With companies and organizations coming under pressure to take a more active role in society, the role of executives and leaders in championing human rights and sustainability has never been more critical. And executive education courses focusing on these two pivotal domains have emerged for professionals seeking to drive positive change within their organizations and beyond.
Business schools say that human rights and sustainability are intertwined global challenges that require a multi-disciplinary approach. So executives must understand the complexities of these issues to create sustainable, ethical, and responsible business practices. And executive courses in these areas equips leaders to navigate the evolving landscape of corporate social responsibility and stakeholder expectations.
They also help leaders comprehend the legal and ethical dimensions of human rights and sustainability. Ignorance is no excuse, schools say, and compliance with international laws and norms is not just a moral obligation but also a legal one. Executive education courses will provide a comprehensive understanding of these obligations.
Expert insights from industry
“With the rapid developments in legislation, case law and other regulation in relation to business and human rights, it is vitally important that all those working at mid-and senior-levels in business, government, and civil society are aware of these developments,” says Professor Robert McCorquodale who teaches on a course at ESCP Business School in Europe. “This will enable them to be able to respond effectively, evaluate risks appropriately, and make decisions based on the latest information.”
Earlier this year, ESCP introduced four new online certifications centered around Sustainable Leadership and Human Rights. These programs were created in collaboration with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL). As such, it’s not only professors but consultants, legal experts, and advocates for human rights who actively participate in delivering the content of these four online certifications.
“It has become increasingly important to integrate human rights in discussions related to sustainability, environmental impacts, and businesses. As such, it was clear that we needed to put in place these online courses and help executives understand how sustainability can improve the corporate ecosystem,” says Crochenka McCarthy, Associate Head of Executive Education at ESCP.
Integrating human rights and sustainability
The school is far from the only one offering executive courses in these critical domains. The London School of Economics (LSE) offers a series of short certificate courses examining different aspects of human rights principles and practice for executives. Many others focus on sustainability as a core focus, including Cambridge Judge Business School “Environmental, Social and Governance Leadership: A Pathway to Business Sustainability”, which challenges participants to rethink their approaches.
“We find the main challenges facing participants to be the balance between shifting their organizational mindset and undertaking short-term revenue-generation activities,” says Allison Wheeler-Héau, Director of Open Programs at the Executive Education division of Cambridge Judge.
“We strive to showcase instances of ESG implementation that help businesses accomplish both objectives. In essence, shareholder return can no longer take precedence if an organization wants to prosper in the future. By providing participants with tangible takeaways, we help them overcome barriers and begin to balance corporate activity against the gamut of stakeholder priorities.”
Addressing core business operations
In the US, New York University’s Stern School of Business offers a 14-week “Corporate Sustainability” course delivered by Professor Tensie Whelan. This year NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights, the first of its kind at a business school, is also celebrating its 10-year anniversary.
“Global businesses now have tremendous reach and power to affect the lives of people around the world, but many are still poorly equipped to assess the human rights challenges associated with their vast and complex operations,” says Professor Michael Posner, Director of Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights. “Too many companies have focused their ‘social’ efforts on philanthropic programs and increasingly intricate internal policies and high-level platitudes.”
Leading companies, however, have begun turning their attention to their core business operations -- identifying and addressing the most serious human rights challenges they face. But addressing these challenges is often difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish unilaterally.
“While governments are increasingly exploring regulatory solutions to level the playing field, companies should also work together to proactively develop human rights standards and metrics relevant to their industry,” Posner says. “For these to work, they need to agree to participate in credible assessment systems that measure their compliance with those standards.”
Executive education courses in human rights and sustainability ultimately empower leaders with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complex terrain of ethical and sustainable business practices. The role of these executives in shaping a sustainable and equitable future has never been more significant. By investing in their education, they can drive positive change within their organizations and contribute to a more just and sustainable world.