The business of changing society

University has key role to play in transformation says Toni Hilton
Glasgow Caledonian University. Picture: GCUGlasgow Caledonian University. Picture: GCU
Glasgow Caledonian University. Picture: GCU

AS A “university for the common good”, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is playing a key role in the transformation of business management education.

Social entrepreneurship is a growing global phenomenon. GCU supports entrepreneurial thinking among its students, and responsible management, social responsibility and sustainability underpins all of its learning, teaching and research.

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It is this drive that led GCU to become the first Scottish university to join the United Nations Global Compact.

In 2013, our principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies CBE, signed a letter of commitment to the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. This pledged our support to the UN’s universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take actions that advance societal goals.

Through its Glasgow School for Business and Society, GCU has put social responsibility, ethics and sustainability at the top of the agenda for educating future business leaders by integrating the UN Global Compact-backed Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) throughout the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula.

The competition between universities with business and management programmes is fierce. But GCU has a distinctive approach to learning and teaching, which supports the development of entrepreneurialism, responsible leadership, and which creates global graduates who can address real-world issues and put their ideas into action.

Our MSc in social business and microfinance is the first of its kind in the world, enabling students to implement positive social change.

This year, a GCU team advanced to the European finals of the sixth annual Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition and start-up platform for social good, in partnership with former US President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative.

GCU students also competed in the annual finals of Enactus UK. This event brings together 800 university students and more than 300 business leaders to compete for the Enactus UK national championship, showcasing community outreach projects. Teams are evaluated on how successfully they apply an entrepreneurial approach to improve the quality of life of those in need – in the case of the GCU team, the needs of pupils in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow. The GCU team’s endeavour wasshortlisted for the KPMG inspiring confidence and empowering change award.

This entrepreneurial way of thinking is supported by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. As GCU’s chancellor, he provides leadership, advice and support and has pledged his inspirational stewardship in support of GCU’s goals.

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Our success at embedding ethics, responsibility and sustainability across all aspects of life at Glasgow School for Business and Society has been endorsed by the European Foundation for Management Development Programme Accreditation Scheme (EPAS). GCU has achieved the prestigious international EPAS accreditation for a period of three years for its BA business programme set and MSc international fashion marketing programmes.  

We hosted a reception at our New York campus during the 2015 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, which brings together leaders in education, business and government to focus on integrating sustainability and responsibility into business and management education.

The week after the Forum, the UK & Ireland PRME chapter held its 2015 conference at GCU in Glasgow, where Professor Yunus addressed delegates and discussed his experience of alleviating complex social problems through social business, such as the Grameen Bank, which he started in Bangladesh in 1976 and which has lifted millions of people out of poverty.

In September, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals will stress the contribution that business can make to solving social, environmental and economic problems by leveraging its substantial resource base and innovative capacities. Business schools and universities, as generators of knowledge, research and human capital, have a great role to play.

• Professor Toni Hilton is Dean of Glasgow School for Business and Society at GCU.


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