In partnership with Coast Capital and the Canadian Purpose Economy Project
In 2022, Corporate Knights published The Social Purpose Transition Pathway, a report that graded companies on how well they were implementing their social purpose. This year, we have carried the social purpose theme to the educational realm.
A social purpose business model goes beyond focusing on profit and considers the value that is being generated for society. In a classroom, it translates into curriculum that teaches future business leaders how to use assets, resources, competencies, products, services and influence to create solutions to society’s social, environmental, socio-economic or socio-ecological challenges. A crucial order of the day.
In partnership with Coast Capital and the Canadian Purpose Economy Project, we asked and analyzed the responses to two optional questions in this year’s Better World MBA: do you teach the social purpose business model in your core curriculum, and does your business school itself have a social purpose statement?
What we found
1. The social purpose business model is not yet widely represented in the mission statements or curricula of business schools. Most business schools do have mission statements, but clearly defined social purpose statements are rare.
Of the 209 schools in this year’s universe, 19.6% had mission statements that were weakly aligned with social purpose, and 45 schools had unequivocal social purpose mission statements.
Among the leaders receiving an A grade in our assessment is the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, which incorporates social purpose into its mission, “Business for a Better World,” aimed at creating shared prosperity and propelling equity and justice. “This isn’t just a forward-looking statement; it’s a dedication to cultivating business leaders who can effect meaningful change.”
For the question about curriculum content, of the 44 MBA curricula we reviewed, almost half had some social-purpose-related material, but only two schools contained sufficient evidence of social purpose content in their course descriptions to merit an A grade in our assessment. Those leaders included Griffith in Australia (also our top-ranked program in the Better World MBA this year) and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
2. The social purpose business model is widely misunderstood by business schools and is often conflated with an emphasis on sustainability performance, triple-bottom-line accounting, adherence to ethical standards and other non-financial metrics of company performance that do not by themselves make a purpose-driven company.
Social purpose course integration scoring and results
|A||School course descriptions meet our definition of social purpose and cover the role of “purpose beyondprofit” as an organizing principle for company strategy and performance evaluation||2 schools (4.5% of assessed programs)|
|B||School has courses that do not fully meet the definition but either possess the language of socialpurpose or include elements of social purpose practice without fully adopting a social purposeframework||18 schools (41%)|
|C||Schools for which we could not find any social purpose concepts or language in their coursedescriptions.||24 schools (54.5%)|
|School||Social Purpose Grade|
|Griffith Business School||A|
|Frankfurt School of Finance and Management||A|
|Colorado State University – College of Business||B|
|Audencia Business School||B|
|Duquesne University – Palumbo-Donahue School of Business||B|
|Warwick Business School||B|
|York University – Schulich School of Business||B|
|University of Victoria – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business||B|
|University of British Columbia – Sauder School of Business||B|
|EADA Business School Barcelona||B|
|McGill University: Desautels||B|
|Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University||B|
|Gordon Institute of Business Science||B|
|WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management||B|
|Esade Business School||B|
|Universidad Externado de Colombia School of Management||B|
|Nova School of Business and Economics||B|
|University of Vermont – Grossman School of Business||C|
|University of Exeter Business School||C|
|Maastricht University – School of Business and Economics||C|
|CENTRUM PUCP Business School||C|
|TIAS School for Business and Society||C|
|Durham University Business School||C|
|University of Winchester Business School||C|
|La Trobe Business School||C|
|Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics||C|
|Toronto Metropolitan University – Ted Rogers School of Management||C|
|University of California at Berkeley – Haas||C|
|University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business||C|
|Nottingham University Business School||C|
|Queen’s Business School||C|
|University of Strathclyde – Strathclyde Business School||C|
|Saint Mary’s University – Sobey School of Business||C|
|Mannheim Business School||C|
|Carleton University – Sprott School of Business||C|
|Lagos Business School||C|
|Boston University Questrom School of Business||C|
|University of Sussex||C|
|Imperial College Business School||C|
|University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management||C|
Social purpose statement scoring and results
|A||Statement meets our definition of social purpose and explicitly identifies the creation of a better world
as the main purpose of the school.
|45 schools (21.5% of assessed programs)|
|B||Statement does not fully meet the definition but one of the stated objectives relates to the creating of a better world.||41 schools (19.6%)|
|C||Statement does not meet the definition of social purpose.||123 schools (58.9%)|
Read the full Better World MBA methodology, including social purpose criteria.
Ralph Torrie is director of research at Corporate Knights. Sanna Uppal is a research analyst at Corporate Knights.