Integrating corporate social responsibility into the business and marketing curricula in Spanish universities.

Author:Jorge, Manuel Larran


Given the current crisis, unsustainable growth and the recent business scandals, especially in larger enterprises, the topic of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is likely to receive much more attention and involve reflection on the role of universities in the professional training, particularly those who have to manage businesses. CSR behaviors and practices of business organizations are valued taking into account the guidelines and decisions provided to managers and employees, then the CSR training of students who in the future will be managers and employees is fundamental (Svensson and Wood, 2011).

University educators can play an important role by developing curricula that build the knowledge and skills required to enable graduates to contribute to sustainable efforts. The imperative for business educators is to foster the mindset, to introduce students to the frameworks and tools and to provide opportunities for students to develop the skill sets that enable them to be change makers for the companies in which they accept positions (Borin and Metcalf, 2010). In this regard, business students, who will become managers in the future involved in key decisions affecting business, might be introduced to frameworks that help them understand how organizations can balance societal need, environmental preservation and business value. That is why there is an urgent need to analyze the education system that prepares them for their future responsibilities (Rivera and De Juan, 2011).

As a field of business education, in recent years, marketing instructors have been called on to integrate issues related to business ethics and CSR into their curricula (Ferrell and Keig, 2013; Mills et al., 2013). In this regard, recent literature reviews confirm that issues of marketing ethics continue to grow in importance to the marketing profession (Schlegelmilch and Oberseder, 2010). The trend toward integrating marketing and business with CSR may be, in part, because the requirements of accreditation bodies necessitate that business ethics features broadly in business school curricula (Mills et al., 2013).

For instance, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) notes that "management education must prepare students to contribute to organizations and the larger society and to grow personally and professionally throughout their careers" (AACSB, 2008; p. 1). Further, the AACSB requires that accredited universities "must establish expectations for ethical behaviour by students" (AACSB, 2008; p.11). Additionally, AACSB asserts: "Normally the curriculum management process will result in an undergraduate program that includes learning experiences in such general knowledge and skill areas as [...] ethical understanding and reasoning abilities" (AACSB, 2008; p. 15). With regard to management-specific knowledge and skills, AACSB states that one area the program should offer learning experiences is in ethical and legal responsibilities in organizations and society (AACSB, 2008). Standards such as those published by The Marketing and Sales Standards Setting Body (MSSSB) suggest that a principal activity that marketers must undertake is to ensure that an organization's strategies and policies are centered upon customers and an organization's corporate social responsibilities (MSSSB, 2006).

Accrediting bodies such as the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) suggests that learning environments should favor the development of students' managerial and entrepreneurial skills, and foster their sense of global responsibility (EQUIS, 2008). Universities seeking EQUIS accreditation must be able to describe the means by which issues relating to business ethics and CSR are integrated into personal development processes (EQUIS, 2008). In Spain, Agencia Nacional de Evaluacion de la Calidad y Acreditacion (ANECA) (1) states the need of increasing CSR issues in university education. In this regard, each Spanish university should elaborate a report on their degrees and ANECA is the accrediting body in charge of verifying these reports. To receive a positive verification, Spanish degrees should include in their reports the importance of providing training related to human rights, environmental protection or equality between women and men (2). This statement became effective in 2007 by means of the Law 1393 2007 by establishing the management of official university. In relation with ANECA, we consider it appropriate to point out the presence of different autonomic accreditation bodies in Spain which are responsible for regulating the adaptation of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to the new legislative framework in Spain.

Regarding the European university system, universities are developing a full process aimed at achieving a greater homogeneity of their national university systems. To increase their competitiveness, 29 countries, including Spain, signed in 1999 the Bologna Declaration for the creation in 2010 of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). In doing so, the following tools were established: (1) the creation of a system of comparable degrees between countries based on two levels, graduate and postgraduate; (2) a common European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) with continuing education activities; (3) a European orientation towards the quality that incorporates comparable methods and criteria; and (4) the promotion of the mobility of students, researchers and lecturers. The adaptation to new European environment requires a change of the prevalent paradigm to promote university as a centre of knowledge creation, opposed to the former paradigm that conceived university as being a place for transmitting wisdom. This implies major changes to the traditional curriculum (Marti et al., 2009).

Based on previous statements, this study focuses on analyzing the presence of differences on CSR education between marketing curricula and degrees related to business offered by Spanish universities during 2011/2012 academic course. In this respect, it is important to take advantage of the possible influence exerted by the public or private nature of Spanish universities as well as the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate curricula.

The added value of the study is explained by three main reasons: first, few studies have focused on analyzing CSR training education in Spanish universities (Fernandez and Bajo, 2010; Seto-Pamies et al., 2011); second, the need of providing an analysis differentiated about business and marketing programs, both in undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, in order to compare the extent in which business and marketing educators offer stand-alone courses in terms of CSR education; and third, several studies have separately examined the integration of ethics, CSR or environmental topics within the business or marketing curriculum. For instance, Christensen et al. (2007) emphasize on ethics, CSR and sustainability education as separate and distinct topics, Rundle-Thiele and Wymer (2010) reviewed stand-alone courses in business schools in New Zealand and Australia, and Moon and Orlitzky (2011) compared the availability of CSR/sustainability courses in European and United States schools. However, these studies were narrow in scope and none examined the integration of all three topics (ethics, CSR and environmental issues) into business or marketing curricula. A benchmark study assessing the current integration of ethics, CSR and environmental stand-alone subjects in marketing and business curricula would clarify the current situation and facilitate development of future goals for achieving better integration of all three topics (Nicholls et al., 2013).

Theoretical Background: A review of prior research

According to Bigne et al. (2006), the concept of CSR dates back to the ideas first explored in the publication by Howard R. Bowen (1953) titled Social Responsibilities of the Businessman. In this sense, Bowen (1953) stated that CSR refers to the obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies, to make those decisions or to follow those lines of action which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society. When defining CSR, the United Nations Global Compact (2007) asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, environment and anticorruption. Focusing on the "three Es" approach for sustainability, as referenced by Bridges and Wilhelm (2008; p. 34), it generally defines sustainability in a manner that includes ecological (environmental), social (equity), and financial (economic) concepts. Additionally, regarding sustainability and business success where there would not be a negative impact on financial outcomes, scholars have urged organizations to consider both the ecological and social equity dimensions. In addition to the existing standards related to ethics, as of March 2013, AACSB has proposed a new standard regarding CSR and sustainability that explicitly states: "A school must demonstrate a commitment to address, engage, and respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues (e.g., diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and globalization of economic activity across cultures) through its policies, procedures, curricula, research and/or outreach activities". Furthermore, the basis for judgment in meeting the standard is "diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability and other emerging corporate and social responsibility issues are important and require responses from business schools and business students" (AACSB International, 2013b).

Focusing our attention on the business and management curriculum, the debate on the role of CSR education is by no means new. It started in the 1970s in the United States, but has recently acquired renewed vigour (Mele, 2008). Ceulemans and De Prins...

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