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Interview with Ela Kurtcu

Studying Responsible Management: »To be “responsible”, organizations should have an overall approach and integrate responsible management principles in every department and function.«

von Regina Rohland, 26. Juli 2016 10:37
The awareness of sustainability, business ethics and Social Entrepreneurship is constantly growing in Germany and other European countries. Therefore, Ela Kurtcu sees great potential of good corporate governance in the private sector, administration and NGOs. She is adegree program coordinator at the private Steinbeis University Berlin ICRM that offers the CSR Masters Course "Responsible Management".

Zur deutschen Übersetzung

Imparted are essential leadership skills and other key skills. The focus is on a holistic understanding of business ethics and the establishment of sustainable aspects in all economic sectors.

You can find a summary of the degree programm here.

What was the need that led to the creation of the "Responsible Management" degree at your university?

Ela Kurtcu: We have been observing a growing demand for consistent and systematic education and research in the fields of CSR, Business Ethics and Sustainability. The issues have usually been handled as topics within other traditional management courses such as Marketing and HR Management. For us, however, it has been crucial to have a holistic approach and teach responsible management principles as an integrated part of every business function. This is how we developed our Program and curricula.

What are strategies and tools for making a company / organisation more sustainable, e.g. where is CSR needed within an organisation? Can you give us a concrete example?

Kurtcu: To be “responsible”, organizations should have an overall approach and integrate responsible management principles in every department and function. For example, if we are talking about the HR department of a company, policies should ensure a good work-life balance for the employees, provide them with adequate options for personal/professional development, etc. There are various guidelines and standards, as well as good-practices, in the field that organizations could refer to. The Ten Principles of Global Compact, ISO 26000 are among the mostly applied tools globally.

How is the course structured and how are in-person classes integrated?

Kurtcu: The Program is composed of 6 modules. 4 of these modules are organized as in-person classes in Berlin. The other 2 are organized as e-learning classes. All the modules present an interactive learning experience, supported with case studies, team-work and alike. Merging theory and practice is a big emphasis in the Program and in all the modules. Students are required to transfer the knowledge and skills they gained in the modules to their study projects and to the organizations where their projects are implemented in.

During the course, students are trained to become leaders in the fields of CSR and sustainability. In your opinion, what are the necessary key qualifications?

Kurtcu: A good leader should have a genuine understanding of why corporations should take responsibility for their economic, social and environmental impacts beyond what is enforced by law. While developing CSR projects in an organization, a good leader should always care for the sustainability of such projects, ensuring their evolvement towards long-lasting CSR programs related to the organization’s core business. Also, it is not always easy to motivate or get the support of other employees and managers for projects in this field. Therefore, a good leader should have network-/change-oriented mindset, alongside other leadership skills. 

To what extent are ethical or philosophical ideas integrated into the course? What meaning / impact might this have in a career?

Kurtcu: Ethical and philosophical roots of corporate responsibility are mainly tackled in the Corporate Ethics Management module. In certain business situations, leaders do not have a direct, clear answer on what is the "responsible" decision to be made. We believe, a philosophical and historical background is needed for leaders pursuing a career in the field – a foundation where they can reflect upon and base their decisions on. 

For whom is the course of study "Responsible Management" suited? Which interests and skills should the candidates bring along?

Kurtcu: The Master’s Program is suited for candidates who want to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for leading/managing in a responsible way. In order to fully benefit from the Program, the candidates should have an interest in (possibly) changing their mindset about what the role of a corporation is or what (traditionally) good management/leadership is about. As responsible management principles should be understood and practiced by professionals from various positions, we do not limit our students’ profile to those who wish –for example- to become CSR managers. Instead, our Program is open to candidates from all kinds of sectors and backgrounds.

Steinbeis University Berlin being a private university, what are the costs for this university degree and which funding opportunities are available?

Kurtcu: M.A. in Responsible Management is an 18-month executive degree program and the tuition fee of the Program is published on the Program website. There is possibility of certain amount of tuition fee scholarship based on the candidate’s academic success and financial background.

What is the professional outlook of graduates with a "Responsible Management" degree? Do you know of some of the current positions of alumni?

Kurtcu: Some of our alumni pursue careers specifically in the field of CSR and work – for example – as CSR consultants in private organizations or CSR managers in companies. Some others work in foundations or other kinds of NGOs that run projects/programs in the field of sustainable development. We also have several graduates who work as – for instance – engineers, HR practitioners or entrepreneurs and bring responsible management knowledge and expertise in their organizations and daily work.

How would you assess the development of sustainability and public responsibility in the economy at the global market and particularly in Germany?

Kurtcu: The development of the issue varies a lot globally. In economically developed countries, there is already a big awareness about corporate responsibility and sustainability among consumers and companies. In relatively less developed countries, however, the topic is at its infancy. In such regions, multinational companies could have a crucial role in bringing related discussions to the market and influencing local organizations’ approach to the topic.

In Germany, and also in overall Europe, we see that responsibility and sustainability have already started to be part of mainstream business. In recent years, we observe a rising emphasis given to innovation and entrepreneurship as driving forces for sustainable economic growth. This has implications on responsible management and related topics as well. For example, innovation seems to become an important element in companies’ CSR programs, as an evolved term of Corporate Social Innovation. Also, given the increased awareness about corporate responsibility, entrepreneurs are more and more looking into establishing and running their business responsibly already from early stages.

Following these developments, we are also taking a new additional direction in responsible management education and launching a new study track in Impact Entrepreneurship and Innovation this year.

More about the program "Responsible Management" on the website of the Steinbeis University Berlin ICRM.

Zur deutschen Übersetzung

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