Doing Social Good as an MBA
For Angad Singh Padda, there’s a difference between doing good business and engaging in the business of doing good.
In his May 2017 graduation speech to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Padda discussed using his business degree to do social good in the world.
“Whenever there’s a kid in Oakland who can’t afford school, that’s a problem,” Padda said in his speech. “Whenever climate change wipes out a species, that’s a problem. Whenever a Muslim woman gets bullied because of her hijab, or a Jewish man because of his yarmulke, or a Sikh man because of his turban, that is a problem.”
Using business students to solve these societal problems is one thing that Ivan Bofarull, director of global insights and strategic initiatives at Spain’s Esade, argues for in his Financial Times article.
“Global full-time MBAs hardly have any engagement and impact on the city in which they live and study for up to two years,” Bofarull writes. “If local authorities knew they were there, they could use these students to help solve social problems, such as homelessness in San Francisco, or unemployment among young adults in Paris or Barcelona.”
Social Good Initiatives
There are a number of opportunities available to MBA students who wish to apply their education to accomplishing social good.
MBAs Across America is an initiative that brings MBAs and entrepreneurs together over a summer to revitalize small towns across America.
At New York University’s Stern School of Business, a new Center for Sustainable Business aims to incorporate sustainability into the MBA through co-curricular platforms, experiential learning, and executive course. In an interview with Clear Admit, Center for Sustainable Business Director Tensie Whelan says that business students can have a real impact on sustainability and social good.
“We need more business leaders in finance who are looking to incorporate sustainability into their investment decisions,” she tells Clear Admit. “On the consulting side, I believe that more and more consulting efforts will be focused on helping companies transition to become more sustainable. It is exciting to have students going into these sectors where they will have real impact.”
Mainstream Wall Street Firms Can Do Good Too
For MBAs who want to contribute to social good, non-profit and social enterprises offer a number of opportunities to have a social impact. Yet, more traditional financial firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, are also focusing on “impact investing” and “sustainable investing” that aim to build stronger and more sustainable communities, according to the Fast Company.
The Healthy Futures Fund (HFF) is a $200 million initiative by Morgan Stanley, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and The Kresge Foundation.
“HFF is connecting health care and affordable housing for low-income residents. It responds to the clear association between poverty and disease by incorporating a health lens into traditional community development work. And it supports broader efforts to improve the quality of life in distressed neighborhoods,” according to the HFF website.
At consulting firm McKinsey, Focusing Capital on the Long Term (FCLT) is a non-profit initiative that encourages a “longer-term focus in business and investment decision-making by developing practical tools and approaches to support long-term behaviors across the investment value chain,” according to FCLTGlobal’s website.
Cities Should Lead MBAs to Solve Social Issues
In his Financial Times article, Bofarull argues that social good efforts should be “localized” and led by cities. He references how innovative companies, such as Google, form specialized teams that focus on accomplishing “radical growth” projects.
Such a model, Bofarull argues, could be applied to city initiatives aimed at accomplishing social good.
“These teams should be formed of MBAs as well as a diverse pool of scientists or designers,” Bofarull writes. “Students from MBA, design and engineering programs work together to find market solutions to great scientific discoveries.”
Both cities and MBA students would benefit from this relationship, Bofarull argues. On the one hand, cities would have clear benefits from the skilled work that MBAs provide. On the other, MBAs develop important and useful entrepreneurial skills.
“Ultimately it will be a high-value experience and can be applied to any job following an MBA,” Bofarull writes.