Business Matters

Mason’s School of Business ‘at the forefront of business for good’

In July 2012, George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera committed the university to supporting the United Nations Global Compact, which calls on institutions to align with universal principles on human rights, labor and environment, and to take actions that advance societal goals.

That commitment took a further step recently, when George Mason, led by the School of Business, gained “Champion” status in the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), which is part of the Global Compact.

PRME focuses on developing students who will work for a sustainable global economy, and incorporating into academic activities the values of global social responsibility and leadership.

“If you look around the world, there are big problems,” said Anne Magro, the School of Business’ associate dean for academic affairs. “PRME is part of an agreement among all the countries of the world and 1,300 businesses that we are committed to solving those problems and working together to do it.”

“Our commitment to PRME,” she said, “really puts us at the forefront of business for good.”

Mason’s PRME core team, charged with driving Mason’s commitment consists of Magro, associate professor of business and PRME liaison Lisa Gring-Pemble, and Rick Hess, associate director, accreditation and assessment.

To gain “Champion” status, Mason, a member of the PRME Advisory Council, had to show the Foundation for the Global Compact the steps it will take to advance its goals.

“If what we’re trying to do is develop responsible citizens in a global environment, we need to make sure our students and colleagues are thinking about the broader and long-term impact of what we do in business,” School of Business dean Maury Peiperl said. “We have to make sure the calculus is longer term, and not merely ‘how can I make a lot of money?’ ”

Mason’s entrepreneurship minor encourages students to connect with other disciplines to leverage their abilities to make an impact in the world. It has an active study-abroad program and the Honey Bee Initiative, which partners with external organizations in South America.

Its Business Foundations curriculum offers five sequenced courses that introduce students to global, professional, historical and legal contexts of business.

Gring-Pemble’s Social Impact and Entrepreneurship class (MGMT 454) is an example of how sustainable development goals can be incorporated into a curriculum.

The course investigates the historical context of social entrepreneurship, and over spring break took students to Colombia, where they explored coffee, brown sugar and chocolate businesses that had what Gring-Pemble called a “triple bottom line”; they were profitable, benefitted the community and helped improve the environment.

Students also visited three communities in the Santander region, where Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative helps educate people about selling honey from their own apiaries and encourages local government to support the effort.

“This is what PRME is all about,” Gring-Pemble said. “It’s a different perspective, looking at the world and other measures of business success. Is it a reduction in food insecurity? Is it a reduction in poverty? Is it an increase in gender equity? It’s a shift in the way we evaluate the performance of business.”