Business & Green Education


The world is currently treated to the discourse of climate change attributable to environmental degradation (Nicholson & DeMoss, 2009). Furthermore, scientists everywhere have revealed evidence of on-going global warming, pollution, and the greenhouse effect, which have raised people’s consciousness on environmental pollution and the need for green consumption. Worse enough, as Sang & Bekhet (2015) argue, there is a significant volume of carbon emissions that have been recognized as one of the most significant global challenges in the 21st Century. Therefore, these environmental concerns have emerged to be of great interest to global business organizations, governments, academia, and civil societies. Ideally, in the current state of globalization, factors such as an increasingly expanding transportation sector, the growing middle-class population, and the expanding global manufacturing sector are among the major causes of environmental degradation (Luthar & Karri, 2005). The main aim of the proposed study is to explore the role of business schools and business education in educating environmentally aware business to business students.


Background of the Study

It is expected that today’s younger generation of students will take up the role of ensuring that the planet survives. Furthermore, Poretr & Kramer (2011) argue that the younger generations are expected to be the future leaders and managers in business organizations from different sectors such as manufacturing, mining, and chemical production, all of which have a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, according to Chen & Deng (2016), providing environmental education and awareness to students can ensure the adoption of leadership and management practices that promote sustainability, preservation, and conservation of the environment.

Nearly all, if not all countries have large numbers of young people who are interested in taking up business and management roles as their formal careers (Luthar & Karri, 2005). Moreover, with the realization for the need to invest more in manufacturing and production Nicholson & DeMoss (2009), the current students in the field of business are most likely to take up leadership and management roles in the future manufacturing and production companies. Thus, it is important to understand how these future leaders are being prepared to exercise their future leadership roles in business organizations with environmental consciousness.

Poretr & Kramer (2011) acknowledge that many business students are currently involved in various environmental conservation activities, demonstrating high levels of interest in practicing environmental responsibilities in their future careers. This is especially significant because according to Segon & Booth (2009), the student’s current attitudes towards eco-friendly products and environmental responsibility is a determinant in ensuring the planet’s survival, and for this reason, the proposed study seeks to explore how business schools actively engage business students to ensure that they take up their future roles in business management with environmental consciousness.

Research aim

To explore the role of business schools in teaching environmentally aware business students research objectives

  • To identify how business schools teach environmental awareness to business students
  • To identify the benefits of teaching environmental awareness to business students
  • To identify the challenges and corresponding coping strategies met in teaching environmental awareness to business students

Research Questions

  • What is the role of business schools in teaching environmental awareness to business students?
  • What are the benefits of teaching environmental awareness to business students?
  • What are the challenges and corresponding coping strategies experienced by business schools when teaching environmental awareness to business students?

Justification of the Study

Continuous teaching and awareness campaigns conducted by environmental scientists and civil societies are considered some of the reasons why the current environmental crisis is now well known all over the world (Sengupta et al., 2010). In the UK, students in nearly all, if not all, colleges and universities learn at least one subject concerning the environment. In fact, by the time any university or college student enrolls for a post-graduate course, they must have been in an environmental studies class, where they learn issues of environmental sustainability (Singh, 2016). Fundamentally, knowledge of environmental sustainability is important to future business managers because they will be at the core of production practices that can significantly impact the environment. In the UK, the government has emphasized on the need for environmental consciousness in production and manufacturing practices, with managers asked to aim at zero carbon footprint in their respective organizations (Sivamoorth et al., 2013). To ensure that these targets are achieved, business schools must ensure that their students become good managers and good environmentalists in the future. As previous research by Hoffman (2000) suggested that the business profession remains one of the last professions to acknowledge that, It is justifiable, therefore, to evaluate how business schools play a role in training environmentalist business managers. This study will, therefore, be important in this context because it seeks to identify empirical evidence on the roles played by business schools in training future managers who are also environmentalists.

Literature Review

According to Sleeper et al. (2006), business managers can engage lead their organizations into various activities that ensure the production process does not contribute to environmental degradation. Typically, such practices incorporate activities such as modifying the production processes, adopting environmentally friendly packaging, and adopting environmentally responsible advertising alternatives.

It is clear that higher institutions of learning, especially business schools, have a role to play in achieving the most sustainable business practices and economic activity (Nicholson & DeMoss, 2009). Unfortunately, according to Nicholson & DeMoss (2009), most business students may end up graduating without receiving any significant training on how to incorporate environmental sustainability as part of business decision making, or paying attention to the environment as one of the significant parts of their roles as business practitioners.

