Millennials care about mission. They’re interested in impact investing. They’re starting social enterprises.
Simply put, millennials are leading the social impact charge. So, how can universities better support those pursuits?
I got a sense of the answer to that last Friday when speaking to a handful of socially minded undergrads at Temple’s Fox School of Business about CSR, social enterprises and the social impact ecosystem of Philadelphia. It was a meeting of Temple’s Net Impact undergraduate chapter, which seeks to “improve the world by growing and strengthening a network of leaders who use the power of business to make a positive net social, environmental, and economic impact.” (NBD.)
Because we’re focusing some of our reporting on CSR this month, I wanted to ask these students about why topics such as sustainability and social responsibility are important to them — assuming that if they chose to spend their free time at Net Impact meetings, they did, indeed, care about these topics — and what CSR practices they expect from future employers.
Here’s what six undergrads studying risk management, actuarial science, finance, marketing and human resource management had to say.
Why are you a part of Net Impact? Why are these ideals important to you?
- “Environmental [best practices] were just always something I valued. I knew I was interested in business but I still wanted to incorporate that and do business for good. [Net Impact] perfectly combined my environmental interests and business interests.”
- “I’m interested in efficiency and wants things to be done as well as possible, and that led me to sustainability. I wanted to see the bigger picture, and I see business, in its truest sense, as serving the people and serving human need — which is why it was created. I wanted to focus more on creating businesses that help the world.”
- “This is a good way for us to connect with [socially minded] businesses around the city that we should be supporting, because we have these values of ethics and sustainability. It’s a good way for us to find out about places we might not have heard of otherwise.”
- “Insurance isn’t the first industry you think about when you think of sustainability and ethics, and I didn’t see where my values overlapped with insurance. This is something I’ve always supported and it’s nice that I can find overlap [at Net Impact].”
What is your ideal work environment when considering CSR programs or a commitment to sustainability? Do you expect that from employers?
- “I think a lot of CSR is an afterthought, so I think it should be something [employers] focus on, not just something that’s there to make the company look good or make the employees happy about where they work.”
- “If a company can have a more active approach, rather than, ‘Oh, we donate this much,’ I think that’s preferable. If it can be more integrated inside of their mission, I think that’s a good thing.”
- “Definitely being centrally located, or offering incentives for transit passes, rather than being far out in suburban office parks, because as far as sustainability goes, forcing people to drive in to a thousand-space parking lot is the exact opposite of being sustainable.”
- “I think it’d be beneficial for a lot of employers to have these programs and for the associates to be actively involved. Besides the great it does for the world, I think it’s pretty good for teamwork and bringing people together.”
What do you want to learn about CSR and social enterprises that you aren’t learning in class? What should universities keep in mind when creating business classes?
- “I think every school should have Business Ethics as a class, but [the subject] should be integrated into your other classes. Let’s talk about accounting — after Enron, there were more regulations and you had to be more transparent. But they don’t really teach you that in accounting. You only learn that in Ethics.”
- “It could be integrated into more classes. [Professors] could talk about ethics related to that topic.”
- “I only hear about it in HR [classes]. They talk about employee engagement all the time: ‘Doing well for the community keeps the employees engaged and helps with retention and attraction of the talent pool.’ But that’s literally the only class where I’ve heard anything remotely close to CSR.”
- “I think it’d be kind of hard to [teach it] in some classes here: It’s a subject, you learn how to do it, and that’s it. A lot of it’s really cut and dry. Integrate [CSR] into some more general courses, some higher-level courses, just to show people it’s an option — ‘You can do it at your company.'”