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A comparative study of sustainability
management education in China and
Shihping Kevin Huang a & Yu-Lin Wang b a
Institute of Management Technology, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
Department of Business Administration, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan City, Taiwan
Available online: 24 May 2012
To cite this article: Shihping Kevin Huang & Yu-Lin Wang (2012): A comparative study of
sustainability management education in China and the USA, Environmental Education Research, DOI:10.1080/13504622.2012.687046
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A comparative study of sustainability management education in
China and the USA
Shihping Kevin Huanga* and Yu-Lin Wangb
aInstitute of Management Technology, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu City, Taiwan;bDepartment of Business Administration, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan City, Taiwan
(Received 29 July 2011;ﬁnal version received 15 March 2012)
This study investigates differences between business schools in different institu-tional settings, using top-ranked Chinese and US business schools as the bases of analysis. To assess the divergent educational approaches, this study investi-gates the (1) number of sustainability-related courses per school, (2) design and arrangement of sustainability-related course curricula, (3) content of sustainabil-ity-related courses, and (4) teaching methods in sustainabilsustainabil-ity-related courses, across differing institutional settings. The ﬁndings reveal differences in the cur-riculum designs of the two countries, which likely reﬂect differences in their local institutional settings and their interpretations of sustainability. This study offers several implications and recommendations for further research.
Keywords: sustainability; management education; curriculum design; top Chinese business schools; top US business schools
Universities worldwide have introduced management education related to sustain-ability issues, to promote sustainable development and raise students’ awareness. For example, one management education mandate cites the necessary ability to respond to the challenges facing business and society (Gentile and Samuelson 2005). Thus, management education aims to teach students to manage the interde-pendence between and mutual beneﬁts of business and wider society (Cotton et al. 2007; Gentile and Samuelson 2005). Even if management education does not change students’ behavior, prior research shows that university curriculum does increase students’ sensitivity to management issues (Thomas 2005).
As Porter and McKibbin (1988) indicate though, what universities teach students is largely a function of their curricula. Approaches to sustainability-related issues are diverse and vary across nations and cultures (Brown et al. 1987; Enderle 1997; Matten and Moon 2004; Navarro 2008). The scope of social responsibility can be quite narrow or very broad (McWilliams, Siegel, and Wright 2006), and resultant actions largely reﬂect the chosen deﬁnition. Because universities’ unique institu-tional environment leads them to respond to sustainability in varying ways, this study adopts legitimacy theory and attempts to determine the extent of the differ-ences in management education approaches to sustainability.
*Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
–17, iFirst Article
ISSN 1350-4622 print/ISSN 1469-5871 online Ó 2012 Taylor & Francis
Theoretical perspectives on sustainability
The complex term ‘sustainability’ encompasses a vast array of topics, including stakeholder perspectives, innovation (Porter and van der Linde 1995), and legiti-macy theory. Sustainability does not have a universal deﬁnition. Different societies have different conceptualizations and requirements of sustainability (Brown et al. 1987). Matten and Moon (2004), in their attempt to deﬁne corporate social respon-sibility (CSR), note the use of multiple synonymous terms, including sustainability, and business ethics. Deﬁning sustainability is very similar to deﬁning CSR, in that it represents an umbrella term that overlaps with some and is synonymous with other deﬁnitions that describe the relationship between business and society (Matten and Moon 2008; Walshe 2008). Sustainability is associated with the integration of social and environmental factors into business activities (Wu et al. 2010); it moves beyond compliance. However, the extent of sustainability remains at the discretion of the individual ﬁrm (Matten and Moon 2008). The integration of social interests andﬁnancial performance also is critical to making sustainability viable for business communities; from a strategic perspective, Elkington (1994) maintains that the chal-lenge of sustainability is turning today’s stakeholders into tomorrow’s customers. Freeman (1984) also advocates stakeholder management, and Berman et al. (1999) suggest that business concerns must pertain to potential ﬁnancial gains. Despite assumptions of a trade-off between ﬁrms’ social responsibility and proﬁtability, the sustainability of ﬁrms’ social responsibility actually requires synergy between social and business interests (Gupta 2006). Thus, the link between sustainability and ﬁnan-cial rewards is critical. Van Marrewijk (2003) accordingly argues that the deﬁnitions of CSR and corporate sustainability should reﬂect organizational development, awareness, and ambition. The European Commission deﬁnes CSR as a corporate contribution to sustainable development (Kleine and von Hauff 2009). The link between these terms thus emerges from a stakeholder approach (Kleine and von Hauff 2009; Van Marrewijk 2003).
