Evaluating the Impact of Global Business Schools on the SDGs

Business Education

Introducing the SDG Dashboard for SDG Reporting

This November, the GBSN Annual Conference will explore the theme of “Measuring the Impact of Business Schools” concurrent with the The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative’s annual “All Gathering Momentum” (AGM). When we meet each other in Lisbon, we will have the opportunity to dive deeply into the challenges and opportunities facing business and management education institutions. One of the inquiries we will explore is: How can new technologies be used to measure the impact of a business school and its faculty? As a guiding framework, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targets, and indicators provide a compelling set of standards by which business schools could potentially evaluate their positive impacts in the world. In its mission to improve access to quality, locally-relevant management education, GBSN is well positioned to take a leadership role in championing the SDGs in business education.

The authors are grateful for this opportunity to share insights about the landscape today for the SDGs in Higher Education and to offer a preview of a promising reporting tool that will be presented at the GBSN Annual Conference. Developed by Saint Joseph’s University’s Erivan K. Haub School of Business, the SDG Dashboard is an innovative, scalable, and accessible method for assessing and ultimately accelerating business schools’ impacts on the SDGs.

A brief overview of the United Nations’ SDGs and business schools

Adopted unanimously by 193 nations in September 2015, the SDGs are humanity’s audacious plan to meet 17 universal, interdependent, and transformational goals by 2030. The SDGs provide a science-based framework for what humanity needs to accomplish by 2030 to achieve human prosperity and environmental sustainability. Notably for the GBSN community, the SDGs explicitly reference higher education in Goal 4: Quality Education. This fosters strong alignment with GBSN’s mission to improve access to quality, locally relevant management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world.

In the past three years, the 17 Goals and their colorful icons have become increasingly embraced by nation states, the corporate sector, nonprofits, and higher education generally. However, according to the 2018 UN SDGs Report, the world is falling short of meeting the SDGs–management education should play a transformational role in supporting the success of the SDGs. Already, the SDGs have been supported by the global management education community through initiatives, declarations, partnerships, curricula, experiential learning, competitions, conference presentations, and research. For some background on existing SDG and sustainable development activities in higher education and business schools, please find a list of resources at the conclusion of this article.

Case study on SDGs best practice reporting with the SDG Dashboard

It’s clear that business schools play a critical role in advancing the SDGs through higher education. But how can we ascertain these impacts and best practices for the SDGs? While good works advancing the SDGs proliferate throughout global business schools, presently, there is no comprehensive reporting system dedicated to sharing specifically how these schools contribute to the SDGs.

To begin to address this information and management gap, the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University has developed the SDG Dashboard–a new reporting and data analytics tool that allows business schools to showcase and share their SDG-related best practices. Haub’s Dean Joseph DiAngelo and Past Chair of AACSB International explains the rationale for the SDG Dashboard: “Today’s leading business schools aspire to be ‘forces for good’ and align with the United Nation’s SDGs. The SDG Dashboard offers a viable platform to empower business schools with the right network and data to achieve substantive transformation in business education.” The Vision for the SDG Dashboard is:

The SDG Dashboard is a collaborative data reporting and analytics platform for global business schools to share their best practice impacts on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and transform business education into a force for good.

The SDG Dashboard is a useful strategic tool that enables business schools, accreditation bodies, membership organizations, faculty, students, and a wide variety of stakeholders to assess impact performance across SDGs in key business school functions.

The SDG Dashboard is based on the inspiring assumption that all business schools, whether intentionally or not, do make meaningful contributions to advancing the SDGs through their everyday academic and institutional activities. To capture these contributions, the interactive and intuitive visualization platform of the SDG Dashboard catalogs activities in these Impact Areas: Teaching, Research, Partnerships, Dialogue, and Organizational Practices vis-à-vis individual SDGs.

This visualization platform provides both a broad overview of collective business school contributions to the SDGs, as well as access to individual schools’ unique best practice impacts–wide and deep. SDG impact activity is also represented by geolocation to obtain a picture of SDG activity around the world. Overall, the SDG Dashboard provides an accessible picture of where SDG impact activity is flourishing and areas where additional focus might be warranted. If SDGs are important to business schools, then the SDG Dashboard provides an opportunity to heed management guru Peter Drucker’s counsel: “What gets measured gets managed.”

