Business Education

5 Classes Business Schools Should Have to Evolve to Meet New AACSB Standards

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable updated their definition and purpose of a business. In their revisions, the Business Roundtable asserts that businesses are responsible to all stakeholders for investing in them, enabling them to live with dignity and meaning, and actively engaging to fight issues of humanity. Less than a year later, the Association to Advance the Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) released new standards for accreditation. In July 2020, the AACSB’s release echoes a declaration of responsibility to stakeholders: “Business and business schools are a force for good, contributing to the world’s economy and to society, and AACSB plays a significant role in making that benefit better known to all stakeholders by serving business schools, learners, business, and society.” Compared tothe 2013 standards, much more is expected as, “societal impact is woven through all sections of the [2020] standards.” Now, there are standards for Business Schools’ cultures and classes regarding Global Mindset, Diversity and Inclusion, Societal Impact, and Agility. These and other outlined values are gears that must be put in place as business schools evolve to prepare students for success as practitioners of the future. 

The AACSB clearly calls for change: “[Business schools] must innovate and invest in intellectual capital; they must develop new programs, curricula, and courses; and they must continually update programs to ensure currency and relevance of the curriculum.” Corporate Social Responsibility courses and one-day lectures on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) accounts will not cut it anymore. The changes that need to be made are just as much based on the culture of the program as they are the curricula–in fact, culture may carry even more weight. Keeping up with the new accreditation standards requires the unity in vision of administrators, advisors, professors, and students. The force for these necessary changes is coming from the outside in–from society, humanity, and planet–into the powerful institutions of businesses and business education. However, lasting changes come from the inside out–from individuals in businesses and business schools through the vehicle of their institutions, and back into society. In order to help these shifts in individuals, culture, and curricula, and to “accelerate innovation” as the AACSB declares, here are five courses that Business School Deans need to add to their course catalog if they are going to maintain pace and accreditation with the AACSB. 

  1. Theory of Business

Need for it: One of the greatest shifts that is happening in business is surrounding general business theory and business responsibilities. A class about business theory will prepare students to engage more fully in the vision of a company and its impact in the world. Without this, the information students learn on theory will not be relevant.

Learning Objectives: Distinguish between outdated and updated business theories; determine the pros and cons of each, and explain why a shift in theory is necessary at this moment in history; and understand the nuances of the stakeholder-shareholder issue and theories to resolve them.

AACSB Standards: Agility; Global Mindset

Units: Capitalism (fundamentals of capitalism, conscious capitalism, stakeholder capitalism); Market Failure Theory; Shifting Roles of Business with a Focus on Stakeholders.

  1. Diversity in the Workplace

Need for it: A company must be ethical internally before it maximizes potential, profit, and impact. One niche of ethical business to focus on is diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is crucial. Not only will it provide a safe space for minority students in a predominantly white male discipline, but it will facilitate understanding in the white male majority that can translate to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Learning Objectives: Learn about business through the lens of minority workers based on gender, race, and disability; learn to communicate about culturally sensitive issues and effective team building; learn to manage diverse opinions and experiences; and learn to fight institutional -isms. 

AACSB Standards: Diversity and Inclusion; Global Mindset

Units: Minority worker experiences; creating and maintaining healthy work relationships; creating and maintaining healthy institutions.

  1. Social Impact of Business

Need for it: Gen Z-ers pouring into schools are increasingly concerned about the social issues of today and want to engage in conversation and action. Hungry for this information, students will go to universities that offer courses centering around social impact.

Learning Objectives: Learn how to measure social impact; learn to balance and work towards a triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit); understand how Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) criteria facilitate impact-conscientious investments; learn to engage in and facilitate community building and networking; learn about socially conscious business models like BCorps.

AACSB Standards: Societal Impact

Units: Measuring Social Impact; How to Impact Profit, People, and Planet on macro, micro, and mezo scales.

  1. Current Social Issues

Need for it: To maintain their relevance, business schools need to have a class that specifically discusses the current moment that their country or the world is in. Engaging in current social issues is critical to learn as a student. The real world does not wait for trial runs or ideas, theories, and action plans to be made. Having a Current Social Issues course will help students prepare to engage, learn, and respond in real time in their education. This will be invaluable for responding to social issues that arise when they are in the workforce. 

Learning Objectives: Learn about the climate surrounding current social issues; engage in active discussions about how business can be a vehicle for change and movement; be able to create and evaluate plans for companies to engage in the moment on emergent social issues; 

AACSB Standards: Agility; Global Mindset

Units: *varies upon semester* Current Issue Analysis (to get everyone on the same level of awareness); Compare and Contrast Responses of Current Businesses; Applied Theory/Response Plan Proposal

  1. Issues in Corporate Philanthropy and Responsibility

Need for it: As the Business Round Table’s purpose has changed to hold responsibility towards all stakeholders, it only follows that philanthropy in businesses will abound. By offering this class, the school will meet the expectations of the workforce by preparing students to engage with the past, present, and future of corporate philanthropy and responsibility. 

Learning Objectives: Understand past and present issues in corporate philanthropy and corporate responsibility; consider the pros and cons of social marketing changing over time with green/pinkwashing; evaluate ways to improve corporate philanthropy.

AACSB Standards: Societal Impact

Units: Previous Corporate Philanthropy and Responsibility Overview; Current Social Marketing Trends; Stakeholder-Focused Philanthropy

These classes are filled with examples of the ideologies that business practice is moving toward. Some of these principles can be incorporated into existing classes. Be cautioned. A day’s lecture in finance on ESGs or in marketing on green-washing and pink-washing will not be sufficient to uphold the standards or the future of business. Progressive change must happen through innovation in classes and cultures. There must be a riveted focus on accountability to elevate Business Schools to a new checkpoint that they fall back to. Excusing yourself from making the necessary changes due to funding, time, resources, and other reasons that are presented very validly is the embodiment of what we are trying to move away from. The students that enter your classrooms, lecture halls, and now Zoom meetings are stakeholders. The population of society that exists near and below our country’s median socioeconomic status is desperate for economic bolstering, and through a trickle-down effect these individuals are stakeholders in how Business Schools are run. Disregarding this moment will perpetuate the struggle–the choice is yours.

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