The 2013 edition of the EQUIS documents for the first time broadly recognizes the role of business schools as ‘globally responsible citizens’ and as advocates of ethical and sustainable behavior in business and society. ‘Ethics, Responsibility & Sustainability (E∙R∙S)’ has been added as a transversal feature to the EQUIS system implying that these aspects are now covered throughout the EQUIS Standards & Criteria (S&C) – with a dedicated chapter (replacing the chapter on ‘Contributions to the Community’) as well as sections in most other chapters. E∙R∙S is therefore positioned in the same way as ‘Internationalization’ and ‘Corporate Connections’ (see Figure).
Figure: The EQUIS Criteria Framework
The approach adopted by EFMD reflects the belief that E∙R∙S is relevant for every aspect of business school management and operations. The starting point for business schools should be to reflect on the role of E∙R∙S in mission, vision and strategy (EQUIS S&C, chapter 1). The adopted strategy should be backed up with clearly defined objectives, specific milestones and adequate resource support. It is further assumed that the strategy is broadly communicated to the various stakeholder groups.
Business schools should integrate E∙R∙S into their educational offerings, which include degree programmes (EQUIS S&C, chapter 2) and non-degree executive education (EQUIS S&C, chapter 6). Reporting should differentiate between offerings dedicated to E∙R∙S and coverage in other programmes. In the case of degree programmes, detailed information should be provided on how E∙R∙S is integrated in programme design, delivery and assessment. It is certainly expected that applicant schools have moved beyond the still widely used approach of simply tagging on an E∙R∙S module to the curriculum with no obvious connection to the programme core. In addition, E∙R∙S should be linked to all facets of student management, which includes recruitment, admissions, scholarships and awards, diversity management, personal development as well as support provided for (extra-) curricular student engagement (EQUIS S&C, chapter 3).
The new standard will challenge business schools to reflect on how E∙R∙S can be mapped into faculty management (EQUIS S&C, chapter 4) and how faculty can be encouraged to integrate E∙R∙S into research & development (EQUIS S&C, chapter 5). Applicants should also present evidence that they are actively contributing to the ethical, responsible and sustainable development of businesses and business practices (EQUIS S&C, chapter 10). Explicit policies should be in place to ensure that E∙R∙S is firmly embedded in the School’s infrastructure management, operations, and administration (EQUIS S&C, chapter 7).
A transversal chapter dedicated to E∙R∙S (EQUIS S&C, chapter 9) represents the anchor of the new standard. It gives Schools the opportunity to summarize their E∙R∙S-related achievements and to report on their contributions to the ethical, responsible and sustainable development of local as well as global communities.
The revised EQUIS documents are operational as of now. Schools in process must ensure that they comply with all E∙R∙S-related changes, which also includes an additional section in the EQUIS data sheet and revised information requirements for the Self-Assessment Report and the Base Room.
Given the holistic nature of the EQUIS framework and the emphasis placed on diversity, business schools will have considerable degrees of freedom in complying with the E∙R∙S standard. The introduction of E∙R∙S should therefore not be misinterpreted as a fundamental questioning of management education as practiced by most business schools today.
In recent years, many EFMD member institutions have adjusted their educational offerings, their research foci and in some cases even their strategic development trajectories to address issues such as global warming, unethical behavior of high-profile managers and business practices perceived to be socially irresponsible. These achievements have largely escaped public attention. With the revised EQUIS framework, business schools are given a more explicit opportunity to document their multi-faceted contributions to E∙R∙S and to achieve recognition for embracing their wider role in society.
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