Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023: INSEAD

Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023: INSEAD

For its peerless embrace of the social and environmental principles of sustainability, INSEAD is Poets&Quants‘ 2023 MBA Program of the Year. Courtesy photos

Business schools today understand the importance of sustainability. A growing number have launched degree programs dedicated to it, training leaders whose approach to business considers how to meet the needs of today without compromising future generations. Most of the B-schools of any size or reputation in the United States and Europe have, at a minimum, adjusted their MBA programs in the last five years to better appeal to applicants who want credentials and skills in the space and the recruiters who want more of them to hire.

No B-school on Earth has done more to weave sustainability into its programming than INSEAD. Beginning in January of 2024, the B-school with campuses in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, and Fontainebleau, France will complete an overhaul to its curriculum that embeds social and environmental issues and how they impact business decisions into every aspect of the program’s core —formally making sustainability a part of its DNA by ingraining its principles into all 14 core courses. INSEAD also will add a capstone project that integrates sustainability considerations across all management areas in an intense exercise in which students act as company executives facing a sustainability challenge. Among the school’s more than 75 elective courses across nine academic areas there are already more than a dozen that are sustainability-focused, with more on the way as the school adds new electives every six months.

“The incorporation across the 14 core courses is quite important,” INSEAD’s new Dean Francisco Veloso says. “The other part that is important is the master strategy: If I look around and talk to business leaders, there is nowadays a very significant awareness of the importance of sustainability. I think people, especially business leaders, understand the context that they live in, and they understand that this is — or will be very soon — part of the equation in their businesses regardless of the area that they are in.”


Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023: INSEADFor its commitment to a groundbreaking and comprehensive integration of sustainability into its curriculum, INSEAD is Poets&Quants’ MBA Program of the Year. It is the seventh school to achieve that distinction.

Last year, Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois became the sixth school to be P&Q Program of the Year, and only the second online experience to do so. In 2021, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business won for its two-year MBA program; the year before, the nod went to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for its highly innovative online MBA program. In 2019, Washington University’s Olin School of Business was honored for its bold and radical revamp of the school’s full-time MBA experience. The University of Rochester’s Simon Business School won the honor for gaining STEM designation for its entire MBA program, the first to accomplish such a feat (see MBA Program Of The Year: Rochester’s New STEM Play). Cornell University’s Johnson School won our first MBA Program of the Year award for its Cornell Tech MBA in New York City (see Program of the Year: Cornell Tech’s MBA).

What these vastly different programs all share is that they represent, to varying degrees, a reinvention of the MBA. In INSEAD’s case, it has tailored its massive MBA program — among the biggest in the world by class size — to weave sustainability into every topic, from finance to strategy to organizational behavior and more, enabling its graduates to, in the school’s description, “make better decisions, integrate performance and progress and champion creative solutions that address global challenges.” Beginning in 2024, INSEAD’s “renewed” curriculum will produce scores of leaders who are uniquely well-equipped to confront the myriad social and environmental challenges of a teeming globe.

Around 1,000 MBAs graduate every year from INSEAD’s 10-month program. With its enhanced focus on sustainability throughout all core courses and a growing number of electives, they will be armed with the knowledge and skills to lead on the preeminent issues facing the world.

Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023: INSEAD

INSEAD’s campus in Fontainebleau, France


How much will sustainability impact business in the future? Immensely. For evidence look no further than the recently concluded COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where, as part of a larger agreement, more than 100 countries agreed to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. Among the commitments: bringing renewable energy capacity globally to 11,000 gigawatts in just six years. That part of the agreement alone presents enormous challenges of scale for solar and wind industries that are already straining from labor and supply shortages and cost increases. The planning, permitting, and building processes of the energy projects that will be needed to achieve the lofty goal are time-consuming and costly.

If the COP28 renewable energy goals are to be achieved in time, it will be with the help and guidance of leaders from elite management programs, particularly in Europe, in the vanguard in combatting the climate crisis. INSEAD, perhaps more than any other business school in the world, is poised to provide those leaders.

Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023: INSEAD

INSEAD’s Singapore campus

INSEAD Dean Veloso, whose own research is in high tech innovation and entrepreneurship, is relentlessly focused on the practical: how, how much, who can help? What will it take to get it done? In discussions about sustainability that sometimes get mired in platitudes, that can be a refreshing change — and it offers a glimpse of the principles that will guide the school as it molds new leaders dedicated to the security of a sustainable future.

“I hear often from business leaders that they’re having challenges actually implementing — going from lofty aspirations into, ‘Okay, now what do we do in our business to make sure that we do that?'” Veloso tells Poets&Quants. Key to creating leaders who can act and make things happen: INSEAD’s experiential capstone course, in which students practice the integration of sustainability into every aspect of management: operations, strategy, accounting, finance, and marketing. “That’s why the integration piece at the end is quite important because it is about, ‘Okay, let’s take all the things that you’ve learned in each of the courses. Let’s take also some of the things that you got through the electives because we’ve always had a variety of electives that allowed students to explore that to a different extent. Then let’s bring it all together. And when you’re thinking about strategic making, let’s try to think about how to weave that into the decision process to train that muscle, to think about, ‘Okay, it’s not just about understanding the concept. It’s about how do we solve a problem in a way that really brings that sustainability element as part of the solution, as part of the way that the business will operate?’

“We are very excited about that combination that percolates through, and what it will allow in terms of empowering this next generation of business leaders to not only understand the concepts, not only understand it in the various settings — from finance to marketing to operations — but then to be able to weave it all together and to say, ‘Okay, how do I approach a problem with these lenses so that it is part of the way that I think about the way forward?’”

Business wants managers with sustainability bona fides, Veloso says. It needs them. And there are legions of prospective MBA students who want to fill that need.

“Our partners very much feel that connectivity to what needs to be done is important,” Veloso says, “and so we are of course very excited about the changes that we’re implementing and we’re very excited about how this next generation is going to come forward, and what we hear from our partners once they start landing and entering the workforce — what they feel and what they see.”

Next page: Why focus an entire MBA program on sustainability? INSEAD leaders offer insights

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