In another sense, Porter and van der Linde (1995) argue that innovation is cru-cial to sustainable socru-cial responsibility. The more efﬁcient the production system, the better the ﬁnancial return, due to less pollution and waste. Porter and van der Linde also suggest that ﬁrms’ environmental responsibility should not be treated as a cost burden, but rather as a potential area for greater competitiveness.
To be competitive though,ﬁrms need both material resources and technical infor-mation, as well as social acceptability and credibility in their social environment (Scott 2008). The organizational environment comprises technological and material imperatives, along with cultural norms, symbols, beliefs, values, and rituals (Such-man 1995), and the organization remains constantly subject to socially constructed expectations and practices (Scott 2008). Because an organization is more than just a machine that transforms material input into output (Scott 1987), when consumers become more environmentally conscious, organizations respond by pursuing legiti-macy for their operations. Business schools, as social organizations, similarly take public perceptions of social trends into consideration in their curriculum design.
Unlike material resources, legitimacy cannot be combined or transformed into new output, and its value accrues only when it is visible to outsiders (Scott 2008). Suchman (1995, 574) thus deﬁnes legitimacy as the ‘generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and deﬁnitions.’ This
socially constructed perceptual phenomenon, which requires congruence between the behaviors of the organization and the shared values of some social group (Suchman 1995), also is highly context dependent (Vidaver-Cohen and Bronn 2008) and provides a type of social contract that insures the inclusion of social preferences in organizational performance measures (Cormier, Gordon, and Magnan 2004).
Finally, legitimacy includes three main dimensions that comprise 12 types: pragmatic (exchange, inﬂuence, interest, and character), moral (consequences, proce-dures, persons, and structures), and cognitive (predictability, plausibility, inevitability, and performance) (Deephouse and Suchman 2008; Suchman 1995). These three dimensions imply that organizational activities adhere to socially constructed norms, values, beliefs, and deﬁnitions (Suchman 1995). Thus, organizational legitimacy is more notable for its absence than its presence (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978), such that organizations draw negative attention and attacks from stakeholders when they act illegitimately (Deephouse and Suchman 2008). To align goals with those of col-lective audiences and to obtain or maintain legitimacy, an organization thus must take actions and inform wider society about those actions (Cormier, Gordon, and Magnan 2004).
Sustainability management education
Porter and Kramer (2006) consider it essential for organizations to ﬁnd a reference point when promoting CSR; the most critical reference point for business schools is their students. When organizations implement CSR, they also choose speciﬁc social issues and related agendas (Porter and Kramer 2006), to create roadmaps for CSR objectives. A business school’s curriculum design, as one such roadmap, results from the interplay of cultural characteristics and the institutional setting. That is, cultural traits assume a signiﬁcant role (Gambini 2006). Both the culture characteristics (e.g. place and sociocultural factors) and institutional settings (e.g. government and demo-graphics) should affect the promotion of sustainability (O’Neill et al. 2009).
The concept of sustainability traditionally entailed mainly environmental issues, but more recent conceptualizations include other factors, such as sociocultural consider-ations (Dempsey et al. 2009). Sustainability, CSR, and ethics often appear together in related domains (Singer 2007), because a person’s ethics help him or her inter-pret whether any particular action is acceptable and appropriate (Stanwick and Stanwick 2009), usually through a concern about others (Gupta 2006). For business schools, ethics might entail the corporation’s ethical role in society to act responsi-bly (CSR) while also trying to preserve resources for future generations (sustainable management) (Christensen et al. 2007).
Embedded in various economic, political, and cultural systems (Hui 2008), busi-ness schools, as organizations, are affected by such inﬂuences. Plunkett, Attner, and Allen (2008) deﬁne an organization as an entity managed by people to achieve sta-ted goals, but because people with different backgrounds have different perceptions and values, the failure to recognize differences might compromise educational and informative efforts (Gambini 2006). In addition, people from different cultural backgrounds have different perceptions of ethics and sustainability (Gambini 2006; Rawwas, Swaidan, and Isakson 2007). Wong, Long, and Elankumaran’s (2009)
empirical study conﬁrms that cultural differences inﬂuence students’ perceptions of the role of CSR for business, as do cross-cultural factors (Hui 2008). In particular, cultural differences affect the nation’s sustainability strategy and management edu-cational practices (Weaver 2001). However, existing empirical studies largely ignore the possible interaction between current sustainability education, such as course cur-riculum designs, and the surrounding economic or cultural system (Ferrer-Balas, Buckland, and de Mingo 2009).
