Written by Jarin Eisenberg

If you follow the news, you are probably aware that the United Nations (UN) Climate Summit took place recently in New York. The main focus of this year’s summit was the impact that climate change is having on people and the environment, and the responsibility that countries and companies carry for finding solutions to a global problem.

The 2014 summit highlighted the concept of interdependence among nations. For example, a drought in Australia affects the availability and price of meat in many other countries. Therefore, we all have a stake in taking action that focuses on sustainability and preservation.

At a time when corporate profits are reported to be hitting historic highs in the United States while wage growth is lagging, what role do corporations have in addressing social and economic issues? Some observers contend that businesses have a moral obligation to the people and communities that fuel their financial success.

Indeed, a growing number of companies are stepping up to address such vital tasks as cutting greenhouse emissions, and helping people in poor countries withstand severe weather changes that affect their livelihood and food supply. More than 8,000 businesses in nearly 150 nations are participating in the United Nations’ Global Compact, a voluntary program that promotes corporate citizenship and sustainability in areas such as human rights and the environment.

The increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is influenced, in part, by the wants and expectations of students. In a 2009 study conducted by Net Impact and the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education, only 4% of MBA students strongly agreed that corporations were working toward the betterment of society, while 34% indicated that their own values would likely conflict with their tasks in the business world.

The desire of students to work for companies that are socially minded is clear: 71% of students in graduate business programs said they would take a 15% pay cut in order to get a job with a company that is committed to environmental and corporate responsibility, according to a 2014 report by Net Impact.

Such statistics raise important questions for students in Master of Business Administration degree programs. How can you use the knowledge you gain in the classroom, whether on-campus or online, to help others around the world? How can technology and management practices boost people’s standard of living?

Take, for example, Heifer International, a global nonprofit organization that is working with Peruvian women who raise alpaca. By giving the farmers Internet access and teaching them how to use tools such as Excel, PowerPoint and Photoshop, the charity is helping the women to sell their products worldwide, as well as keep better track of demand and prices.

So, as you make your way through your undergraduate or graduate business degree program, think about how you want to impact the world. How can business practices and philosophies be applied to solve global social problems? How can you use your knowledge and skills to help others?

Jarin Eisenberg is program coordinator for online degree programs at the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business at Florida Institute of Technology, where she also is a Sociology instructor. To learn more about Eisenberg and her work at Florida Tech, read our interview here.

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