Business schools play a key role in shaping the skills of future business leaders and can be powerful drivers of corporate sustainability. The Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative provides a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in business schools around the world and equip today’s business students with the understanding and ability to deliver change tomorrow.

In the mid-2000s the Global Compact and its academic community recognised that the business leaders of tomorrow would need to play a critical role in tackling the sustainability challenges of the next century.

The response was the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), launched in 2007 by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon with a mission “to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally.” Working through six voluntary principles, PRME engages business schools to ensure they provide future business leaders with the skills needed to balance economic and sustainability goals.


PRME encourages business schools to become advocates for an inclusive and sustainable global economy by incorporating values of business responsibility and sustainability into their activities and teaching. In summary, PRME:

  • Provides a platform for dialogue and learning on responsible
    management education
  • Develops and publishes tools and resources to help increase
    responsible management education
  • Identifies and develops thought and action leadership on
    responsible management education


In the year 2000, only a few forward-thinking business schools were covering topics relating to responsible business, business ethics or the role of business in society. Since the mid-2000s, however, there has been a fundamental shift in the appreciation, coverage and delivery of responsible management education. While there is limited research in this area, a review of business school practices today shows a groundswell of change.

With almost 600 signatories, PRME has now been widely accepted among business schools worldwide, signalling an emerging commitment to change. A significant area of progress has been incorporating responsible management education into business school curricula and courses, and ensuring closer integration among different disciplines. Although corporate sustainability and business ethics are still primarily electives rather than core options or systematically integrated into business courses, progress in this area is clear.

However, many business schools face the challenge of establishing responsible management teaching across their whole organisation. There tends to be a committed core and ensuring that all faculty members are aware of and respond to PRME remains an important goal.


Business schools have always focused on accreditation and rankings by external bodies because of their direct link to attracting students. While rankings have not changed substantially over the past 15 years, accreditation bodies are becoming
increasingly more supportive of responsible business management teaching.

In recent years, all of the three largest accreditation bodies have incorporated criteria on sustainability, ethics or the role of business in society in their standards. One standard makes an explicit reference to PRME. Although these new criteria
are broad-ranging and provide considerable flexibility to meet their requirements, they also send a positive signal to business schools on the growing importance of responsible management education.


Our research shows that since the turn of the century, understanding of the importance of responsible management education has grown. Many business schools now refer to the wider responsibility business managers have to stakeholders in their mission statements. At the same time, they are starting to
accept and explore the role of ‘business in society’. But it can be argued that the general approach is a few years behind leading corporations with regard to business sustainability, and while many schools present a commitment to responsible management education, many are yet to meet their commitments.

Although the direct impact of PRME is hard to quantify, it is clear the initiative has catalysed a wider debate and acceptance of responsible management education. As with other Global Compact initiatives, it provides a platform for discussion and
learning at a global level.

Many see the opportunity of PRME to be a powerful driver of corporate sustainability considering the ‘long-term effect’ of education. Students educated at PRME schools today will not be business leaders for another few years. However, over time they have the potential to be generators of sustainable value for business and society.


  • Over 600 signatories worldwide (June 2015)
  • In 81 countries
  • 40% in Europe
  • The USA leads the way (91 signatories, 16% of total)
  • Almost half of UK business schools are signatories
  • One third of the Financial Times’ top 100 business schools are signatories


In a survey of 1,250 MBA students at 48 PRME signatory schools, students were found to demonstrate positive attitudes towards CSR and responsible management



There is often a gap between the sustainability skills that leading companies say they need and the reality of graduate recruitment campaigns in business schools,
where demand for students with sustainability skills is low. Set to launch in 2015, the Shaping Future Business

Leaders (SFBL) project will work to bridge this gap. It will do so by continuing to promote sustainability topics in management education, and by getting companies to recognise and recruit graduates with sustainability skills. SFBL is a collaboration between PRME Champions, a group of the most engaged PRME signatories, and LEAD, the Global Compact’s program for leading companies.