The Global Challenge of Interlinking Business and Society

Business will play a key role in solving the most pressing global problems of our times: population growth, resource shortages, struggling economies. In fact, “Never before, have companies and society been so closely connected,” says Pierre Tapie, President of the ESSEC Business School.

Together with Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Keio Business School in Tokyo, the School of Management of Fudan University in Shanghai, and the Business School of the University of Mannheim, ESSEC forged an alliance of leading business schools from all parts of the world.

The goal of this alliance? To debate central economic and societal questions of the future, and to develop problem-solving approaches, while embedding them in research and education.

At a recent conference, more than 200 high-profile scientists, business representatives, and students from the home countries of the five alliance partners debated questions that are both current and controversial: How can we best shape Corporate Governance? What impact does this have on the leadership of companies? And what solutions exist for the tension-laden issue of profitability and responsibility?

The international alliance of the five business schools is the ideal platform for this debate. After all, they represent five nations, that, when combined, account for almost 50% of global economic output. Together, the five institutions have more than 600 renowned scientists, 20,000 current students and 90,000 alumni.

A study conducted among graduate students at these cooperating business schools shows that future leaders in the United States already regard ethical conduct as the most important quality of a successful top manager. Internationally, this attribute ranks second to competence in financial questions, but ahead of both strategic orientation and the ability to motivate employees.

“The values of companies on the one side, and business schools as research institutions and educational establishments for executives on the other, strongly influence each other. For this reason, we must deliver the answers for the issues of the future,” states Tapie.

One of the most important insights of the conference was summarized by Dr. Werner Brandt, Chief Financial Officer of the SAP AG:

“Corporate governance has become one of the central leadership issues. While corporate governance was shaped by the strategy of a company before, the reverse is the case today. The starting point for the formulation of a company’s strategy is always the definition of a value system.”

Eric Labaye, Director of McKinsey & Company, France, emphasized that these deliberations are not limited to shareholders, but must incorporate all stakeholders, meaning employees, customers, suppliers, as well as organizations and associations.

“Additionally, the focus should be placed on the pursuit of long-term goals, such as employee satisfaction, innovation, or the securing of a good reputation, as opposed to financial figures of short-term relevance,” noted Labaye. Naturally, this must not come at the expense of profitability.

As Paul Danos, Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth noted: “Tuck has a Center for Business and Society on campus which focuses on opportunities for students to interact with nonprofit organizations and also to study other critical societal issues. Tuck’s association with the Council allows us to extend our reach and gives us a global perspective on issues at the intersection of business and society.”

In the coming years, each of the alliance schools will take a turn in hosting one of the next international forums. In January 2013, Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil will join the alliance as the sixth international alliance partner.

(source: Tuck School of Business Interlinking Business and Society – a Challenge for Business Schools around the Globe)

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