For better or for worse, the Nottingham University Business School is now offering an MBA in Corporate Social Responsibility

According to the programme’s website:

The MBA in CSR is a unique programme combining advanced teaching and learning in management with state of the art thinking in corporate social responsibility. This combination allows progressive learning at the leading edge of knowledge in the general discipline of management studies and socially responsible business.

Most people will see this as unremarkable, the natural consequence of the whole “ethics thing” coming of age.

The problem: While it’s true that, for some people, “CSR” is simply a synonym for “business ethics,” (i.e., the study of right & wrong decision-making in business), it’s more often used to describe a particular thesis about what responsibilities business actually has. From that point of view, CSR is the thesis that firms have obligations to return benefits to “society” beyond the benefits they typically provide (namely providing goods & services, providing employment, building wealth, and paying taxes).

It’s perhaps an unfortunate accident of vocabulary that the term “Corporate Social Responsibility” came to mean a particular view about the social responsibilities of corporations, rather than simply meaning the study of what social responsibilities corporations may have. None the less, it does have that meaning. And it’s a worrisome thing, I think, to have an MBA programme apparently dedicated to a particular, not-uncontroversial, normative thesis.

[Thanks to Andrew Potter.]

3 comments so far

  1. Isha Mitra on

    Dear Chris..

    I have got an offer for MBA in CSR at Nottinghma Univ.
    i just came across your blog. what would you suggest, is it worth taking up the course?
    I have done my masters in Human Development, and have been working for the past 3 years.. with 2 years in CSR.

    Would love to hear from you..
    thanks & regards

    isha mitra

  2. Chris MacDonald on


    Congratulations on being offered admission to the programme.

    It’s pretty hard for me to say whether it’s worthwhile. There’s plenty of controversy over the exact value of an MBA — I suspect it depends very much on your career objectives. I’ve also heard it said that the networking you do during your MBA is at least as important, in the end, as the stuff you learn.
    In those regards, it could well be that a “CSR” branded MBA might be especially useful for particular career objectives, independent of my concerns about the terminology.


  3. Isha Mitra on

    thanks chris…

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