--an UN-business partnership spearheaded by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000. Subsequently led by the current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the UNGC encourages corporate citizenship centered around 10 universal principles on human rights, labor, environment, and anticorruption. PRME, along with its "sister" initiative Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), was launched to engage UNGC's key stakeholders with strong leverage over businesses.

While PRI's main constituent is institutional investors committed to incorporating environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues into their analysis and decision-making, PRME is set up to garner support of HEIs for advancing corporate citizenship through their main activities: (management and leadership) education, research, and thought leadership. In other words, PRME seeks to encourage HEIs to be key change agents for "an inclusive and sustainable global economy" (PRME's Principle 1) by infusing their activities with values of global social responsibility and sustainability. As of June 2014, the initiative counts more than 550 HEIs from over 80 countries around the world as signatories, and more than one-third of the Financial Times' top-100-ranked business schools are among them. PRME and PRI are gradually and progressively "becoming key leverage points"--to use an expression by Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UNGC (Kell, 2014)--for the UNGC in particular, and the global corporate responsibility and sustainability movement in general (see Table 2 for a comparison of the UNGC, PRME, and PRI).

The article frames PRME's development by focusing on four guiding questions: How has PRME developed? What has enabled this development? What is PRME? What does PRME do?

As for the first two questions, PRME has gradually developed from an initial group of 100 signatories with a Steering Committee and a Secretariat, to a network of more than 550 signatories with a variety of work streams and collaborative projects around the world. Such growth, we contend, was made possible by three factors: 1) continued relevance of the PRME Principles; 2) sustained institutional support from influential stakeholders; and 3) a move toward a multicentric governance structure. The latter two questions are inextricably linked because what PRME is, is constituted by what it does, and vice versa. PRME is not only a global inter-organizational network based on collaborative governance but also has gradually come to form a collaborative community. PRME encourages collaborative learning and collaborative innovation on practice in responsible management education, research, and thought leadership (RME practice in short). This article is thus structured as follows: we will first outline the development of PRME over the past seven years by describing how its main components have emerged, and then analyze its enabling factors. Based on these observations, the article concludes with a model for understanding the nature of PRME.

The Development of PRME: An Overview

PRME as well as the initiative's governance structure have progressively emerged over the years. As Figure 1 shows, there have been two waves in its development: PRME's early years and the past two years since the third PRME Global Forum held in 2012 as a side event of the Rio+20 Global Earth Summit.

Soon after PRME was launched in July 2007, PRME's Steering Committee and the PRME Secretariat were put in place, respectively as PRME's governance body and PRME's network administrator. …

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