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Sustainability in the MBA Curriculum

What is sustainability?

Isn’t that the $64,000 question?

These days, sustainability is seemingly an umbrella term that incorporates conservation, social justice, and business ethics. For business schools, teaching sustainability entails the creation of business models that balance the bottom line with long-term needs of the larger community.

And that brings up the million dollar question: How can sustainability be better woven into the MBA curriculum?

This week, The Guardian reached out to educators, business leaders, and students for their solutions. Here are some of their insights:


“As our MBA coursework currently lacks a sustainability focus, I began attending regional conferences to meet actors in the field. One meeting with a co-founder of a social innovation incubator, Impact Hub Geneva, led to an MBA class visit to the Hub for a course in sustainability. More recently I organised a conference on careers in social business with like-minded students which included an EM Lyon alumnus, the director of social business at Renault SAS.

These student initiatives not only spread awareness, but they also let programme directors know how they can improve to meet growing demand.”

– Sydney Perkins-Martinie, MBA student at EM Lyon

“I graduated from Wharton in 2009. Unable to find a major that examined finance for social good, I created an individualised major from courses in business and public policy, markets, and regulation. Five years later, the school has a Social Venture Fund and courses on impact investment, the result of bottom-up student lobbying and top-down strategic decisions by the schools’ governing bodies.

…The critical catalyst for change will be a highly public tipping point in key constituents’ preferences. If we want a greater focus on the tools of sustainable finance in business schools, then the alumni, boards, current students and prospective students need to ask for it.”

– Madeleine Evans, senior analyst, TPG Capital and founder Finance Matters

“…Every business school today touts efforts in sustainability. Few have horizontally added, let alone integrated it, within the traditional core.

Any time I teach a non-sustainability-titled course (this year it was a new “Global Macro Trends” course) which attracts the sustainability virgins, they are gob-smacked at the water, waste, energy and climate change issues that are already constraining business’s ability to succeed. “Wow, we learned accounting as if climate change externalities did not exist,” is the common student light bulb moment.”

– Kellie McElhaney, Whitehead Faculty Fellow, Corporate Sustainability, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

“The One Planet MBA, run by the University of Exeter Business School in partnership with WWF International, is now four years old. Over that time, we’ve seen many businesses shift their view, from sustainability being considered a specialist function, to it becoming increasingly integrated in all aspects of their organisations. But business schools and universities are inherently conservative institutions, and innovation in programmes and curricula is slow.

It takes some boldness to do what we did: completely reinvent an entire programme to base it on sustainability. And it requires working across disciplinary boundaries, often difficult given academia’s focus on disciplinary expertise. These are supply-side challenges, however. Our experience is that students and businesses want programmes that prepare managers to build and lead companies that are resilient and are capable of creating long-term value. The demand side of the market will, eventually, drive the innovation in business education that is needed.

– Robin Mason, dean and professor of economics, University of Exeter Business School

To read additional advice, click on The Guardian link below.

Don’t Miss: The Top B-Schools for Sustainability

Source: The Guardian