Institutional environment differences
Government agencies, professional and accrediting bodies, and interest groups or other sources of public opinion must have substantial institutional status to inﬂuence organizations (Weaver, Trevino, and Cochran 1999). Prior research also suggests that business schools with different backgrounds diverge in their sustainability-related curriculum design (Christensen et al. 2007; Matten and Moon 2004), possi-bly due to institutional inﬂuences (Evans, Trevino, and Weaver 2006). The institu-tional environment, together with the pressures derived from that environment and the values and interests of members, inﬂuences an organization’s structure (Weaver, Trevino, and Cochran 1999). Thus, according to Malott (2003), the sustainability effort of a university cannot be understood without considering the macrosystem in which it operates. Because a university’s strategy is contingent on its institutional environment (Malott and Martinez 2006), a business school’s curriculum design reﬂects the interplay of its organizational values and its institutional environment.
Business schools operate in a market-driven environment (Wilkins and Huisman 2011), in which social expectations play an important role. Their curriculum design should reﬂect their commitment to sustainability, while also inﬂuencing the percep-tions of university stakeholders, such as students and the general public. Therefore, legitimacy is crucial for business schools. Legitimacy may work differently in vari-ous national, regional, or even local settings. In some cases, there might even be within-nation diversity related to the issue of sustainability education (Page and Collins 2010). Although evaluations of legitimacy vary across cultures, stakehold-ers, institutions, organizations, industries, and time (Bansal and Clelland, 2004; Ruef and Scott 1998; Vidaver-Cohen and Bronn 2008), legitimate schools ulti-mately enjoy a greater latitude to pursue daily routines and objectives. A more legitimate school probably attracts top students and more funding. In this sense, ranking mechanisms can reconﬁrm and reinforce a business school’s existing posi-tion, assumptions, and values (Wedlin 2010). Rankings not only deﬁne what is appropriate, proper, and desirable, but also bridge views of management education (Wedlin 2010). Even if local settings inﬂuence each business school, rankings should shape the development of management education overall.
Study problem and purpose
A business school, as an organization, must cater to various elements of its institu-tional environment, in terms of culture and nainstitu-tional economic development. In light of the differences in institutional environments, business education likely varies across different settings, such as China vs. the USA. However, the extensiveness of these differences and their effect on actual curriculum design has not been studied previously.
Education curriculum analyses have increased tremendously in recent years (Aspen Institute 2008; Christensen et al. 2007; Evans and Marcal 2005; Higher Edu-cation Academy 2008; Matten and Moon 2004; Murphy et al. 2009; Schoenfeldt, McDonald, and Youngblood 1991; Segalas, Ferrer-Balas, and Mulder 2010; Wu et al. 2010), and such analyses of sustainability education can provide important insights. Although the studies differ in theirﬁndings, scope, and perspectives, overall they suggest that even as business schools attempt to integrate sustainability-related content into their curricula, they have not made sustainability a core course (Chris-tensen et al. 2007), and teaching methods are diverse (Matten and Moon 2004). Mur-phy et al. (2009) indicate that most undergraduate education is not comprehensive with regard to sustainability, and Allen et al. (2008) similarlyﬁnd that sustainability-related courses tend to be available only to upper undergraduate and graduate stu-dents. Business schools often offer both stand alone sustainability courses and core courses that integrate sustainability (Allen et al. 2008). However, cross-national com-parisons are lacking; most samples are based on Europe (Matten and Moon 2004), the USA (Evans and Marcal 2005), or Australia (Wright and Bennett 2011). Although some studies provide comparisons based on accreditations or school ranks (Christensen et al. 2007; Wu et al. 2010), the samples still tend to consist of western universities, without representation from Asia or other areas.
The existing discourse on sustainability thus offers signiﬁcant potential for fur-ther analysis. The deﬁnition and scope of sustainability are open to interpretation, because sustainability as a social construct is highly dependent on the culture and institution. Approaches to sustainability differ in various institutional settings, such as schools with different ranks, varying stages of economic development, and accreditation afﬁliations. Cultural difference also inﬂuences business schools’ sus-tainability curriculum designs (Evans, Trevino, and Weaver 2006), because cultures reveal unique perceptions of sustainability. Unlike previous empirical studies, which consider the perceptions of students from different nations’ on CSR in business education (Wong, Long, and Elankumaran 2009), this research investigates differ-ences between business schools in different institutional settings, using the top-ranked Chinese and US business schools as the basis of analysis. The comparison highlights components of their educational approaches, namely, the (1) number of sustainability-related courses per school, (2) design and arrangement of sustainabil-ity-related course curricula, (3) content of sustainabilsustainabil-ity-related courses, and (4) teaching methods in sustainability-related courses. This study uncovers the extent of the institutional differences between the USA and China by collecting and analyz-ing data from these countries’ major business schools.
