Ranking: The Top MBAs for Sustainability
More business schools are incorporating sustainability content into their curricula.
This year’s Corporate Knights Better World ranking assessed the most sustainable MBA programs globally and found that top-40 schools as a whole are demonstrating a growing commitment towards sustainability. At the top of this year’s list was Australia’s Griffith Business School—ranked the most sustainable MBA program in the world for the third year in a row.
This year’s ranking also saw a growth in the proportion of citations per faculty on sustainability-related articles in peer-reviewed journals—which climbed to an average of 31% this year compared to 27% last year. While citations on sustainability grew this year, progress slowed on the presence of diverse faculty, with top-40 schools reporting an average of 23% compared to 33% a year ago.
The 2022 Corporate Knights Better World ranking examined the performances of 160 business schools in total. Based on publicly disclosed information on their websites, schools are evaluated on seven metrics and are given the opportunity to review and request revisions to the analysis. The seven key performance indicators include:
- Core course integration of sustainability (30% weight)
- Research publications per faculty member on sustainability topics in calendar year 2021 (20% weight)
- Percent of total faculty publications in 2021 on sustainability topics (20% weight)
- Number of citations per faculty for those publications (10% weight)
- Sustainability-focused research institutes and centers (10% weight)
- Faculty gender diversity (5% weight)
- Faculty racial diversity (5% weight)
This year’s ranking also included a bonus indicator on Alumni impact, which gave an additional 5% weight.
GRIFFITH LEADS THE WAY
Griffith Business School earned its seat at number one in large part due to the B-school’s top marks for rich core content. According to Corporate Knights, Griffith’s curriculum aligns closely to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and includes a high level of sustainability-rich citations in peer-reviewed academic journals.
The B-school approaches sustainability head on too. For a refreshed accounting course, Griffith professors turned to the university’s International Water Center for advice on how to value water, a natural resource, for corporate balance sheets.
“When we think about business being able to solve the biggest problems of the world and create a values-centered approach for a better future, we have to take this multi-stakeholder perspective,” Stephanie Schleimer, MBA director for Griffith Business School, says.
WARWICK JUMPS TO SECOND PLACE
Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England rose one position to second place in this year’s ranking. Over the years, the B-school has made dedicated efforts towards sustainability. And two years ago, Warwick integrated sustainability into every one of its core courses. The B-school’s recently added MBA modules examine how to manage sustainable energy transitions and create sustainable businesses.
“We felt this was a capability that all functions of management disciplines needed to consider,” professor of practice David Elmes, a leading researcher on sustainability at Warwick, says.
SUSTAINABILITY IS THE MAIN FOCUS AT MANY B-SCHOOLS
If this year’s ranking tells anything, it’s the fact that student interest in sustainability is high—and business schools are eager to feed that interest.
At Warwick, for instance, the proportion of sustainability topics in MBA student dissertations or projects has “shot up” to between 30 and 40% of students, compared to 5 to 10% just a few years ago.
At the University of Guelph’s Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics (which ranked 5th), a 2019 major donor gift included funds for an Institute for Sustainable Commerce—a research hub for business sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and circular economy innovations. The institute provides roughly $20,000 a year in seed money for research on sustainable commerce projects.
“To use these funds as a strategic lever to move things in the direction of our larger strategy is critical,” Sean Lyons, Lang’s associate dean of research and graduate studies, says. “We are building forward on a sustainability-focused research program.”
At Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Management (which jumped up three spots to number eight in the ranking), a new pilot course on board governance and the law launched this year. Students in the course worked with non-profit organizations, and two students even ended up joining as board directors.
“The law for non-profits has changed, and our students could help them work through the changing laws,” Donna Smith, graduate program director of MBA programs at Ted Rogers, says. “They are having social impact.”
Smith says that a central theme of the MBA program is “leading for performance and well-being.”
“We try to look at different ways of thinking about how businesses can incorporate sustainability and some of the SDGs in intentional ways that can be profitable for business and at the same time do something good for society and the earth,” Smith adds.
BIG-NAME SCHOOLS ON THIS YEAR’S RANKING
A few big-name B-schools made it on this year’s sustainability ranking.
IE Business School in Spain jumped up to number 27 this year—up from number 40 last year. The B-school scored highly in its Sustainability Course Integration, with 47% of the IE Business School’s core (mandatory) MBA courses integrating relevant sustainable development themes.
Coming in right behind IE Business School at number 28 this year was IMD Business School in Switzerland. IMD also scored well in Sustainability Course Integration, with 41% of core MBA courses integrating relevant themes. The B-school also had strong ranks in the Sustainability-Related Research Intensity category at 31%.
The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management dropped to number 36 this year—down eight spots from last year’s ranking. Still, the B-school scored relatively well in the Sustainability-Related Research Intensity category with 39%.
McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management was another big-name school that dropped in the ranking this year—down to 38 from last year’s 25th spot. McGill’s rank was held up by its strong placement in Sustainability-Related Research Intensity (39%) and Faculty Racial Diversity (46%).
UK HOLD THE TITLE
The UK performed best in this year’s ranking with 12 schools in total making the Top 40 list. UK B-schools that landed on this year’s ranking include Warwick Business School, University of Bath – School of Management, University of Edinburgh Business School, and University of Exeter Business School to name a few.
Canada had the second-highest number of B-schools on this year’s ranking, with eight schools in total. The Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics ranked highest amongst Canadian schools at number five, while schools like Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Management ranked at number eight and the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business ranked at number 11.