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Business students have a positive attitude towards sustainable development

According to researchers, awareness of students’ values and attitudes is crucial for the development of teaching.
The photo shows School of Business students studying together.

As business school students are the experts and leaders of tomorrow, their attitudes towards sustainable development will affect the entire society. A recent study reveals that business students have a rather positive attitude towards sustainable development.

Kuvassa näkyy Senior Adviser Merja Halme.
Senior Adviser Merja Halme.

‘Our research indicated that university-level business students actually have slightly more positive attitudes towards sustainable development than the national control group,’ says Senior Fellow Merja Halme.

‘One explanation for the positive result may be that current education highlights sustainable development to an increasing degree.’

Halme and her researcher colleagues measured business students’ values and attitudes and examined how they connect to attitudes towards sustainable development. In addition, the researchers compared business students to corresponding groups from all over Finland.

The business students examined in the study were Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students at the Aalto University School of Business, and the rest of the data was compiled from comparable national materials.

Business students would change their lifestyles to protect the environment

Business students’ values were somewhat different than those of the control group. Business students were more open to changes than the control group and they considered pursuing personal success and a higher social status, for example, more important than the control group.

Business students’ attitude towards sustainable development was slightly more positive than that of the control group, and they were more willing to pay a higher price for environmentally friendly products and to change their lifestyles for the benefit of the environment.

Kuvassa näkyy professori Markku Kuula.
Professor Markku Kuula.

Professor Markku Kuula believes that the strong presence of sustainable development in today’s business education has shaped the students’ attitudes in a positive way.

‘The status of sustainable development in university-level business education has improved over the past few years. The Aalto University School of Business, too, is committed to promoting sustainable development in all its activities. In the study, we propose that instruction should take account of the students’ current values and attitudes to achieve the best results.’

Values and attitudes affect the adoption of new ideas

The research group proposes that the university should set teaching objectives that would be monitored by, for example, measuring students’ values and attitudes on a regular basis. 

‘The message of sustainable development cannot be promoted by merely increasing the amount of teaching on the topic. Instead, we should invest in the qualitative development of teaching and set appropriate teaching objectives. Students’ values and attitudes strongly influence the way in which they adopt new ideas. If we teachers are aware of them, we can make our teaching more suitable and effective for the target group,’ says Halme. 

More information:

Senior Fellow Merja Halme
Aalto University School of Business, Department of Information and Service Management
[email protected]
+358 40 353 8081

Professor Markku Kuula
Aalto University School of Business, Department of Information and Service Management
[email protected]
+358 50 521 8800

Research article:

Bask Anu, Halme Merja, Kallio Markku, Kuula Markku. Business students’ value priorities and attitudes towards sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production 2020. doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.121711.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652620317583

Sustainable development at the School of Business
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