The Responsible Business Person : Studies of business education for sustainability

Abstract: Calls for the inclusion of sustainable development in the business curriculum have increased significantly in the wake of the financial crisis and increased concerns around climate change. This has led to the appearance of new initiatives and the development of new teaching approaches. This thesis explores business education at the upper secondary school level in Sweden following the inclusion of the concept of sustainable development in the curriculum. Drawing on poststructuralist discourse theory, the overarching purpose is to identify the roles of a responsible business person that are articulated in business education and to discuss how these roles could enable students to address sustainability issues. The thesis consists of four studies, based on textbook analyses, teacher interviews and classroom observations. Three categories of roles have been identified, implying that a business person is expected to either adapt to, add or create ethical values. These three categories are compared with the roles indicated in the environmental discourses constructed by Dryzek and the responsibility regimes developed by Pellizzoni. Drawing on Dryzek’s and Pellizzoni’s reasoning about which qualities are important for addressing sustainability issues, it is concluded that the roles identified in the studies could mean that students are unequipped (the adapting role), ill-equipped (the adding role) or better equipped (the creating role) to address uncertain and complex sustainability issues. The articles include empirical examples that illustrate how and in which situations specific roles are articulated, privileged or taken up. The examples also indicate how the scope for business students’ subjectivities are facilitated or hampered. It is suggested that the illustrative empirical examples could be used for critical reflection in order to enhance students’capabilities of addressing uncertain and complex sustainability issues and to improve educational quality in terms of scope for subjectivity.

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