Multi-level data stacking in the SDG Dashboard enables users to cross-tabulate wide-ranging and micro-targeted SDG impacts by business schools in any Impact Area (e.g., Teaching, Research) and any single SDG. Broadly, for example, a user could assess all of the best practices in SDG #5: Gender Equality across all 5 Impact Areas and all business schools in the SDG Dashboard. Such data-driven insights can help business academe at large, as well as individual schools, analyze their strengths and developmental opportunities in this or any other SDG.

The SDG Dashboard easily facilitates the retrieval and sharing of actual practices. For example, a user could investigate the Impact Area of Research for SDG #5: Gender Equality. Here, they would find a quantitative count of all research-related contributions, detailed abstracts, clickable DOI web links, and an option to readily share the fruits of their query via email, FaceBook, or Twitter. From the macro to the micro, the SDG Dashboard empowers users to both supply and receive useful best practices for impacting SDGs in a collaborative ecosystem of global business schools dedicated to fueling progress on the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

For GBSN members and partner organizations, the SDG Dashboard can provide a vehicle to demonstrate alignment with the main thrust of GBSN’s Mission: “GBSN harnesses the power of a global network of leading business schools to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, advancing management education.” Additionally, the SDG Dashboard draws its sources from the SDGs, most of which are goals and targets directly relevant to developing world countries. Karen Spens, Rector of GBSN member school Hanken School of Economics, an early adopter and leader in the SDG Dashboard, sees the “great potential of the SDG Dashboard to galvanize GSBN efforts to deliver on its core purpose of improving quality of and access to business education for the developing world through collaboration and information sharing.”

The future of SDGs and business schools

If SDGs progress continues at the current rate, it’s certain that climate disruption will make fulfilling the SDGs impossible. The October 2018 IPCC special report estimates we have a decade at most to stave off the worst of the coming climate-related disruptions. It’s a cruel truth that people in developing countries, who are the least responsible for climate disruption, will be the hardest hit. Nevertheless, the January 2017 “Better Business, Better World” report estimates that the UN SDGs are a $12 trillion dollar opportunity wrapped up in the biggest crisis facing our world. There is a major leadership role for business schools to understand and respond to the SDGs’ complex challenges and galvanizing possibilities.

How will we achieve the SDGs’ collective, interdependent, and transformational potential for prosperity for all people on a healthy planet? How will business schools lead the way on SDGs? The SDG Dashboard can be a part of how we evaluate business school progress–with confidence that we’re moving together in the right direction at the necessary speed. We look forward to continuing this conversation at the 2019 GBSN Annual Conference.

Resources for SDGs and Sustainable Development in Management Education
  1. International Association of Universities’ International Bibliographic Database on Higher Education includes a 74-page selected bibliography for Sustainable Development for 2000-2018 that is an excellent resource for mapping extant resources and initiatives.
  2. Getting started with the SDGs in Universities” is a guide to help universities, higher education institutions, and the academic sector in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific to accelerate their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
    (SDSN Australia/Pacific in collaboration with the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), the global SDSN, and Australian and New Zealand universities.)
  3. The global communities of PRME, AACSB International, GRLI, EFMD, HESI, AASHE’s Sustainability Curriculum Consortium, EAUC and the SDG Accord, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and many more are engaged with the SDGs and Higher Education.
  4. The marketplace of SDGs tools, platforms, reports, impact investing schemes, and networks has exploded in the past year. As an example, C-Change, a think tank based in the Netherlands, mapped the number of online platforms that explicitly offer ways for people to collaborate for the Goals. Over 200 so far.
  5. A new 28 June 2019 report from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network shows that major long-term transformations are necessary for achieving the SDGs.

David Steingard, Faculty Director, SDG Dashboard, Saint Joseph’s University, Erivan K. Haub School of Business steingar@sju.edu

Claire Sommer, Associate Director, Communications, Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) claire.sommer@grli.org