To analyze business schools from different institutional backgrounds in terms of their sustainability-related curriculum designs, the study compares business school curriculum designs from China with those from the USA. This choice is appropriate for several reasons. China and the USA are the largest emitters of greenhouse gas-ses; in 2007, China surpassed the USA in total greenhouse gas emissions (The New York Times 2007), and in 2010, it became the world’s second-largest economy, after the USA. Although China is the biggest emitter by volume of greenhouse gasses, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is making an attempt to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (Morris, Childs, and Hamilton 2007;
Haines et al. 2009). In addition, though it is important to note that China ranks very low on the list of per capita greenhouse gas emissions, it is the world’s biggest con-tributor of greenhouse gas emission by volume. Furthermore, in 2007, China pro-duced 3.3 million college graduates, while the USA graduated 1.3 million (Morris, Childs, and Hamilton 2007). Therefore, it is imperative to analyze sustainability education in China. Yet despite the sheer sizes, cultural differences, and economic status of these two countries, studies that comparatively analyze their sustainability education are rare; this study attempts to ﬁll this notable gap.
For the sample selection, our research procedure ﬁrst narrowed the list of target schools by comparing several ranking systems, including those of the China Alumni Association and US News and World Report – the most widely cited ranking sys-tems in China and the USA, respectively. This ranking method identiﬁed 437 busi-ness schools in the USA (US News and World Report 2010) and 592 in China (Cernet Corporation 2010). Legitimacy is critical to top business schools. Therefore, the research sample consisted of the top 100 business schools in China and top 99 business schools in the USA.
The curriculum analysis included all sustainability-related business courses, whether compulsory, elective, undergraduate, or graduate. Sustainability covers a wide span of topics, depending on the awareness and ambition levels of organiza-tions, so this studyﬁrst reviewed key sustainability-related topics, according to prior reports and research (Bird, Lutz, and Warwick 2008; Christensen et al. 2007; Envi-ronmental Association for Universities 2008; Matten and Moon 2004; National Council for Science 2003; National Environmental Education Foundation 2009; Wu et al. 2010). We examined several prior studies to produce a foundation of key sus-tainability-related topics. Christensen et al. (2007) base their research mainly on three topics: business ethics, CSR, and sustainability. Matten and Moon (2004) pro-vide a more comprehensive list: CSR, business ethics, corporate citizenship, sustain-ability, corporate environmental management, business and society, business and governance, business and globalization, stakeholder management, and governance. Finally, Wu et al. (2010) offer the most extensive list of topics, encompassing all major topics related to the triple bottom-line principle. This thorough analysis led to an extensive deﬁnition of sustainability, based on the triple bottom-line principle, which includes social, environmental, and economic perspectives (Elkington 1994). Table 1 summarizes the list of 39 terms that formed the basis of the selection crite-ria for our curriculum content analysis.
The research design followed previous content analyses (Jones, Shan, and Goodrum 2010; Wu et al. 2010). Content analysis is a systemic, objective, quantita-tive research method that can measure variables as they naturally occur, without any manipulation of the independent variables (Neuendorf 2002). In particular, a concep-tual analysis focuses on the frequency of keywords or phrases in a target text (Jones, Shan, and Goodrum 2010), compared with the overall target text, with the objective of producing counts of key categories and measures of the amounts of other vari-ables (Neuendorf 2002). The empirical analysis is based on real phenomena (Neuen-dorf 2002). Thus, unlike studies that rely on survey questionnaires (Enderle 1997; Evans and Marcal 2005; Matten and Moon 2004; Schoenfeldt, McDonald, and Youngblood 1991) or interviews (Christensen et al. 2007), a web-based content analysis can resolve sample size concerns and is less subject to personal opinions. However, this study cannot offer a census of all activities; rather, the ﬁndings provide directions to help reveal major educational emphases on sustainability.
