This contribution maintains that it is in the private sector’s interest to actively participate in reconceiving education for societal well being. It posits that there are win-win opportunities for companies and national governments as they cultivate human capital. Indeed, companies can create synergistic value for both business and society. Such a strategic approach can result in new business models and cross-sector collaborations that will inevitably lead to operational efficiencies, cost savings and significant improvements to the firms’ bottom lines. The CSR initiatives in education can also help organisations to improve the recruitment and retention of talented employees. This paper has reported that employees want to be part of organisations that genuinely demonstrate their concern for society. There was mention of strategic philanthropic initiatives that manifest corporate behaviours that also satisfy much of the stakeholders’ aspirations. Organisations can always make use effective CSR communications to attract the best employees and talent pool from the labour market. Ideally, businesses ought to treat employees as internal customers as it is critical for their long term success. In a sense, the organisational culture and its commitment for CSR engagement can play an integral role, in this regard. In fact, CSR and environment sustainability issues are increasingly becoming ubiquitous practices in different contexts, particularly for the youngest work force.
This research indicated that there is a business case for corporate sustainable and responsible behaviours. Besides, minimising staff turnover, CSR may lead to systematic benefits including employee productivity, corporate reputation and operational efficiencies. This implies that CSR is an antecedent for an optimal financial performance (towards achieving profitability, increasing sales, return on investment et cetera). At the same time, the businesses’ CSR engagement could create significant value to society as well. The corporations’ involvement in setting curricula and relevant course programmes may also help to improve the effectiveness of education systems across many contexts. It is imperative that businesses become key stakeholders in the provision of education and training. There is a possibility that CSR programmes could reconnect the businesses’ economic success with societal progress. Proactive companies who engage in strategic CSR behaviours could uncover new business opportunities (Lauring and Thomsen, 2008) and achieve competitive advantage (Porter and Kramer, 2006). Indeed, businesses are in a position to nurture employees by enhancing their knowledge and skill sets. This will inevitably lead to more competent staff and to significant improvements in work productivity among other benefits.
CSR can be reconceived strategically for business and educational outcomes. This research has given specific examples of how different organisations were engaging in responsible behaviours with varying degrees of intensity and success. It has identified cost effective and efficient operations. It reported measures which were enhancing the human resources productivity. Other practices sought to engage in philanthropic practices and stewardship principles. Indeed there are positive outcomes that represent a leap forward for the CSR agenda. This contribution reiterated that it is in the businesses’ self-interest to maintain good relations with employees. Evidently, there is more to CSR than public relations, greenwashing and posturing behaviours. Businesses need to engage with stakeholders and to forge long lasting relationships with them. Corporate responsible behaviours bring reputational benefits, enhance the firms’ image among external stakeholders and often lead to a favourable climate of trust and cooperation within the company itself (Herzberg et al., 2011). A participative leadership will also boost the employees’ morale and job satisfaction. This will also lead to lower staff turnover rates and greater productivity levels in workplace environments (Fida et al., 2014). Notwithstanding, there are many businesses that still need to align their organisational culture and business ethos in order to better embrace responsible behavioural practices.
Governments also have an important role to play. They can take an active leading role in triggering corporate responsible behaviours in education. Greater efforts are required by policy makers, the private sector and other stakeholders. The governments could give reasonable incentives (through financial resources in the form of grants or tax relief) and enforce regulation in certain areas where responsible behaviour is necessary. They need to maintain two-way communication systems with stakeholders. This paper posited that the countries’ educational outcomes and their curriculum programmes should better respond to the employers’ requirements. Therefore, educational programmes ought to instil students with relevant knowledge and skills that are really required by business and industry. Several governments, particularly those from developing nations ought to step up with their commitment to develop new solutions to help underprivileged populations and subgroups. New solutions could better address the diverse needs of learners and prospective employees. This research indicated that there is scope for governments to work in collaboration with corporations in order to improve the employability of tomorrow’s human resources.
Research Limitations and Future Research Avenues
It must be recognised that there are various forms of businesses out there, hailing from diverse sectors and industries. In addition, there are many stakeholder influences, which can possibly affect the firms’ level of social responsibility toward education. It is necessary for governments to realise that they need to work alongside business practitioners in order to reconceive education and life-long learning for all individuals in society. The majority of employers that were mentioned in this research were representative of a few corporations that are based in the most developed economies. Yet, there could be different CSR practices across diverse contexts. Future research could consider different sampling frames, methodologies and analyses which may yield different outcomes.
This contribution has put forward the ‘shared value’ approach in education (Camilleri, 2014; Porter and Kramer, 2011). It is believed that since this relatively ‘new’ proposition is relatively straightforward and uncomplicated, it may be more easily understood by business practitioners themselves. In a nutshell, this synergistic value notion requires particular focus on the human resources’ educational requirements. At the same time, ‘shared value’ also looks after the stakeholders’ needs (Camilleri, 2015). This promising concept could contribute towards bringing long term sustainability by addressing economic and societal deficits in the realms of education. A longitudinal study in this area of research could possibly investigate the long term effects of involving the business and industry in setting curriculum programmes and relevant learning outcomes. Presumably, shared value can be sustained only if there is a genuine commitment to organisational learning for corporate sustainability and responsibility, and if there is the willingness to forge long lasting relationships with key stakeholders.
The corporations’ social responsibility in the provision of education has potential to create shared value as it opens up new opportunities for business and society. There are competitive advantages that may arise from nurturing human resources (McKenzie and Woodruff, (2013), Kehoe and Wright (2013) and Hunt and Michael, (1983). As firms reap profits and grow, they can generate virtuous circles of positive multiplier effects. In a way, businesses could create value for themselves as well as for society by sponsoring educational institutions, specific courses and individuals. In conclusion, this contribution puts forward the following recommendations to foster an environment where businesses are encouraged to become key stakeholders in education:
• Promotion of business processes that bring economic, social and environmental value through the encouragement of innovative and creative approaches in continuous professional development and training in sustainable and responsible practices; including socially responsible investing (SRI), responsible supply chain management, the circular economy, responsible procurement of sustainable products, consumer awareness of sustainability / eco labels, climate change and the environmental awareness;
• Enhancement of collaborations and partnership agreements between governments, business and industry leaders, trade unions and civil society. There should be an increased CSR awareness, continuous dialogue, constructive communication and trust among all stakeholders.
• National governments ought to create regulatory frameworks which encourage and enable the businesses’ participation in the formulation of educational programmes and their curricula.
• Policy makers should ensure that there are adequate levels of performance in areas such as employee health and safety, suitable working conditions and sustainable environmental practices among business and industry.