The recent orange, smoke-covered sky above New York City caused by Canadian wildfires was a stark reminder that business as usual is no longer an option. Growing sustainable businesses that not only deliver revenue for shareholders but also contribute to improving social and environmental conditions is more urgent than ever. This requires enlightened business leaders and executives who understand that integrating environmental and social imperatives into strategy and operations is not only a tool to mitigate risks but also a fundamental precondition for survival and growth. Business schools have a great responsibility to educate the next generation of business executives. They are the curators of the knowledge, tools and skills needed to empower future leaders.
The United Nations Global Compact was quite innovative in the years between 2004 and 2007, a time period when the United Nations itself was facing a crisis due to the invasion of Iraq and the political witch hunt against former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who was falsely accused of corruption. It was against this background that the UN Global Compact launched its sister initiatives, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) in 2007, along with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2006 and the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative (SSE) in 2009.
PRME engages higher education business and management institutions in providing future business leaders with the skills needed to balance economic and sustainability goals. It also draws attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds alignment and support for the work of the UN Global Compact. PRME is a principle-based initiative and its participants commit to sharing annual progress across curriculum development, research and partnerships.
Initiated by my former colleague Manuel Escudero, PRME was later expanded into a global platform by Jonas Haertle. Their dedicated efforts and leadership played a pivotal role in the growth and impact of PRME, for example during the global Rio+20 Summit in 2012 where PRME convened the business school community and provided input into what would lead to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.
Over the years, PRME participants have made important contributions on diverse issues, such as establishing the link between materiality and responsible business practices, lending academic support to the UN Global Compact’s Local Networks around the world and supporting thematic work in areas such as water management, climate change, women empowerment, and anti-corruption.
Since its inception in 2007, the PRME initiative has experienced remarkable growth in terms of its global reach and influence. The number of signatories to PRME has been increasing steadily, with an ever-growing community of business and management schools committing to its principles. What began with a handful of pioneering institutions has now expanded to include over 800 signatories from around the world, with an expected growth to 900+ signatories by the end of 2023.
PRME’s impact has extended beyond the borders of the United States and Europe, with participation and engagement from schools in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and other regions – an uptick in engagement manifested through six new PRME Regional Chapters in 2021 and 2022. This global expansion has fostered a diverse and inclusive network of institutions dedicated to integrating responsible management practices into their educational programs, thereby shaping the next generation of responsible business leaders on a truly global scale.
Under the leadership of Professor Mette Morsing, who has been head of PRME for the last three years, and with the great support of Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Assistant Secretary General of the UN Global Compact, a foundation has now been laid to create a dynamic digital learning platform for PRME participants. This platform will harvest the knowledge and learnings of participants while drawing in other relevant input from the wider ecosystem with a view to building a global resource for responsible management education. This is a timely and much needed development. Building and curating such a knowledge hub to inspire business and management schools around the world is key to educating the leaders of the future we so urgently need.
It is indeed very heartening that PRME is alive and evolving. The world urgently needs more responsible managers on all levels. Happy 16th anniversary PRME!
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