The coding methods also reﬂected prior research procedures (Aerts, Cormier, and Magnan 2008; Miles and Huberman 1994; Wu et al. 2010). The data collection process for both Chinese and US business schools began in September 2010, when three pairs of trained coders, selected for their language proﬁciency and commit-ment, received, and reviewed a standardized coding manual. The coding teams con-sisted of native speakers of English and Chinese, which should minimize translation bias. These graduate students all had taken sustainability-related courses, so they had a basic understanding of the subject, which should avoid any misinterpretation of terms. To insure reliability, all coders participated in training with online demon-strations, followed by a question-and-answer session. Because inconsistency is more typical in early coding stages, the trained coders attended a check-code meeting after their ﬁrst 10 reviews to exchange ideas and resolve any problems. They also performed the actual coding activity in a shared research room, to foster communi-cation if necessary. A paired inter-rater reliability check, conducted at the comple-tion of the coding activity, indicated values of 92.1% (α = .84), 90.3% (α = .82), and 93.5% (α = .84) for the three teams.
The actual coding consisted of three steps:
(1) Identify the target school’s website.
(2) Identify terms from Table 1 in the course titles listed on the school website. Any course title containing any of the terms on Table 1 was entered as a‘1’ in the appropriate column.
(3) Identify terms from Table 1 in course descriptions. Any mention of terms on Table 1 in course descriptions was entered as‘1’ in the appropriate column. On the basis of the Step 3 results, the coders also identiﬁed descriptions of teaching methods in course syllabi. Any mention of a teaching method, such as textbooks or case studies, was entered as ‘1’ in the appropriate column. We also Table 1. Sustainability-related terms.
Biodiversity Human rights
Climate change Market economy
Community engagement Natural resource
Corporate citizenship Natural resources management
Corporate environmental responsibility Peace and human security
Corporate responsibility Pollution management
Corporate responsibility and accountability Poverty prevention
CSR Race relations
Culture diversity and intercultural understanding Recycle
Disaster prevention and mitigation Renewable energy
Ecosystem Rural development
Environmental health and safety Sustainable development
Environmental stewardship Sustainable growth
Equal opportunity Sustainable procurement
Ethics Sustainable urbanization
Fair trade Triple bottom line
Gender equality Waste
included an additional column for ‘other’ teaching methods (beyond those listed in Table 7), but we found very few schools that used other teaching methods, such as audiovisual techniques. That is, the four teaching methods we discuss subsequently (in Table 7) are the most widely adopted methods. The ﬁnal sample contained 100 Chinese business schools and 99 US business schools that had no missing data.
To address the research questions, the analyses compared the business educational approaches of Chinese business schools and US business schools. In particular, the examination involved sustainability-related courses per business school, course cur-riculum designs and arrangement, course content, and teaching methods in different institutional settings.
Sustainability-related courses per business school
To explore the sustainability-related course offerings between countries, the coders assigned business schools with sustainability-related courses a 1 and those without any sustainability-related courses a 0. Because the data are binary, logistic regression served to examine the differences in the offerings, using logitð^piÞ ¼ 0:447 þ 3:188xi.
The goodness-of-ﬁt test of the logistic regression model with an Omnibus test indi-cated that the model ﬁt was signiﬁcant (p = 0.000; χ2= 75.228). As Table 2 shows, with Chinese business schools as the reference category, the likelihood of US business schools having a sustainability course was 24.244 times greater. That is, US business schools emphasize sustainability-related courses.
Sustainability-related course curriculum design and arrangement
To examine the sustainability-related course curriculum design and arrangement, this study used two categorizations: compulsory or elective and undergraduate or graduate, as Table 3 shows. In China, more than half the sustainability-related courses are elective courses (69.74%), offered at the graduate level (61.84%). Simi-larly, business schools in the USA offer sustainability-related courses mainly as an elective (73.27%) and at the graduate level (77.47%). That is, both Chinese and US business schools designate the concept of sustainability to graduate-level education and offer it as an optional course rather than a required one.
Table 4 provides a comparison of Chinese and US business schools with regard to curriculum design and arrangement. The US business schools have a higher ratio of sustainability-related courses per school in both compulsory (1.56) and elective
Table 2. Sustainability-related courses: China and the USA.
Independent variables Coefﬁcient (β) SE Wald df Sig. Odds ratio
Constant .447 0.205 4.760 1 0.029 0.639
USA 3.188 0.468 46.316 1 0.000 24.244
Notes: Dependent variable: ln(p/1p) (likelihood of sustainability courses/no sustainability course). 2 Log-likelihood = 179.019;χ2= 75.228; modelﬁt signiﬁcance = 0.000.
(4.36) offerings than those in China. Moreover, US business schools are more likely to offer sustainability-related courses at both the undergraduate (1.33) and graduate (4.59) levels than are business schools in China (.29 and .47, respectively).
