The Top Business Schools for Sustainability
Sustainability is taking over at business schools.
In recent years, MBA programs around the world have accelerated the push to teach sustainability from resource use to sustainable accounting.
Corporate Knights recently released its 2018 Better World MBA Ranking—a comprehensive ranking of MBA programs on their sustainability performance.
This year, Warwick Business School topped the list for sustainability. Last year’s runner-up, Warwick swapped spots with the University of Exeter Business School. The top five were rounded out by the Schulich School of Business at Canada’s York University, the Griffith Business School of Australia, and the University of Vermont.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SUSTAINABILITY?
Sustainability is an all-encompassing term. In the MBA world, sustainability is commonly referred to as a “green MBA.”
“MBAs with a concentration in sustainability are unique in that they focus specifically on the intersection of sustainability and business success and ethics, using the well-trodden framework of a conventional Master of Business Administration to advance sustainability principles,” Nikki Gloudeman, a writer at GreenBiz, explains.
To many, sustainability may ring notions of the environment. But the term also includes social sustainability.
“Social issues are a critical part of sustainability, and no social impact may be as important as those affecting diversity, inclusion and marginalization,” according to Corporate Knights.
Corporate Knight’s Better World MBA Ranking considers a number of factors. The ranking automatically includes all schools featured in the most recent Financial Times MBA Ranking.
Schools were graded on five main factors: institutes and centers, curriculum, faculty research, female diversity and racial diversity.
Institutes and centers, the first factor, was given a weight of 10% and was measured by “counting the number of research institutes and centers up to a maximum of five that are fully or substantially dedicated to areas of sustainable development.”
The curriculum factor earned a 30% weight. Curriculum was measured by “determining the proportion of a school’s mandatory courses in its full-time MBA program that integrate relevant sustainable development themes.”
Research was the third factor and was weighted 50%. Corporate Knights considered two sources when it came to research: “the number of peer-reviewed publications in academic journals with sustainable development topics between 2015 and 2017 that were authored or co-authored by a faculty member of the business school, and the number of citations per faculty member.”
Gender diversity was given a 5% weight. This factor was determined by examining the percentage of women faculty at each business school.
Lastly, racial diversity was given 5% weight and was measured by “looking at the percentage of faculty members who can be identified by photo, name or biography as clearly not part of a country’s majority race or ethnic group.” Interestingly enough, Corporate Knights compared the diversity of a school’s faculty with the overall diversity of the country where the school is based.
WHAT DO THESE RANKINGS INDICATE?
Corporate Knight’s Better World MBA Rankings cover a ton of ground. But the ranking highlights an important shift in the business world.
For one, businesses are becoming increasingly conscious of how they are affecting the world around them.
“There isn’t a business on the planet that doesn’t require an executive to be mindful of environmental and social impacts,” according to Corporate Knights.
That consciousness has serious environmental considerations.
“Petroleum and mining companies, working on the edge of human civilization, have long faced criticism for changing landscapes and discharging waste,” according to Corporate Knights. “Tech firms, which might seem insulated from scrutiny because they’re headquartered in big cities, own electricity-hungry data centers and source their metals from mines in the developing world.”
But it also encompasses social impact.
“Companies are routinely accused of underpaying or underrepresenting women, people of colour, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ+,” according to Corporate Knights.
Steve Howard, the former chief sustainability officer at Ikea, summed up the importance of sustainability recently at Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit in London.
“Real change is hard, so doing what you did last year and doing it slightly better is what we tend to do in larger businesses,” Howard said. “But the power of going 100% all-in, from a target point of view, is breath-taking. When you set a 100% target, you create absolute clarity on what the future looks like.”
Check out which school made the cut in this year’s Corporate Knights sustainability ranking.