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09 June 2023

South Africa

Gordon Institute of Business Science

Gordon Institute of Business Science

Introduction and Institutional Background

GIBS is an entrepreneurial institution, with deep connections to the African continent, GIBS has changed dramatically since its founding in 2000. The University of Pretoria’s business school has evolved from being a business school for business, under founding Dean Professor Nick Binedell, into a world-class African institution and research centre, under former Dean Professor Nicola Kleyn.

Long regarded as a business school with impeccable international credentials, GIBS under the current leadership of Dean, Professor Morris Mthombeni is now leading the way among its global peers thanks to a progressive focus on quality blended learning coupled with a commitment to meaningful experiential exposure.

Underpinning our approach is our commitment to life-long learning, a dedication to high-quality and innovative teaching methods, the pursuit of ethical and sustainable values, and a forward-looking view of business and its role in the world. Access to both local and international faculty ensures that your GIBS experience is globally relevant and opens doors to prized global networks.

In 2022, the GIBS MBA was ranked as having the best reputation among employers and the first choice for students looking to pursue an MBA in the country by the Financial Mail Top MBAs Ranking. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings: Global Executive MBA 2022, ranked GIBS at number 59, placing the School’s MBA in the top 30.9% globally. In addition, in 2022, US-based CEO Magazine ranked GIBS 11th in its Global MBA Rankings highlighting the School as a Tier 1 business school.

GIBS is Triple Crown accredited, holding EQUIS accreditation from the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), as well as accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). GIBS is the 113th business school worldwide to achieve Triple Crown status. In addition, the School is also accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE), is a member of the South African Business Schools Association (SABSA), and the Association of African Business Schools (AABS). GIBS is a United Nations Principles for Responsible Management (PRME) Champion.

At GIBS, we have a core team who advocate and support the PRME responsibilities, led by Dean Morris Mthombeni, Deputy Dean Louise Whittaker, Executive Head of Faculty, Hayley Pearson and Dr Jill Bogie. Our PRME activities are integrated across the school’s activities but building the depth of integration and broadening the scope of sustainability initiatives are an ongoing endeavour.

As a school, we stand for improving society. Our ongoing focus is on significant and continual improvement to responsible individual and organisational performance. We are evolving all the time. As we are living through a time when we must continue to learn from the past and prepare for the future. In the face of unprecedented change on a global scale, it is equally important that as leaders in business and society we have the competencies to learn in the present in order to lead effectively in a changeable today. At GIBS, our role is to help companies and individuals seize this moment to shift, strategically, towards a new tomorrow. We are passionate about guiding businesses and individuals through shifting landscapes, equipping them with the tools to navigate change and embedding the strategic and ethical depth required to mould impactful and socially responsible companies.

One of the SDG integration Challenges

An example of embedding a specific SDG / or the overall challenge of the SDGs in the content of a module/project

The Action

When our Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (PDBA) was developed as an online course, the took the opportunity to redesign the Business Ethics core course. The redesign included new faculty, new online delivery, and new content. The new core course is Ethics and Sustainability comprising three related topics:

  1. Principles for Ethical Decision Making in Business

  2. Sustainability and Business Purpose

  3. An action agenda for Ethics and Sustainability.

The purpose of this course is to create an awareness and appreciation of the ethical challenges facing business leaders in South Africa. It will provide students with tools to address ethical dilemmas and make decisions that consider the multiple dimensions of economic, social and environmental factors. An awareness of sustainability is developed from a discussion of the role of corporate business in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An action-oriented agenda is then created by applying a values-based approach to explore the opportunities for corporate business in South Africa to contribute to making global goals local business.

About the topic:

Students should be able to understand the role of business in addressing global challenges at a local level. The focus of this session is on how to recognise and assess opportunities for growth and strategic action that incorporate economic, ethical and sustainability imperatives. The following topics are integrated into the course material for this topic:

  • Global challenges and Sustainability

  • The role of business in addressing global challenges at local level

  • Growth opportunities for the 21st century

  • Integrating sustainability into core business strategy

The course outcomes include:

  • Understanding ethics and sustainability in the context of the business environment and those issues that are most relevant to the business.

  • Evaluating opportunities for growth and strategic action that incorporate economic, ethical and sustainability imperatives.

  • Applying tools to integrate the management of ethical and sustainability issues into their company’s strategy.

  • Applying tools to make sound business decisions that incorporate ethical and sustainability dimensions.

  • Developing an awareness of how ethical decision making is influenced by context, evidence, as well as personal factors and the different perspectives of others.

  • Applying tools to integrate multiple factors into decision making to address ethical and sustainability issues

The Outcome and Impact

The impact was that almost 300 students participated in the course over 6 cohorts in 2021 and early 2022.

The online PDBA is now included in the GIBS portfolio of programmes, with the newly designed Ethics and Sustainability core course.

Lesson Learned: issues / challenges when introducing the innovation, and how to resolve them

The design for online courses is very different with both asynchrononous work and synchronous work. Both need attention to details with variety of material a key factor. We included videos material, case studies, discussion boards, and online exercises.

We provided detailed instructions for activities and an example is provided below:

"For the Discussion Boards in this Topic, you have to create a thread in order to see the other student's contributions.

The Discussion Board is not only where you post your comments and ideas but also where you can engage with other members of the class in an online conversation. In this way you will develop your own understanding of the topic. You will also engage with and learn from each other. Please comment on what others have posted and actively contribute to the discussion. There are no right or wrong answers here. The idea is that you engage with the topic collectively and consider the multiple perspectives that are presented.

Preparation is the key to a good class discussion as our time together online is limited and we use it productively. I look forward to our discussions together – online in the live sessions and on the Discussion Board.

I hope you enjoy these very topical issues around purpose, strategy and sustainability."

Resources in Need to Adopt or Adapt this Approach

Faculty had been introduced to design of online courses and tools and techniques for online design and delivery over many months in 2020 and during the 2021 faculty meeting where we worked with the Head of GIBS Digital. We also had support from our programme lead and from the GIBS Digital Learning Solutions (DLS) team.

Rather than guest speakers, we used online videos.

Please see further details in the attachments:

PDBA course brochure 2022

Overview of Topic 2 - Sustainability and Business Purpose

Slides for Topic 2- Sustainability and Business Purpose ( 2 decks)

Example of a script for Topic 2

Short, medium, and/or long term Goals

The course has been created and is now part of the GIBS portfolio of offerings.


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