Rhodes Business School has been recognised for its focus on sustainability and ethical leadership.
This accolade comes after they were placed as a top business school in PMR.Africa’s 2022 national survey on Corporate Care – Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programmes and initiatives in South Africa. Prof Owen Skae, Director, Rhodes Business School, said “The school is proud of this, especially as this survey is not a ranking, but a recognition of decision-makers as to the contribution that we make achieving our vision of transforming business for a better world.”
Founded in 2000, Rhodes Business School’s Mission is to “educate and influence responsible business practice, responsibly.”
Rhodes Business School has been applying itself to sustainability and leadership for some time now. The reason is twofold. “Back in 2004, when this approach was formalised into our curriculum, we saw huge opportunities for all organisations, whether they are private or public, big or small to change the way they did business as this was the only way to grow the economy and narrow the inequality gap that prevailed, whilst ensuring our planet was preserved for future generations,” noted prof Skae. “Secondly, we took the view that it could no longer be ‘business as usual’ as, the standard approaches to conducting business, were quite simply, unsustainable. There were sceptics, as there still are today, but we knew we were right and never deviated from what we believed was right.”
The global momentum for ESG reporting is now beyond the point of turning back, bearing in mind that the first International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standards were released at the end of July 2023. ESG has been accused of lacking standardisation with the absence of an ISO-like structure. The report emerges on the back of global sustainable investment reaching $35.3 trillion in five major markets in 2020, a 15 per cent increase from two years prior as reported by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance in 2020. “It begs the question, where are the leaders, managers and auditors to come from?” asks Skae.
While it might sound like things are hunky dory in ESG-land, all is not. Companies have been accused of “greenwashing” – where they exaggerate or misrepresent their environmental efforts to appear more sustainable than they are. There is still no universal standard for measuring ESG performance, and it can sometimes prioritise short-term gains. It is also rather complex, encompassing everything from financial performance – which can divert profits away from the business and into meeting ESG goals, to the implementation of ESG robust programmes. It is basically quite all-consuming. It has even been said to be exclusionary in a world that is barreling towards inclusivity.
Forbes has noted that “This kind of investment, which tries to combine financial returns with social good, is utterly commonplace, especially in Europe. In recent years, discussion has generally focused on how to measure and implement it better amid rampant greenwashing and dodgy metrics – not on whether this practice is worthwhile at all. After all, ESG concerns are financial concerns.” Curiously, while climate change is considered an active threat, the pro-ESG community has found itself having to contend with war against ESG itself.
TIME takes us back to 2004, when the first mention of ESG was sighted. “For decades, business leaders had debated to what degree companies should concern themselves with social matters beyond factors that directly impacted their bottom line.” By 2020, “US investors had placed more than $17 trillion in funds employing ESG strategies.” Now, as Kenya hosts the Africa Climate Summit, the ‘E’ part of ESG in the war against climate change remains critical with executives now compelled to think about making an economic case while taking environmental concerns seriously.
“ESG is experiencing a backlash though. We would be naïve to think that it will just be implemented and that is the end of it. Today ESG is front-of-mind for everybody, but regardless of whether you believe it is real or not, you don’t have to find it, it will find you,” acknowledged Skae.
It does mean they have a generous foundation to lay for Rhodes Business School, Rhodes University, being at the epicentre of ESG. An opportunity they are more than willing to embrace. So far, all of Rhodes Business School’s programmes from its Diplomas to its MBA are committed to making sure ESG is found for all the right reasons. “Our graduates have confirmed that our programmes are truly transformative,” Skae acknowledged.
The Rhodes MBA is a degree comprising coursework and a research assignment. The degree is offered on a part-time, modular basis over two years. The admission requirements are an Honours degree or Postgraduate Diploma, a minimum of three years’ work experience and an admission test such as NMAT, GMAT or GRE. Should you be keen, applications close on 31 October 2023.