Details for Birmingham City Business School
Type of Organization
Type of Education
Technical, Undergraduate, Post Graduate, Doctoral, Executive
Institution is part of
Birmingham City University
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Sign Up Date to PRME
05 Feb 2018
Current Sharing Information on Progress Report Submission
Letter of Commitment (2018)
Achievements Curriculum Integration in the Field of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
The School’s approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability has developed over a number of years. In the following we consider examples of progress thus far, and begin to consider how further progress can be made as we support: (i) the UN’s seventeen sustainable development “goals” (SDGs); and, (ii) PRME’s six “principles” of responsible management education (United Nations 2015; PRME 2018)
Birmingham City Business School (BCBS) is part of Birmingham City University, which is a modern University that has developed rapidly in recent years. Environment and sustainability are integral to our activity. A radical overhaul of the estates is ongoing, and this has been conducted with sustainability at its core. As evidence of this the University enrolled on the EcoCampus scheme, which is a phased Environmental Management System (EMS). In January 2013 the University achieved the coveted Platinum award. In 2017 we were also certified to the ISO 14001:2015 for EMS.
As well as its’ estates the School has overhauled its curriculum and extra-curricular activities as part of the “Transforming the Curriculum” (TtC) project. This contributes to the PRME Principle 1 (to develop the capabilities of students) and the UN SDG 4 (ensure inclusive and quality education for all). TtC provided the structure for programme revalidation, and examples of how it supported responsible management education in the curriculum are discussed below. It is our intention to use the PRME principles and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as frameworks to structure and shape this development further, for student, business and societal benefit.
Transforming the Curriculum
In 2016, as part of the University’s TtC initiative, we undertook a full revalidation of all of the Business School’s programmes. Each degree was required to establish a programme philosophy and aims, a teaching-learning-assessment strategy, and ‘statements of intent for key learning experience themes’. Sustainability and global citizenship were required learning experience themes for all validated programmes, and these contribute to the UN’s three aspects of sustainability, namely its economic, social and environmental pillars (United Nations 2005).
The QAA/HEA (2014) define education for sustainable development as ‘the process of equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, both in the present and for future generations’ (p.5). We made a commitment as a University to create graduates with a global outlook (one of our “graduate attributes”), and each of our programmes included an internationalised programme aim. The inclusion of sustainability within that is a logical connection.
We are especially proud of our record in delivering inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG 4). As a School, with a high proportion of black and minority ethnic students (with diverse cultural identities), inclusion is very important at BCU (and links directly to SDG 10). This is something we celebrate, using the cultural and international experiences of our students and faculty as a learning resource in class activities and group work. We embed and debate global exemplars and perspectives in the curriculum, and provide a range of accessible opportunities for international and intercultural learning. Programmes also use inclusive learning outcomes, practices and skills, inculcating attitudes which are appropriate for culturally diverse societies.
Within the Business School there are a number of modules which explore corporate social responsibility, ensuring coverage across the curriculum. These include the Business Environment module, which is core on level 4 of the BA Business suite of programmes (which has three routes, including an “Analytics” and “Marketing” pathway). This module considers five themes, two of which are directly relevant to PRME: (i) ethical business; (ii) the development of globalisation and its implications for business. Particular topics include investigation of how ecological, technological and regulatory imperatives influence business organisations, and ethical behaviours. Assessment in this module is via small group work and teams are allocated in a way which promotes cultural diversity.
On the BA Economics the level 5 Political Economy module analyses alternative perspectives on the ethics and dynamics of capitalism, from economically liberal to interventionist approaches (fostering PRME Principle 6). The level 6 International Trade and Development module places globalisation at its core, and is compulsory on the BA Economics and the BA Business Economics. It explicitly considers global interactions from a critical perspective, for example comparing theories and the empirics of trade, whilst also interrogating contemporary patterns from a political economy perspective. It examines ways to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and strategies to reduce inequality within, and between, countries (SDGs 8 and 10).
Corporate responsibility and ethics are incorporated into the new accounting programmes, specifically at level 5 where the mandatory Ethics, Corporate Governance and Law module investigates the meaning, theories, structures and rules of corporate governance and ethics. Ethical behaviour is fundamental to all strands of the accounting discipline, and during TtC these programmes all incorporated ethical contextualisation, in a variety of modules, via the taught content. For example this is evident in the material examining the regulatory frameworks that govern audit, financial reporting, public sector accounting, not-for-profit accounting, Islamic finance, banking and insurance.
