Given this background, a Net Impact survey of more than 2,000 MBA students conducted within the past month gives cause for encouragement.
The survey suggests that the overwhelming majority of today's MBA students believe that businesses should work toward the betterment of society, that managers should take into account social and environmental impacts when making business decisions, and that corporate social responsibility should be integrated into core curricula in MBA programs.
Initial results of the survey were reported on Tuesday, October 24, by Liz Maw, executive director of Net Impact, at the Business as an Agent of World Benefit Global Forum in Cleveland. Net Impact is an international network of MBAs, graduate students and professionals committed to using the power of business to improve the world. The survey results will also be available at the annual Net Impact conference, Oct. 27-29 in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois.
"While we don't have earlier results for comparison, it may be that these responses reflect, at least in part, the extensive coverage of the corporate scandals of the recent past and the trials of the top executives implicated in them," Ms. Maw surmises. "It would hardly be surprising for such ethical disasters to enhance students' appreciation of corporate social responsibility."
The Net Impact survey was conducted online from September 25 to October 15, 2006 at 110 MBA programs in the US and Canada. A total of 2,112 students from 87 programs, 70% of whom were in the first year and 30% in the second, responded to 31 questions. Forty-five percent of the respondents were female, and 34% were people of color. Thirty-seven percent were members of Net Impact, whose membership exceeds 10,000 worldwide.
Among the findings:
While the 37% of the respondents who were Net Impact members were the most likely to be partial to social responsibility, social commitment proved strong even among the 63% who were nonmembers. Thus, among respondents who said they were not interested in becoming Net Impact members, 81% believed business professionals should take into account social and environmental impacts when making decisions; 64% said the subject of corporate social responsibility should be integrated into core MBA classes; 66% said business should work toward the betterment of society; and 60% said they would seek socially responsible employment.
The Net Impact survey was presented as part of a three-day global forum in Cleveland from Oct. 22nd to 25th. Convened by the Academy of Management, Case Western Reserve University and the United Nations Global Compact, the Business as an Agent of World Benefit Global Forum brings over 400 on-site and 700 virtual participants representing 40 different countries together to discuss issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
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