The fundamental value proposition of business is changing. Consumers increasingly want sustainable products and have high levels of trust in corporate leaders to confront pressing social challenges. Business leaders looking to step up and meet this moment need the training and tools for more responsible business plans and practices.
This was a topic in focus at the recent Responsible Research Summit 2022. The early June event brought together leaders from top business schools, the United Nations and financial and academic media. This diverse group met for two days to discuss how principled research can deliver value to both business and society.
Aligned with Global Goals
The Summit opened with a call to action by Deans from co-sponsoring schools Wharton and INSEAD. Dean of Wharton Erika James underscored the need for business research and management education to serve society as a whole. Ilian Mihov, Dean of INSEAD, spoke by video on the power of research to build a bridge between science and practice. The message was clear – leaders need the right resources to make the right decisions.
Responsible decision making was in focus for the first panel discussion of the Summit. United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and CEO of UN Global Compact Sanda Ojiambo sparked a discussion by asking what more each of us can do and what leaders can do better. She posed these questions in the context of the private sector’s role in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by nations of the world.
Mette Morsing, Head of the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education, implored researchers and leading thinkers to accelerate action towards global goals with innovative technologies and techniques. She pointed to the powerful position of business schools to engage the next generation of leaders and move the needle on the SDGs.
The Benefits of Positive Impact
Delivering positive impact was a recurring theme at the Responsible Research Summit 2022. A panel of Deans from business schools at Cornell, Duke and the University of Toronto spoke to the need to educate for impact and empower young leaders to turn purpose into action. All agreed that business is at an inflection point and needs a firm foundation to build credible response to global challenges.
New risks and changing value propositions in the 21st century economy require dynamic and agile leadership. A keynote address by the cofounder of the B-Corporation movement highlighted the challenges in navigating this shifting landscape and the benefits of embedding responsibility deep in corporate bylaws. The metrics businesses use to define success should evolve over time, a concept also championed at the Summit by editors of academic journals and the CEO of the AACSB accrediting body.
Another recurring theme of the Summit was the idea that challenges can be overcome by working together and with purpose. The Summit brought together influential leaders, each one able to push for transformative change. Yet to truly achieve this change, no one can act on their own and education must empower through knowledge. The responsible research movement encourages academic institutions to integrate sustainability into research as a foundation for management education and practice.
A Growing Movement
The concept of responsible research is not new. It originated more than 7 years ago when a small group of business scholars saw an opportunity for research to drive social and economic transformation. Responsible research is performed in service to society to realize a better world for both stakeholders and shareholders.
This research adheres to the highest standards, considers multidisciplinary perspectives and is based on sound methodology. It is rigorous, relevant and useful to business leaders and management educators. The Responsible Research in Business and Management movement spans more than 2000 endorsers from 75 countries, partners with more than 100 schools and champions the mainstreaming of responsible research into all business education.
The need for responsible research is on the rise. The pandemic, climate change impacts and geopolitical conflict create a challenging business landscape. Corporate action based on responsible research can deliver positive impact for communities and prosperity for companies. This enables and empowers business to think beyond the bottom line and rise to this extraordinary moment.
Seizing the Moment
Seizing this leadership moment in our 21st century economy requires well-reasoned thinking. Producing research to inform responsible decisions requires a sea change in management education. The Responsible Research Summit 2022 shows that this change is not just possible, it is coming.
Deans from leading business schools sounded the call for responsible research from the highest levels. The United Nations underscored the potential for business to deliver both prosperity and peace. Academic journals committed to publish more responsible research outputs and social impact will be integrated into business school accreditation. At the end of the Summit, these groups all committed to support and promote responsible research to inform and enable solutions.
This points to a promising future. Key elements of management education are aligned with global goals and moving together towards transformational impact. Momentum is building towards responsible research that informs corporate principles and practices. Now it is up to all of us, academics and corporate leaders alike, to meet this moment and truly transform business into a force for good.
The Responsible Research in Management and Business network would like to thank our sponsors and all attendees of the Responsible Research Summit 2022. We look forward to seeing progress towards your commitments at next year’s Summit.