Cranfield’s professor of corporate responsibility gives his personal view on how business schools have developed corporate responsibility programmes, and where their future focus should be

Twenty years ago, as one of the managing directors of Business in the Community, the UK-based, business-led coalition promoting corporate responsibility, I visited the Harvard Business School (HBS), to suggest it should teach corporate responsibility. My rationale was that if HBS took the lead, other business schools would quickly follow. And, that with the fall of communism, it would be prudent to develop theory and practice about responsible capitalism. My host listened politely, gave me a pleasant lunch in the faculty dining room – and sent me on my way.

Undaunted and shamelessly borrowing from the title of a 1980s business best-seller, I gave a lecture a few months later at Durham University Business School, entitled, “What they should teach you at Harvard and other business schools too”. I argued that what was then called corporate citizenship or corporate community involvement should be part of the business school curriculum.

I was invited to work with Chris Marsden, then at BP, to examine how to influence the business schools, and this led, in due course, to BP’s sponsorship of a corporate citizenship unit at Warwick Business School, in 1997.

Others had been following parallel tracks. The Co-operative Bank sponsored a chair in corporate...

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