Corporate social responsibility is taught in the MSc Management suite and MBA programmes. These programmes also have an explicit international focus, incorporating contemporary global themes and perspectives ― International Financial Strategy, International Strategic Management, and Contemporary Strategic Management in Global Contexts (MBA) are examples of modules on these programmes. These programmes have a significant international student cohort. Students come from economically developed, as well as developing nations, and our business education contributes to capacity building and human capital development in such contexts. This relates to SDG 4 and 10. In addition social-cultural issues are explored in relation to international business, e.g. the level 7 modules on Cross Cultural Management and the International Consultancy Report respectively. This supports global partnerships and dialogue (PRME Principle 6; SDG 17).
Environment and sustainability
In the area of environment and sustainability there are modules, such as Applied Economics, which is core on level 4 of the BA Economics suite of programmes. This explicitly considers environmental economics (contributing to PRME Principle 1 and SDG 9), and normative issues such as distribution of income (SDG 10). The level 4 module Marketing Foundations also considers globalisation, and the marketing of third-sector organisations, thereby considering a plurality of forms of economic organisation and the relative merits of each (PRME Principles 6).
The flagship module on level 6 of the BA Marketing programme is One-Planet Business. This module, thematically, starts from the sustainable business, and develops issues such as strategic management from this base. It thus inverts other approaches which would see sustainability as an “add-on”. This promotes sustainability values (PRME Principle 2) and sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12). The module also provides frameworks and tools, as well as exploring research methodologies (PRME principles 3 and 4). Sustainability is also incorporated in the accounting programmes through the “business operations” and “project and risk management strands”, which identify managing sustainability as a specific learning outcome.
In addition to the curriculum there are extra-curricular activities which promote sustainable behaviours and attitudes (PRME principles 1 and 2). On 6-10 March 2017 the University ran “Go Green Week”, in association with the University of Aston. Various sessions focussed on personal responsibility, local environmental concerns and employment. Events considered included: food consumption and environmental sustainability; recycling skills; sustainable transport; natural history and wildlife; sustainable careers. This event is scheduled to be repeated in February 2018.
Executive Education in the Business School has, since 2009, been driven by the Academy of Multi-Unit Leadership (AMUL). Over seven hundred managers and executives from Britain’s largest and most successful multi-site service companies (including Premier Inn, Greene King Plc, St Gobain, Booker, Marstons Plc, Rank Plc, Mitchells and Butlers Plc, and Stonegate) have attended customised postgraduate programmes since AMUL’s inception (contributing to PRME principles 5 and 6). Research and practice has been underpinned by nine leadership books written by Professor Chris Edger, and graduates have been crowned the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) “Operations or Business Development Executives of the Year” on four occasions (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016). On the Post-Graduate Diploma in Multi-Unit Leadership and Strategy, executives explore concepts of sustainability and CSR in the Strategy and Branding, and Operational Improvement modules. These concepts are often taken up for further analysis in the In-Company Project module and the MSc Dissertation. Examples of the latter include reports (designed to have tangible business impact) which have focused on issues such as responsible gambling (Rank Plc), values and ethics transference (Stonegate), executive trust (Premier Inn), sustainable builder merchanting practice (St Gobain ‘Greenworks’), and inter-branch transfer economies (Elliots).
As a University we contribute meaningfully to the PRME principles and UN SDGs. As educators of future leaders we are in a powerful position to inform practice. The TtC project provided an opportunity to fundamentally revise the programmes and modules offered by BCBS. One thing we intend to review in the next two years is how comprehensively programmes and modules map to PRME principles and the SDGs. Although all programmes were required to address issues of sustainability and global citizenship, the manifestation in programme outcomes, level and module content will be reviewed. The process of mapping our activity to PRME Principles and the SDGs will be undertaken as a vehicle for programme improvement and development. Specifically, it is our intention to systematically audit and report on the programmes BCBS offer, and ask programme teams to identify generic (programme) and module-specific applications of responsible management education. This will underpin our first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report. On the basis of this analysis we will identify and act upon:
1. Cases of good practice;
2. Instances where programme and/or module modifications need modification to align activity fully with the PRME Principles and SDGs;
3. Emergent situations where programmes need fundamental revision to bring our activity in line with PRME Principles, SDGs, and accreditation bodies such as AACSB, EFMD, EQUIS and professional bodies.
This evaluation will also explore further issues such as employability, extra-curricular activities, assessment strategies, as well as student and staff recruitment.
