How Georgetown Became A Leader In Sustainability

Everyone is talking about sustainability. Prashant Malaviya wants to talk about it, too.

Malaviya, professor of marketing and senior associate dean of MBA programs at Georgetown University’s McDonough School in Washington, D.C., says Georgetown — by virtue of its location in the U.S. capital and its foundation as a Jesuit university — is uniquely positioned to lead in the new sustainability-focused era of business education.

“We have a few unique assets that are difficult to replicate for other schools and other institutions, not just business schools,” Malaviya says. “We are in Washington, D.C. This gives us access to government and policy and regulators and the lawyers and diplomats — all of that ecosystem is there, where a lot of the discussions around sustainability are playing out. Ultimately, they either nudge corporations to move in a certain way, or they provide the incentives. So the carrots and sticks are being wielded by all of those institutions.

“And we are part of Georgetown University, which itself is investing quite significantly in this space, and we are a nearly 250-year-old Jesuit institution: The idea of women and men being in service to others, the idea that change happens through education, is deeply embedded in the Jesuit values and the Jesuit way of life.”

AT GEORGETOWN, A LONG LIST OF SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS 

Prashant Malaviya

Whether it’s called sustainability or ESG (environmental, social and governance) or CSR (corporate social responsibility) or simply “business for good,” it is inarguably the most important development in graduate business business education over the last decade. Every major business school in the United States and Europe has established a slate of sustainability offerings, with varying levels of commitment but always with the promise of more. Dwarfing them all: Stanford University’s launch, through a $1.1 billion gift, of the Doerr School of Sustainability, with which the Graduate School of Business is expected to partner on major initiatives. The first new school at Stanford in seven decades opens its doors this fall.

The programming evolution at the world’s business schools reflects a broader shift to more sustainable business practices that has been well underway for many years, a clarion call that is only growing louder: According to a newly released report by professional services network KPMG, as colleges and universities increasingly tie environmental criteria to their endowment investment strategies, asset managers are predicting that more than a third of the projected $140.5 trillion of global assets under management will be sustainable investing assets by 2025. In Washington, a political, economic, and cultural crossroads where the shift to sustainability has long been anticipated, Georgetown’s McDonough School — with a comprehensive list of courses and programs focused on sustainability in the context of business — is ready to meet the moment. The offerings include the Sustainable Business Fellows program for undergraduates and an MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business, as well as an MBA that currently boasts more than a dozen sustainability-focused courses, from Environmentally Sustainable Operations and Business Models to Corporate Social Responsibility to Understanding Social Innovation, Business of Sustainable Energy and Technology, and Impact Investing. The B-school’s Business of Sustainability Initiative includes more than 14 faculty members producing research on sustainability-related subjects and 15 who teach sustainability-related courses; it boasts 11 company projects completed in just two years of existence.

Perhaps most significantly, the McDonough School is an active partner in Georgetown University’s Earth Commons Institute, with which it has launched a new Master of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Management that will welcome its first students in August. Spearheaded by Vishal Agrawal, associate professor and academic director of the Sustainable Business Fellows program, the 11-month master’s integrates business and science to help students better approach today’s climate and environmental challenges, with a goal to graduate leaders who can bridge the gap between environmental science and business for a more sustainable future.

‘A UNIQUE, INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVE’

As much as location and history play vital roles in Georgetown’s embrace of sustainability, Malaviya says, there are more important considerations at work. “It is the duty of every citizen on the planet,” he says, “to protect and nurture our common home that we live on.”

That’s the essential purpose of Earth Commons, says Malaviya, and the new M.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Management.

“This is the Earth, it is a common home for all of us,” he says. “That is something that is important for the future of humanity, and we want to play a role in it, because of who we are, because of our heritage, because of our history. So the business school obviously has to play a role in it. We were thinking of doing it in any case, and the fact that the university is committing resources to it made our job a lot easier.

“I think it’s really a matter of investing in resources in a smart way. The new degree that is being launched is a joint degree with the university and the business school, which is a unique kind of a degree at Georgetown — as far as I can tell, there is no other joint graduate degree at the university. It combines the science of environmental sustainability with the business of environmental sustainability — a unique, interdisciplinary perspective that we hope to give our students.”

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