The business of business is to make money. It’s unlikely that will ever change. However, companies and the people who manage them are becoming increasingly aware that to make money in a rapidly changing world and diminishing resources, they need to generate revenue in more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible ways.
So, while the objective of business remains making money, innovative and progressive businesses are starting to adopt a more open management style. Placing greater emphasis on ethical behaviors while minimizing their impact on the environment has been propelled to the forefront.
Motivated by these changes in business thinking, as well as student and faculty demands for more environmental and social content in business programs, business schools across the country are increasingly going green and including ‘sustainability’ in their MBA programs. Welcome the “Green” MBA programs.
What does sustainability mean? Simplistically, sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the possibilities or potential of future generations. Translating this into business terms, sustainable MBA programs look to achieve sustainable objectives by emphasizing a “triple bottom line” for business. This triple bottom line, while still concerned with financial returns, now includes consideration of the social impact in addition to the environmental sustainability of the business decisions.
What’s actually included in a sustainable MBA program varies by school. In general, sustainable MBA programs include course content that covers areas such as carbon emissions and waste management, environmental regulations, corporate social responsibility as well as social entrepreneurship and includes an emphasis on business ethics.
The sustainable MBA appears to have gone mainstream. The increasing prevalence of green business studies can be clearly seen in a biannual study called “Beyond the Grey Pinstripes”, conducted by the Aspen Institute of New York and the World Resources Institute in Washington. This study compares MBA programs in numerous business schools around the world, and ranks them based on their efforts to prepare graduates for the environmental and social responsibilities of management, as well as the traditional financial requirements. Using surveys submitted by the schools themselves, the study determines the top 100 “green” schools based on overall course content, faculty research in environmental concerns and student exposure to both social and environmental issues.
Demonstrating the breadth of the sustainable movement, the most recent “Beyond the Grey Pinstripes” report concluded nationally recognized business schools, Stanford (1), Michigan (2), UC Berkeley (4) and Notre Dame (5) were all in the top 5 for sustainability programs. Also indicating that the “green MBA” movement is happening world wide, not just in the US, a number of foreign business schools including York University – Canada (3), IE Business School (10) and ESADE business school (14) of Spain and RSM (15) in the Netherlands, all ranked in the top 15 sustainable programs.
Additionally, the surveys have shown that over time, some interesting and encouraging trends have developed among all the business schools surveyed. For example, the number of schools that require students to take a course dedicated to business and society issues has almost doubled from 34% in 2001 to 63% in 2007. Since 2005, the number of elective courses per school dedicated to social/environmental content has increased by 20%. A larger proportion of schools (up substantially from the 2005 survey) are including social and environmental content in core business courses such as Accounting, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Strategy.
Sounds good, but are the “big guys” actually buying into the concept? One of the most encouraging facts to emerge from the study of “green” MBA’s is that it’s not just smaller companies and government organizations searching for people educated in sustainable management. Corporate giants such as American Express, Citigroup, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard are all recruiting “green” MBA graduates and are actively supporting the “Grey Pinstripes” project. When businesses of this size embrace sustainable management, the concept has definitely become mainstream.
Full report at http://www.beyondgreypinstripes.org/rankings/bgp_2007_2008.pdf
By Murray Anderson