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Think Big, Act Small, Start Now

Date Released: Wed, 30 March 2011 11:16 +0200

The Rhodes Business School joined the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) towards the end of last year, and as a result a member of the School - Professor Noel Pearse – attended the first conference held in Melbourne, Australia, in March this year.

The GRLI, formed in 2004, emerged from two organisations; the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) and the United Nations Global Compact. The mission of the GRLI is to be a catalyst to develop a next generation of globally responsible leaders. They are also a co-convenor, a member of the steering committee and an active supporter of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRiME).

GRLI conferences, explains Prof Pearse, have the traditional guest and plenary sessions, but also break into groups for workshop sessions on action plans. The idea behind the GRLI is for business schools to partner with a corporate and work together on responsible leadership initiatives.

The GRLI incorporates the United Nations Global Compact Principles, a blueprint for responsible leadership. These, briefly, cover Human Rights, and the fact that businesses should support internationally proclaimed human rights principles and ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses; Labour Standards, by which is meant the upholding of freedom of association, elimination of forced labour, abolition of child labour and elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation; Environment, requiring businesses to support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges, the undertaking of initiatives to promote environmental responsibility and the encouragement of environmentally-friendly technologies; and, finally, Anti-Corruption, which exhorts businesses to work against all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery.

The six Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRiME) are principles of responsible management education for business schools and other academic institutions. Rhodes Business School has signed up to this and is participating in the key initiative known as SB21, or, in full, School of Business for the 21st Century.

Prof Pearse regards this as possibly the most important initiative undertaken by the GRLI, and considers it also the most difficult to get right. It is not only a key initiative, he says, but also a crucial one, as the GRLI has been invited to table a proposal relating to SB21 at the Climate Change Summit to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Another initiative discussed in Melbourne, and one which Prof Pearse regards as extremely exciting, is the Communities of Responsible Action (CoRA) initiative. CoRA's are intended to extend the principles of the GRLI into regional communities, allowing a melding of global and local partners who will then work together to achieve the aims of the GRLI. An example of this is the successful embedding of the GRLI's values into South American oil company Petrobas.

In a further step, the predominant oil company in each country in South America partnered with a local business school to follow the Petrobas example, thereby embedding responsible action principles within the entire oil industry of the continent.

The next meeting of the GRLI will be in Germany this October. The essence of the Rhodes Business School is Leadership for Sustainability. The GRLI strongly promulgates the idea of Think Big, Act Small, Start Now. It seems an ideal fit, and Prof Pearse is looking forward to a long association between the two.

By Jean McKeowin