/Giving Voice to the Voiceless for Sustainable Development

Giving Voice to the Voiceless for Sustainable Development


Giving voice to those who lack it ensures that their interests are also heard. This is why voice is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the UNHDR in 1948. Yet, even today, there are many stakeholders in sustainable development, without a voice – the future generations, children and most importantly – Nature.

Acknowledging the Voiceless

The first definition of sustainable development did include the interests of future generations, but that has gone relatively un-noticed.

By making Greta Thunberg an environmental hero, we seem to be beginning to listen to children, even though symbolically.

Scientists’ findings like Planetary Boundaries, the IPCC reports, the rising trends in natural disasters and the call by the WEF founder to treat Nature as a stakeholder are efforts towards giving voice to Nature.

Role of B-Schools – Why and How

Given this backdrop, we ask the question, “What role could and should B-Schools play in giving voice to the voiceless; and how?”

But why should B-Schools have a role at all? As future leaders of organization, today’s generation are not only key stakeholders, but would also be decision makers. They could become a voice for the voiceless. Till date, business decisions have generally exploited the voiceless, while promoting higher consumption driven lifestyles. However, this is unsustainable. Why can’t organizations promote more responsible and sustainable lifestyles?

B-Schools could develop managers convinced of, and committed to sustainable development as a vital necessity for survival of all forms of life on Earth. The present mind-set is like that of an occupant of a tenth-floor apartment complex telling the ground floor occupant crying for help in extinguishing the fire – ‘It’s your problem, not mine!’. The sooner we realize that we all inhabit a single and common Earth, the better it would be for all of us. Business leaders could certainly make a contribution.

How to do so? Here are some pointers.

Aligning B-Schools

New Zealand has given legal recognition of the rights of a river. Indigenous people in Australia, Peru and several other parts of the globe still try to tell us that humans must live in harmony with Nature.  Living in harmony involves taking only what is necessary and giving the rest. All of Nature follows this principle, except modern humans. Business leaders must learn ‘How to give’ from Nature.

The Chancellor of Amrita University – Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – the globally renowned humanitarian leader, never tires of espousing the cause of Nature. She often recounts the teachings of her mother. She urged her children not to succumb to the natural urge to urinate while bathing in the backwaters. “We must consider her (the backwaters) as our mother and remembering so, one can easily overcome the urge”, she told.

B-Schools could align themselves with the need of the hour, and make sustainability as the core of all business education – transgressing the profit motive.

Sustainability in Teaching, Research and Services

B-Schools could embed sustainability principles in all three aspects of a B-school’s life – teaching, research and services. As we design and deliver the curriculum, sustainability could be the central theme in all domains – be it skills, functional knowledge or integrative subjects like strategy.

B-School research could provide innovative thought leadership. Consider for example, the current topic of compensation for ‘Loss and Damage’. It is a contentious issue in the COPs. B-schools could help address the issue differently, through design and implementation of multi-hazard early warning systems that reaches the last mile, thereby minimizing losses.

Finally, students, faculty and staff members in every B-School might compulsorily engage with the members of their vulnerable neighbouring communities, as a part of their regular functioning. Every student may be required to ensure that s/he reaches out to a deserving neighbour, and ensure that s/he receives her / his due in terms of the multiple societal benefits offered by the state and central governments.


In conclusion, we might give voice to the voiceless through advocacy and listen to them through appropriate strategies and policies.

– Prof. Emeritus Dr. Sanjay Banerji