In the face of ever-escalating threat of climate change, the world finds itself at a critical juncture. Urgent climate action coupled with transformative innovation, entrepreneurship and champions are imperative, particularly in countries like Bangladesh, where the repercussions of climate change are felt acutely. To safeguard the nation's future, with more than 45 million youths in the country and around 2 million graduates entering the job market, it is essential to prepare a new generation of visionary leaders capable of navigating challenges. It is thus high time for the business graduates to join this race and play a pivotal role in shaping these future leaders.
The effects of climate change extend far beyond the environmental sphere, permeating all sectors that will determine Bangladesh's future. As cyclones, storm surges, coastal erosion, and rising sea levels pose a greater threat to the nation, it appears that the responsibility and consequently the action of learning more about climate change and cultivating the appropriate tools to address the pertinent issues falls primarily on the shoulders of science, engineering, and architecture departments of higher institutions, while business departments appear to take a backseat. Rather, business departments must play a crucial role in preparing future graduates to navigate this complex environment. Climate change is already impacting all areas of business, including finance, marketing, supply chain management, human resources, and entrepreneurship, and will continue to do so at a greater rate in the near future.
Empowering students through experiential learning and cross-department courses
Students should be fully involved in experiential learning that connects them with nature and climate-vulnerable populations to understand the interplay between business and the environment. It is essential to go beyond theoretical discussions by incorporating concrete real-world examples into their course curriculum. There is a need to develop additional advanced interdisciplinary courses for students involving the fields of science, engineering, architecture, etc. These courses should surpass a mere comprehension of the challenges at hand and instead equip students with practical abilities to address these issues. This can be achieved by leveraging their existing business acumen and combined with the newfound knowledge to identify and execute strategies that mitigate, adapt to, or even reverse the effects of climate change, thereby addressing its societal ramifications on a global scale.
Empowering students for climate action
Students should also actively engage with the complexities of sustainable business decision-making through simulations and consulting projects centered on climate-related challenges. Business schools can enable their graduates to think critically, creatively, and responsibly about the climate crisis through the inclusion of films and documentaries and motivational catalysts. In addition, they can foster partnerships that result in effective and context-specific climate solutions by promoting collaboration with partners and vulnerable communities. Business schools can advocate for global, regional, and national climate action. This advocacy could include working with governments, businesses, and other organizations to promote climate-friendly policies and practices.
Driving positive mindset among students
While corporations' economic and social impacts are typically covered in business school curricula, the environmental effects and the necessary mindset and tools to mitigate them are often marginalized. To address this issue, business schools need to better incorporate environmental sustainability into their curricula. The goal should not simply be about teaching these topics but changing and reshaping the mindset of future business leaders, so they do not think about protecting and preserving the environment as a strategic burden or merely something that needs to take place for the sake of checking a box but can be leveraged as a strategic strength and opportunity for any organization, they are part of.
Building a climate network for business schools
In Bangladesh, individual higher education institutions have made significant progress in becoming more environmentally friendly and initiating courses. However, a more collaborative learning approach could yield even greater results. Public and private higher institutions in Bangladesh could take on a similar collaborative approach to teaching about climate change as the Business Schools for Climate Leadership (BS4CL) alliance in Europe. Institutions could share resources, such as faculty expertise and research facilities, by working together. They could also develop joint curricula and teaching materials.
Driving institutional and financial support
Institutional support is crucial for successfully integrating climate change education into business schools. Educational institutions should allocate resources, such as research funding and database access, to facilitate faculty research in this crucial field. The government can also provide financial support for research, innovation and capacity building through various funding sources such as the national budget or Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund. The government can also create a national climate change curriculum framework outlining the key concepts and skills students should learn about climate change.
As Bangladesh envisions a prosperous and sustainable digital and smart nation, climate change education in business schools is necessary. We must teach our young people that profits can be achieved by putting the planet and people first. The future of our world and our society depends on it. But most importantly, high institutions cannot do this alone in a silo. According to Vision 2041, a more strategic collaborative approach within higher institutions must be supported by the government. It will undoubtedly foster and contribute to creating a resilient and sustainable future, ensuring Bangladesh's continued progress in the face of the climate crisis. This holistic approach will benefit Bangladesh's economy and be consistent with global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The writer is a development professional and a lecturer of the Faculty of Business Administration at American International University-Bangladesh. He can be contacted at [email protected]