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Sustainability in Management Education Makes for Better Schools and Better Business

Posted By Page Schindler Buchanan, Friday, February 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"I realized that the MBA could be an opportunity to explore, test and create innovative solutions around sustainability” said Giselle Weybrecht, an alum of GBSN member London Business School and the presenter for GBSN’s February webinar, "Incorporating Sustainability into the Student Experience.”

During her own MBA experience, Giselle realized that sustainability didn’t have to be an either/or choice for business professionals – it wasn’t a choice between "save the world” or "make a profit.” After years of working in sustainability and trying to get the business community on board, she realized that a critical place to teach the importance and opportunity of sustainability is in the management education programs that are preparing these business professionals for their careers.

In 2010 she wrote her book, The Sustainable MBA, The Manager’s Guide to Green Business which is now being used by companies like Unilever, Patagonia and Shell to embed their businesses with sustainable practices. In her webinar, she described the huge market for sustainable business education – 64% of full-time MBAs thought sustainability was "important” or "very important” in their choice of programs – and gave a treasure trove of examples of how schools from Brazil to Singapore are innovating ways to provide it for their students. I can’t repeat all of the many creative programs here – you should watch the video for that – but I will share a couple of gems that stood out to me.

  1. Get students involved. Elective classes, extracurricular clubs, student initiatives, competitions and the like are a great way to get started incorporating sustainability. Students are looking for opportunities to explore these issues – so enable them.
  2. 1 in 4 MBA students expect sustainability to be a part of their core curriculum, and a nearly 1 in 10 would like a specialized degree. So work on adding a sustainability element to assignments, check out resources like Caseplace and OpenCourseWare for case studies specific to sustainability, and make it an important aspect of analysis for audits, marketing plans, etc.
  3. Jobs and other opportunities that incorporate sustainability are in high demand. Invite companies with sustainability missions, not just nonprofits, to recruit on campus and encourage them to talk about sustainability in their pitches to students. Provide opportunities for alumni to convene around sustainability issues and give them ways to get involved.
  4. You’re being watched. There are a multitude of rankings on sustainability out there that students are looking at when choosing where they will go. And alumni talk. So sustainable practices on campus and in your curriculum will make a difference in the quality of students that you’re able to attract.

Want to learn more about what schools around the globe are doing? Watch Giselle’s presentation for TONS of examples and great resources, and feel free to leave your questions/comments in the comments section below.

Are you doing something innovative to incorporate sustainability? Let us know about it in the comments!

Page Schindler Buchanan is the Communications and Media Officer for the Global Business School Network.

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