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Yale SOM, Berkeley Haas Faculty Call For Climate Change Core

Climate change must become part of business schools’ core curriculum, say faculty experts at 30 global business schools. Photo: Trinity Business School, Dublin

The urgency of climate change is not lost on the world of graduate business education. The latest to raise the alarm: B-school professors. A survey of 169 faculty experts at elite B-schools across the globe, released today (March 19), finds that most believe the issue is so important that schools must make climate change a part of their core curriculum.

The survey, conducted from December 12 through 23, 2018, by the Global Network for Advanced Management, a coalition of 30 top business schools in 28 countries around the world, finds that top B-school professors from around the world believe that the climate crisis is here and that both businesses and business schools must adapt now. It also finds that profs believe there is no single policy solution, business approach, or MBA course that will do the trick — and that what the situation calls for instead is broad-based, real-time experimentation and rapid learning about what works and what doesn’t.

Current curricula leave many MBA candidates lacking the skills to lead businesses effectively amid climate change’s environmental and geopolitical risks to their operations, says David Bach, deputy dean for academic programs and professor in the practice of management at Yale School of Management, one of two U.S. B-schools, along with UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, with membership in the Global Network. The time to act is now and cross-pollination is key, Bach says, “and the Global Network was designed precisely to support such efforts, connecting business leaders, scholars, and students worldwide.”

“For me, the main takeaway from the survey is that climate change is not some abstract future risk — it’s something that is here, its effects are clear, and business must take action now and not discuss what action it might take in the future,” Bach tells Poets&Quants.

‘TOPIC MUST BE A CORE CONSIDERATION AND NOT RELEGATED TO AN ELECTIVE’

David Bach, deputy dean for academic programs and professor in the practice of management at Yale School of Management. Yale SOM photo

Yale helped launch the Global Network in 2012, bringing in 20 other schools as members. Membership has since grown to 30 schools; besides Yale SOM and UC-Berkeley Haas, there are member schools on every populated continent, among them HEC Paris, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, Lagos Business School of Pan-Atlantic University Nigeria, IE Business School of Spain, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School, and ESMT BerlinThe new “Faculty Flash Survey” is the Global Network’s first; Bach says the group’s goal is to conduct three or four polls per year on various subjects, with possible future survey subjects including Brexit and the future of work.

The Global Network’s inaugural report finds that professors at its member schools overwhelmingly agree that climate change and its impact on business and society should be incorporated into the core MBA curriculum, with 93% saying climate change poses a material risk to business across sectors. “Cases about climate risks and opportunities (innovations) should become part of the core curriculum in every kind of course,” says William Rosenzweig, Sustainable Food Initiative social impact fellow at UC-Berkeley Haas. There’s hardly a consensus on what that should look like, however, with survey responses running the gamut from emphasizing the risks of climate change to discussing its opportunities by giving business students lessons in climate-driven risks and rewards.

“Climate change was once the concern of climate scientists, activists, and lobbyists. Now, it’s integrated into every field of work,” says Teresa Chahine, social entrepreneurship lecturer at Yale SOM. “Climate and health, agriculture, energy, urban planning, policy making — it’s cross-cutting. To lead a successful business, you have to be aware of global shifts and risks — and you have to be a leader in shaping rather than surviving hot trends (pun intended!).”

Adds Audrey Chia, associate professor at the National University of Singapore Business School: “It is imperative that business schools seriously assess the business impact of climate change, and develop solutions. The topic must be a core consideration and not relegated to an elective.”

CLIMATE CHANGE ‘REPRESENTS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY’

In the survey, 86% of faculty experts agree that businesses cannot depend on governmental action to slow climate change. They further expressed strong positive support for companies incorporating climate risk when making decisions about “investments, innovation, relationships, and talent acquisition.” More than 70% say companies should incorporate climate change into business decisions to address significant concerns about the sustainability of physical operations and supply chains.

“This isn’t a topic anymore for an elective course on sustainability,” Yale’s David Bach says. “This is a topic that increasingly goes to the very heart of decisions about investment, about organizing supply chains, about product innovation and other issues.”

For B-schools, it’s a question, experts agree, of responsibility.

“In an ideal world, our governments, under an organized global umbrella such as the UN, will come up with practical systems to control and curb greenhouse gas emissions,” says Majid Ghorbani, Renmin University School of Business, China. “While we wait for that desired date when all governments act together, it is up to individuals and businesses to come up with a solution and avoid the point of no return. Schools around the world have a fiduciary responsibility to help with raising awareness and teaching future managers to care and take more action than our and previous generations did.”

“Climate change represents such an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of business to create a sustainable future,” says Robert Strand, executive director of the Haas Center for Responsible Business. “To achieve this, we must collectively reframe the narrative of business about purpose first and where profits are a byproduct.”

(See more data from the Global Network for Advanced Management survey on page 2.)