PRME (2018) The Six Principles. Available at: http://www.unprme.org/about-prme/the-six-principles.php [accessed 4/1/18]
QAA/HEA (2014) Education for sustainable development: Guidance for UK higher education providers. Available at: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Education-sustainable-development-Guidance-June-14.pdf [accessed 4/1/18]
United Nations (2005) Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 September 2005. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/60/1 [accessed 4/1/18]
United Nations (2015) Sustainable Development. Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ [accessed 4/1/18]
Achievements Research Development in the Field of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
The Business School operates within a framework of University “Core Values” (which do not directly map to, but overlap with, PRME Principle 2). They are: excellence; people focussed (aligned to PRME Principle 1); partnership working (directly related to PRME Principle 5); and, fairness and integrity (SDG 16). The core values framework is explicitly used in the process of performance review, and is integral to how we interact within, and beyond, BCBS. Underpinning the “fairness and integrity” value is a responsibility to uphold high professional and academic standards, to be accountable, to be open and transparent, and to use resources responsibly with regard to the environment.
Research and enterprise in BCBS has been given a higher profile in August 2017, with the appointment of a School Head of Research and Enterprise, who works alongside the Head of School, Departmental Heads, and is a member of the School’s Management and Accreditation Committees. The School has two income-generating centres: (i) AMUL (which focusses on executive education); and, (ii) the Centre for SME Growth and Development. In addition the Centre for Brexit Studies, which is University centre, overlaps with School activity. Following a recent review there has been a launch of broader clusters that encapsulate the research activity of the School as a whole. It was decided that business ethics and sustainability is integral to all of the research clusters.
In the next phase of our development we will formulate cluster aims which encapsulate this, and reflect it in their activities, reporting on this in the first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report, within 24 months of becoming signatories.
PRME Principle 4 concerns research that advances our understanding about the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental and economic value. Research in the School also underpins many of the SDGs, including thematic interest in wellbeing, gender equality, economic development, income distribution, trade, sustainable consumption and production, and conservation.
The School is presently engaged in a major overhaul of research strategy and ambitions, developing research clusters, groups and centres to align with institutional priorities. One of the research clusters will be aligned to Business and Management Pedagogy (with PRME Principle 1 at its core), and the cluster lead will be required to use the PRME Principles as a framework for development. The development of pedagogy research will be a key part of our strategy which will be reflected in the narrative of our first SIP report.
There are many examples of particular researchers undertaking work on PRME and SDG themes within the School: Stefania Paladini is presently editing a book looking into Emerging Markets and Sustainable Economy (Routledge); Bruce Philp and Alexandra Arntsen are engaged in a BCU funded project evaluating working time reduction in the context of sustainable consumption; and, Erez Yerushalmi is researching the field of ecological economics, examining the value of agricultural amenities (SDG 6). Navjot Sandhu and Professor Javed Hussain research in the field of economic development, analysing microfinance and equity. Charlotte Carey and Thomas Domboka are undertaking an EU funded project on African higher education leadership, 2017-2020. Anne-Marie McTavish and Martin Eley research into leadership and management practice, and Samuel Osei-Nimo is examining sustainable business process outsourcing in Africa. Krish Saha (with Stefania Paladini) is researching the impact of country governance on international trade performance. Scott Lichtenstein examines executives’ personal values at work and strategic decision making. Professor Hatem El Gohary researches on internationalisation in a globalised business environment. And, Professor Alexandros Psychogios has published on sustainable supply chains and ethics, and distribution of remuneration within an HRM context. In the next year we will aim to bring this content together and present it systematically in an accessible and outward-facing way. Our research also supports our teaching and this is an aspect of our activity which we will continue to consolidate.
Knowledge Development with Companies: PSP Diagnostic
Much of our engagement with companies in the West Midlands is conducted through the Centre for Enterprise, Innovation and Growth (headed by Professor Mark Gilman). Of particular note is our Promoting Sustainable Performance (PSP) diagnostic, which is the initial stage of a four part research process which investigates SME growth and performance. The diagnostic translates the research results into practical tools and interventions to support SMEs. The diagnostic and interventions are part of a number of ERDF projects (including the Growth Hub). Corporate social responsibility is a key part of the research and interventions; the focus is not just on helping SMEs to grow, but to grow sustainably. The project also expands to Canada and Indonesia (SDG 17), so a rich set of internationally, culturally-sensitive information is beginning to emerge. This allows SMEs to focus on all of the elements of sustainability and growth, not just on the conventional indicators of profit and employment growth.