ERS, a key element of quality

In January 2019, Groupe ESC Clermont’s ERS mission will enter a new phase of integration and development, in collaboration with the Quality and Accreditation Department. This collaboration is obvious for the Q&A Department as quality and ERS issues are intrinsically linked, and as the granting and the management of accreditations attests. Accreditation bodies indeed pay a particular attention to the engagement of Business Schools in ERS. Explanations with Isabelle Boiron and Alexandra Ford-Antignac.

The reasons behind a new organization

ERS is not a new concept, and as the articles above show, ERS initiatives and projects at Groupe ESC Clermont have not waited the creation of the Q&A Department to see the light of day. A more formal and structured approach to ERS began to emerge in our School at the time of the eligibility stage of the first AACSB accreditation application in 2005, and again during subsequent renewals. However, once eligibility has been obtained, the decision to grant AACSB accreditation is not based on a thorough study of the quality of ERS within a Business School. Indeed, the AACSB evaluation criteria have a broader scope at an institutional level as a whole, without a specific reference to ERS. It was, therefore, only at the time of the preparation of the EPAS Accreditation application and the ensuing Peer Review Visit for the Bachelor in International Management programme, which began in 2017 and was completed this November, that the Q&A Department conducted a more in depth analysis of the ERS dimension at Groupe ESC Clermont. Unlike AACSB, EPAS accreditation focuses on ERS in a much more explicit and significant way, both at an institutional level, but also in terms of the programme that is under review.

The development of a clearer and more visible ERS policy at Groupe ESC Clermont was indeed initiated and strengthened thanks to the EPAS accreditation process. The Q&A Department collected, listed and recorded all that is being done in terms of ERS across our Business School globally and as an integral part of the Bachelor programme. A number of ERS actions impacting our environment were carried out at the same time, all of which are tangible achievements.

In the aftermath of the EPAS accreditation process and in light of what was achieved and what can still be done, it now seems essential to work on organising a global ERS approach at Groupe ESC Clermont and above all leverage on successes and spotlight them.

The Scope of ERS

Although it is difficult to determine a fixed framework for this constantly evolving concept, some practical definitions and variations of ERS can be useful and guide us:

the United Nations Global Compact: to which our Institution is a signatory member, encourages companies, through its 10 principles[1], in order to :

  • conduct their activities responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with ten principles relating to human and labour rights, the environment and the fight against corruption;
  • take strategic action to advance broader social objectives, such as the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.

Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME): commits businesses and Business Schools to ensuring, based on six principles[2], that they provide future leaders with the skills that are necessary to balance economic and sustainable development objectives, while drawing attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs) and aligning academic institutions with the work of the United Nations Global Compact.

– ERS is a concept in which companies integrate social, environmental and economic concerns into their activities and interactions with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis (European Commission)

– ERS is the contribution of companies to the challenges of sustainable development (French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy)

ISO 26000 defines societal responsibility as the responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, reflected in transparent and ethical behaviour that:

– contributes to sustainable development, including human health and social well-being;

– takes into account the expectations of stakeholders;

– complies with applicable laws and is compatible with international standards;

– is integrated throughout the organization and implemented in its relationships.

Let’s talk about actions!

In January, the Q&A Department will complete its exhaustive inventory of actions carried out in order to communicate internally a global mapping of all ERS related initiatives.  To this end, we will seek the input of all stakeholders. Three groups of students from the Bachelor Year 1 programme have already been mandated as part of a ERS module to reflect on the ERS identity of Groupe ESC Clermont, and will implement an ERS action at our School in 2019.

Moreover, the establishment of an “ERS Task Force” with internal and external stakeholders (see infra) will allow the annual review of actions carried out, a collective reflection on progress and projects to be launched. An annual report will be written and included in the School’s annual activity report.

It is indeed essential to involve all stakeholders, whether administrative staff or members of the Faculty, students (including executive education and professional training participants), our alumni and our business partners, in a harmonious structured process.  Such an approach will allow us to give our School its very own individual identity and meaning in terms of ERS, in line with its mission.