Yesterday’s FT carried an interesting piece, a new report by Net Impact, the student sustainability body for MBA’s.
The survey undertaken by Net Impact shows that out of 2100 MBA students in 87 programmes in the US and Canada, 81 per cent said that profit and social responsibility can co-exist.
Is the ghost of the still-living Milton Friedman fading away? Well perhaps. Some 90 per cent of the students said business leaders should factor in social and environmental issues into decision making, but only 60 per cent of the 90 thought such an approach could be profitable.
While some 78 per cent believed CSR classes should be core to their courses, and 80 per cent wanted to find “socially responsible” employment “at some point” in their careers, an amazing 59 per cent said they would seek such work when finishing their MBA’s.
That last stat is astonishing, but will they change their minds when the bank manager comes a’ knocking? And what makes us believe that the broader student body is any different from the average consumer, talking the talk in surveys, but finding it too hard to make ethical choices in the real world (or too expensive)?
The survey results seem based on Net Impact members, so perhaps the big 59 per cent stat is unrepresentative of the majority of MBA’s. That would seem likely.
The FT concludes by pointing out that a separate survey found that 56 per cent of MBA students admit to cheating at some point on their courses. A worrying statistic for the future of business ethics. Is it the MBA system that’s at fault for pushing too hard? That would be an easy conclusion.
Most probably its also about the natural human tendency to get ahead by taking shortcuts where they present themselves. I doubt we’ll ever breed out that particular genetic desire…