Content of sustainability-related courses
This study also investigated the content of sustainability-related courses offered. Table 5 contains the 10 most common topics in sustainability-related courses; both Chinese and US business schools clearly consider ethics the most critical topic. Although the two business education approaches share common teaching content, they differ slightly. In their empirical study, Matten and Moon (2004) ﬁnd that sustainable development, business ethics, and CSR are the three most selected top-ics in sustainability-related courses in western countries. Consistent with these ﬁndings, this study conﬁrms the prevalence of these three course topics in US business schools. However, unlike business schools in the USA, Chinese business schools pay less attention to CSR in sustainability education and highly stress environmental stewardship. In addition, in line with China’s economic status, mar-ket economy issues are among the most highly ranked topics in sustainability-related courses.
Table 4. Sustainability-related courses’ curriculum design and arrangement: China and the USA.
Top 100 Chinese business
schools Top 99 US business schools
Difference (p-value) Number of courses Number of schools Courses/ schools Number of courses Number of schools Courses/ schools Compulsory 23 100 0.23 154 99 1.56 1.326 (.000) Elective 53 100 0.53 432 99 4.36 3.834 (.000) Undergraduate level 29 100 0.29 132 99 1.33 1.043 (.000) Graduate level 47 100 0.47 454 99 4.59 4.116 (.000) ⁄p < 0.05;⁄⁄p < 0.01;⁄⁄⁄p < 0.001.
Table 3. Classiﬁcation of sustainability curricula: China and the USA. Top 100 Chinese business
Top 99 US business schools
Number Percentage (%) Number Percentage (%)
Compulsory 23 30.26 154 26.28 Elective 53 69.74 432 73.72 Total 76 100.00 586 100.00 Undergraduate level 29 38.16 132 22.53 Graduate level 47 61.84 454 77.47 Total 76 100.00 586 100.00
In accordance with Bird, Lutz, and Warwick’s (2008) classiﬁcation, this study divided the 39 terms from Table 1 into four subject clusters: comprehensive sustain-ability, social imperative, ecological imperative, and economic imperative. Using this course content description, the coders categorized each course into the four clusters, though because some courses cover a wide range of sustainability topics, they may fall into more than one cluster. The comprehensive sustainability-related content cate-gory contains three terms: sustainability, sustainable development, and triple bottom line. The social imperative cluster refers to systems of governance that propagate societal values, such as cultural diversity and intercultural understanding. An ecologi-cal imperative means staying within biophysiecologi-cal carrying capacities and includes cli-mate change. Finally, the economic imperative pertains to the provision of an adequate material standard of living for humans and includes the market economy.
Table 6 summarizes the statistical analyses of sustainability-related course con-tent data between the two countries for all four clusters. Business schools differ in their emphases; two statistically signiﬁcant differences emerge at α = .01, and one statistically signiﬁcant difference indicates a level of α = .05. Speciﬁcally, there are signiﬁcant differences between the social and ecological clusters, such that under-graduate schools in China (44.8%) emphasized ecological aspects more frequently than US business schools (15.9%). Conversely, undergraduate business schools in the USA included social issues in 43.2% of their sustainability-related courses, vs. only 13.8% in China. Only one statistically signiﬁcant difference marked the eco-logical cluster for graduate schools in China vs. the USA: graduate business schools in China (42.6%) tended to mention ecological terms more than US business schools (26.2%). Both undergraduate and graduate business schools in China focus on the ecological perspective in sustainability-related courses.
In their empirical study, Segalas, Ferrer-Balas, and Mulder (2010) ﬁnd that sus-tainability education in engineering schools similarly places more emphasis on the ecological perspective. Our results suggest that management education in China’s business schools adopts the same teaching orientation as engineering schools with regard to sustainability education. In contrast, management education in the USA appears to stress social perspectives, especially in undergraduate business schools. Although there was no signiﬁcant difference in social perspectives between graduate Table 5. Comparison of top 10 sustainability course contents: China and the USA.