Several studies on environmentally responsible management education have revealed that business students need more training on moral, social, and environmental reasoning that other students (Matten & Moon, 2005). In fact, Matten and Moon (2005), in a study on environmental and social education, found that 47% of the respondents offered subjects in those areas as optional fields. In another study by Nicholson & DeMoss (2009), it was found that there was a significant difference between current and normative levels of teaching in environmental and social responsibility in business courses. In fact, the study found that environmental and social responsibility received a lower rating by all department coordinators than ethics. Furthermore, Segon & Booth (2009) studied the role of top American business schools in improving student moral characters and found that there was not only a failure of the schools’ efforts to improve the students' moral culture but also a possibility of the schools to weaken it.

A more recent study by Contreras (2014) indicated a discrepancy in the student’s value for environmental preservation and conservation, with female and older students being more concerned about environmental conservation than male and younger students, respectively. Nonetheless, it is assumed that educational institutions, especially business schools, have a more important role to play in promoting more sustainable ways of business practice (Coopey, 2003). However, studies by Hoffman (1999) reveal that business students may fail to get proper training on environmental conservation as a key sustainability issue in business practice.

In research conducted by Johannsdottir (2009) among MBA students, results showed that MBA students had limited literacy on environmental and social responsibility. These results are not a surprise because, to some extent, some institutions fail to include environmental studies as part of their curriculum. In fact, a majority (85%-90%) of the student participants in the study by Johannsdottir (2009) claimed that they had not received any environmental education program. Surprisingly, at 6% of the interviewed students could not tell whether or not they had participated in environmental education classes, although a majority of them claimed to know certain environmental terms such as gas emissions and climate change. According to Johannsdottir (2009), the students’ knowledge of various environmental terms could be attributed to their frequent use by the media. The proposed study will evaluate the students’ level of knowledge in environmental issues and the role of the school curriculum in passing that knowledge to them.

Research Methodology

The proposed study will apply a qualitative research design to achieve its objectives. The researcher will collect data through semi-structured interviews from 5 participants in a conveniently selected business school. The qualitative research design is considered the most appropriate for the study because it enables the researcher to take an explorative approach and the use of theoretical intuition to collect data (Bloor & Wood, 2006). Furthermore, according to Gisselle & Norgaard (2018), teaching is a subjective and individualized practice, and therefore qualitative research design is the best approach for research in education.

The researcher will apply the thematic data analysis technique based on grounded theory. Ideally, the grounded theory takes a ‘critical realist’ approach by combining the constructivist's ontology and the realist ontology to evaluate the data at hand (Keegan, 2009). In summary, Hendershot et al. (2014) explain that believers in critical realist ontology hold those humans’ cultural and psychological backgrounds influence how they understand a phenomenon, while believers in the constructivist ontology hold that humans understanding of phenomena are not influenced by their real world. Hence, these theoretical groundings of the proposed study imply that the findings will be understood based on the researchers’ and respondents’ perspectives and experiences, respectively (Leavy, 2014). However, as suggested by May (2002), the researcher will endeavor to be aware of their potential influence on the study outcome. The researcher will also try to be as objective as possible, with the recognition that it is impossible to be perfectly objective (Bloor & Wood, 2006).

Study Sample

The researcher intends to approach five respondents using the convenient sampling approach and based on specific inclusion criteria. The first criteria of selection are that the participants must have at least two years’ experience in teaching environmental studies in the selected business school. Secondly, the study will only include practicing teachers at the time of data collection, so that an accurate opinion of the role of business schools in teaching environmentally conscious business students.

At least five respondents will be recruited. Whereas May (2002) argued that thematic analysis is more effective with between six and 15 participants, it may be difficult to find more than five participants who meet the inclusion criteria. Nonetheless, five participants will be considered an appropriate number to provide the required data.

Ethical Considerations

The researcher will seek ethical approval from the university’s ethical committee, and this implies that the researcher intends to make all the ethical considerations relevant to qualitative research. For instance, the study will be designed in a manner that does not cause any psychological, emotional, or physical risk to the respondents. Besides, the researcher will seek informed consent from all the participants before engaging them in the study. Participants will also be allowed to withdraw from the study at their wish.

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