The Business School Putting Sustainability At The Center Of Its MBA

The goal of IMD’s sustainability shift “is not to become the next green MBA, where people only study at IMD if they want to work in the sustainability department of a company,” says incoming Dean Omar Toulan. “The goal is to give people the skills that they’ll need not just in their first job, but five or ten years down the road”


When it came to redesigning the program, Toulan’s team first did an audit of the current curriculum. From there, it did a series of iterations to develop 10 key skills that allMBA graduates need in order to tackle sustainability issues upon graduation. These skills will help students learn how to define challenges, critically analyze them from various perspectives, collaborate with others, and develop impactful solutions.

Some of these skills include sustainable finance and risk management, building resilient and adaptive organizations, impact measurement, responsible consumption, and sustainable growth. Each skill is integrated into the program’s framework and core courses, and cover four themes: climate and nature, equity and society, governance, and pandemic recovery.

To develop these 10 skills, the team did their research; they looked at what sustainability employers were looking for, read academic literature on sustainability, dove into findings from the WBCSD, and looked at what other schools were offering in regards to sustainability education. Then, the team sought professor insights to develop the final 10 skills and determine how to best incorporate them into the core courses.


On top of redesigning the class content to focus on solving problems in sustainability,
Toulan is also adding further experiential learning opportunities, such as kicking off the MBA with a Mountain Experience workshop in the Alps.

This workshop is all about the sustainability agenda. Day one is held on campus January 7, and includes a keynote speech by Peter Bakker, president of the WBCSD, followed by a panel of professors and alumni.

Then, January 9 the students head to the Alps for two days of bonding and learning activities. There, several professors will speak about the importance of purpose and resilience, and one of the authors of WBCSD’s upcoming book, Vision 2050, will present to the class.


While the original Vision 2050 book was published in 2010, the updated version is scheduled to be published March 2022 and is integral to the program’s teachings, specifically at the Mountain Experience.

The newest Vision 2050 provides the business community with a framework to collectively move beyond business as usual and make real, lasting change for a better world. It lays out nine actionable steps for companies, and covers all areas of business activities that are essential to society. These pathways include energy, transportation and mobility, living spaces, products and materials, financial products and services, connectivity, health and wellbeing, water and sanitization, and food. Each pathway aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the Paris Agreement. Plus, each emphasizes the importance of collaboration, which is an integral factor in creating transformation by 2050.


Aside from the Mountain Experience to kick off the program, the redesigned IMD MBA also gives students the opportunity to participate in other learning activities — out of the classroom.

In March, there will be a two-day workshop led by one of IMD’s professors — who is also a member of the WBCSD — on the science of sustainability. “We want to make sure we actually get to the hard core science; we don’t just want to talk about policy; but rather we want to dive into and understand the science behind it,” says Toulan.

In May there will be an innovation week which focuses on design thinking when solving sustainability problems. Then, in June, students will have the opportunity to leverage those skills in a two-day, company-based sustainability challenge.

All participants will also complete a Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) certification as part of the core finance course to give them a leg up in their sustainability careers.

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