Top 100 Chinese business schools Top 99 US business schools Rank Course content Frequency Course content Frequency
1 Ethics 44 Ethics 115
2 Environmental stewardship 35 Sustainability 72
3 Culture diversity and intercultural understanding
31 CSR 43
4 CSR 28 Energy 41
5 Sustainability 26 Sustainable development 38
6 Sustainable development 20 Natural resource 35
7 Natural resource management 18 Climate change 29
8 Market economy 16 Greening 28
9 Energy 13 Ecology 25
10 Ecology 10 Corporate environmental
T able 6. Chi-square analysis of course content. Comparison Sample size Cluster v 2 Sig. Number of courses in each cluster Group A vs. Group B Group A Group B Group A Group B Counts % Counts % Chinese under graduate vs. US under graduate 29 132 Comprehensive sustainability 0.100 0.752 9 31.0 45 34.1 Social 8.726 ⁄⁄ 0.003 4 13.8 57 43.2 Ecological 1 1.936 ⁄⁄ 0.001 13 44.8 21 15.9 Economic 0.001 0.981 5 17.2 23 17.4 Chinese graduate vs. US graduate 47 454 Comprehensive sustainability 0.961 0.327 10 21.3 127 28.0 Social 1.095 0.295 17 36.2 131 28.9 Ecological 5.674 ⁄ 0.017 20 42.6 1 1 9 26.2 Economic 0.012 0.914 9 19.1 84 18.5 ⁄ p < 0.05; ⁄⁄ p < 0.01; ⁄⁄⁄ p < 0.001.
business schools in China and the USA, this sector still attained the highest percent-age (28.9%) among the four clusters in US business schools at the graduate level. The social perspective thus appears to be a core value in sustainability management education in the USA.
Teaching methods in sustainability-related courses
Finally, in addition to course content, it is critical to explore the teaching methods employed in these courses. Teaching methods can inﬂuence students’ incentives to understand sustainability, and they have other learning effects as well. This statisti-cal analysis focused exclusively on the online course syllabi available on each uni-versity’s website. According to the analysis (see Table 7), Chinese business schools mainly relied on textbooks and assignments as teaching approaches; conversely, business schools in the USA focused more on discussion and case studies as teach-ing approaches.
These differences might be explained by the countries’ cultural characteristics. Traditional Confucian thinking inﬂuences China’s cultural norms and educational systems. In a traditional Confucian context, instructors are the highest authority in the classroom, and Chinese students are less proactive in pursuing knowledge by themselves; rather they passively receive knowledge from instructors. In other words, students are accustomed to obeying their teachers’ instructions and the guid-ance from textbooks, without considering their own opinions. In contrast, US busi-ness schools incorporate adult learning theory into learning processes, so instructors view students as adults in control of what they learn and act as facilitators of stu-dents’ education. Table 7 provides a comparison of these teaching methods.
Discussion and conclusion
This research has aimed to investigate differences between business schools in differ-ent institutional settings with regard to sustainability-related courses. Using a large sample of top business schools in China and the USA, the study offers a reference point for other business schools. To explore sustainability agendas and rankings of social issues, this study used a web-based content analysis. The results indicate a clear divergence in approaches to business education for sustainability between Chi-nese and US business schools. A business school’s curriculum design is a reﬂection of the interplay between the university’s organizational values and its institutional environment. Organizational legitimacy constitutes a crucial element of any univer-sity’s institutional environment. Business schools operating in China and the USA face very different institutional settings in terms of the stages of economic develop-ment, cultural values, government systems, and so forth. The disparities in these Table 7. Comparison of teaching methods for sustainability curricula: China and the USA.
Top 100 Chinese business schools Top 99 US business schools Rank Teaching method Frequency Teaching method Frequency
1 Textbooks 28 Discussion 62
2 Assignment 22 Case study 46
3 Discussion 14 Assignment 33
4 Case study 5 Textbooks 27
institutional settings likely appear manifested in their business school curriculum designs. Speciﬁcally, business schools in the USA offer more sustainability-related courses per school and offer these courses as electives at the graduate level. When business schools in China offer sustainability-related courses, they also tend to make them electives at the graduate level. In addition, though ethics is the most frequently taught topic for both groups, Chinese business schools also focus on environmental stewardship and cultural diversity; conversely, business schools in the USA empha-size sustainability and CSR. The ecological perspective in sustainability education is the most frequent topic at both undergraduate and graduate levels in Chinese busi-ness schools; the social perspective appears most frequently at the graduate level in US business schools. Furthermore, Chinese business schools use traditional teaching methods, such as textbooks and assignments, whereas US business schools use more participative approaches, such as discussion and case studies.
International organizations, including the United Nations, promote the need for sustainability-related education, and scholars have advocated accreditation-led reforms in sustainability curriculum designs (Evans, Trevino, and Weaver 2006; Læssøe 2010). The current study shows that diverse approaches exist in schools in different national institutional settings, such that an international, institution-led or top-down promotion of sustainability might overlook uniquely national notions and traits related to sustainability. For example, in their sustainability-related courses, Chinese business schools stress environmental stewardship and culture diversity, whereas US business schools emphasize CSR and sustainability. The content of the sustainability curricula reﬂects the local situation. Furthermore, the scope of sustain-ability is largely at the discretion of the organization. Organizations at the local level are most in tune with local conditions. Consequently, we are cautious about recommending top-down or accreditation-led reforms in sustainability curriculum designs, which might overlook local attributes.
