I recently attended the 4th Annual I.E. Social Responsibility Forum in Madrid. This impressive gathering was organized by the Net Impact chapter of the IE Business School and their theme was “Redesigning Capitalism: The Business Case for Sustainability.”
I attend a lot of these types of events and when I was invited to speak on a panel with the IE Business School Dean, among others, on the theme of “Should Business Schools Lead the Way to Sustainability?”, I was a bit hesitant. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge how much value we add by attending such events. But it was an opportunity to talk about the innovative curriculum I have developed – Givng Voice to Values – and I always take the opportunity to do that.
However, I must say that this event surpassed my best expectations. The speakers were top notch and the presentations were inspiring. But the fundamental reason why this event was so impactful for me was the chance to meet the student organizers there. In particular, Brad Krauskopf (President of the IE Net Impact Chapter) and Tanguy De Bock (President, IE Social Responsibility Forum) were a revelation to me.
I know we all keep hearing that the current generation of students is excited and committed to ‘business with a social purpose’ and ‘to harnessing the power of business to make the world a better place.’ But these students were not just talking in idealistic terms about the excitement of changing the world, although they did embody that perspective. They were also talking about choosing to take on the responsibility for the planet’s future. In addition to the “feel good” positive messages, they were talking with a sense of urgency and maturity and open-eyed realism about the fact that they really have no choice but to focus their energy on transforming the way business is done.
It was compelling, and frankly, a bit sobering. I found myself wondering why there were not more in my own generation (a tad older than these students, I have to say) who were “acting their age” on these issues. And I was impressed by Mr. Krasukopf’s closing remarks at the end of the two day event, when he challenged his peers by pointing out that, if all the projections about the fate of the planet and the timeframe for a turn-around were correct, their collective future – or lack thereof – was going to be determined “on our watch.” And the stunned and moved audience knew he was right…
Mary C. Gentile, PhD, Senior Research Scholar
Director, Giving Voice to Values