Limitations and recommendations for further research
We have made a vigilant effort to provide a balanced discussion of differences in sustainability education. This research is not designed to provide an evaluation of any country’s sustainability effort. In addition, several limitations suggest avenues for further research. First, though the coders underwent rigorous training and care-fully cross checked the results after the data collection, some inconsistencies still could remain. Second, the course content and teaching method analyses might not generalize to all business schools in China and the USA; some university course syllabi were unavailable online. The top business schools in any country experience greater legitimacy pressures, so the results also might not generalize to other busi-ness schools in any nation. Third, instructors may not teach the content in the course syllabi and instead may modify their teaching approaches and course content to ﬁt student needs in different semesters. Fourth, the effectiveness of the sustain-ability-related courses is unknown. Current sustainability curriculum designs may or may not reﬂect business needs. Forth, the results are based on the availability of information in the course syllabus. We have to acknowledge that there are numer-ous instances of unmentioned, sustainability-related course content, which extends beyond what appears on the syllabus. Finally, despite the overall patterns of isomor-phism across the business schools in the same ranking system (Wilkins and Huisman 2011), they still might be diverse within each nation.
In light of these limitations and ﬁndings, further research should evaluate sus-tainability-related courses in more detail to understand student learning performance and satisfaction. Understanding students’ performance and the extent to which they integrate sustainability-related courses into their future actions would provide criti-cal implications for the development of sustainability education. Further research also might compare pedagogical designs of sustainability-related courses in business and engineering schools to broaden the traditional focus on engineering education (Segalas, Ferrer-Balas, and Mulder 2010).
The authors appreciate the National Science Council’s funding support (NSC 100-2410-H-009-047-).
Notes on contributors
Shihping Kevin Huang is an assistant professor of Institute of Management of Technology at National Chiao Tung University. His research interests focus on corporate social responsibility and technology life cycle.
Yu-Lin Wang is an assistant professor in Department of Business Administration at National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan. Her research interests focus on organizational learning and entrepreneurship in small and medium enterprises.
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參加 2012 The Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference 並發表論
I participated in the Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference
between May 31st
and June 3rd
2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The major purpose of the
conference is to exchange research ideas with fellow researchers around the globe.
The Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference stresses on the
interactions between academic community and practitioners through research
meetings. This year the attendants are mostly from Europe and North America. I
presented my paper with the title “Tacit Knowledge Sharing and the Employee
Innovative Behaviors” on June 1st
. The discussion on tacit knowledge is an
important subject in management. At the end of the presentation I have received
several valuable comments from fellow researchers.
參加 2012 The Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference 研討會並
出國目的： The primary objective of this trip is to participate in the 2012 The
Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. The
Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference, Hawaii (MFAR)
publishes articles of interest to members of the Business Community and will provide
leadership in introducing new concepts to its readership. Because business is a diverse
field, articles should address questions utilizing a variety of methods and theoretical
perspectives. The primary goal of the conference will be to provide opportunities for
business related academicians and professionals from various business related fields
in a global realm to publish their paper in one source. The Management, Finance &
Accounting Research Conference, Hawaii (MFAR) will bring together academicians
and professionals from all areas related business fields and related fields to interact
with members inside and outside their own particular disciplines. The conference will
provide opportunities for publishing researcher's paper as well as providing
opportunities to view other's work. All the accepted papers will be published. Doctoral
students are highly encouraged to submit papers to IBMR for competitive review.
出國心得：The Management, Finance & Accounting Research Conference was
the globe to discuss critical issues related to management. The conference is built
around workshops given by organizers consist of industry experts and senior
researchers in the field. I was very delighted to join several workshops throughout this
conference. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with experts in this field.
國科會補助計畫計畫名稱: 永續商學教育之比較：台灣與已開發國家 計畫主持人: 黃仕斌 計畫編號: 100-2410-H-009-047- 學門領域: 策略管理
成果項目實際已達成 數（被接受 或已發表） 預期總達成 數(含實際已 達成數)
質 化 說
明：如 數 個 計 畫
共 同 成 果、成 果
列 為 該 期 刊 之
封 面 故 事 ...
Journal Ranking: Education & Educational Research: 81/203 ；
Environmental Studies: 61/89). (in-press) (NSC100-2410-H-009-047).
成果項目 量化 名稱或內容性質簡述 測驗工具(含質性與量性)