Green MBAs: Combining the Environment with Strategy |

Green MBAs: Combining the Environment with Strategy

By QS Contributor

Updated July 19, 2014 Updated July 19, 2014

Combiningenvironmental awarenesswith business strategy seems to be the best way forward for many MBA programs.

Throughout the past two decades, environmental issues have made their way from protests in front of banks to boardrooms in those same banks and being green hasn't meant tying yourself to a tree, chanting "meat is dead" for a long time now. Accordingly, MBA programs are changing to reflect this shift, by addressing the business case for environmental awareness and action. It's no longer just about saving the planet, but about using environmental sustainability to maximize profits, particularly in the long run. Some business schools are addressing this opportunity by offering MBAs in sustainability.

Tony Sadownichik, MBA graduate from RSM OneMBA and Head of Research for Greenpeace International, explains, Government and business leaders are increasingly convinced that economic and environmental objectives are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, market forces are increasingly dictating that the best business plans will, by definition, be environmentally responsible. Progressive environmentalists are seeking to expand constructive dialogue with governments and industries on all aspects of environmental policy and practice with responsible climate, oceans, forests and sustainable agriculture policies as prime areas for extensive work on ecological awareness and action.

While you may think non-profits like Greenpeace are all about whale watching and eating twigs, the reality is that such outlets push corporations to integrate environmental imperatives into their business models through innovation. Corporations like Shell are continuously looking to develop new techniques of cultivating renewable energy sources, not just to polish their corporate image or to meet government initiatives, but to cut cost, resulting in a competitive advantage. MBAs with the know-how to lead and manage these new objectives are in high demand. Business school, ESADE is one example: "˜The program approaches these issues through program design, specific courses and specific tools. The program is built on our view of social responsibility and sustainability as a transversal issue that touches upon all management subjects."

The Global Executive OneMBA program at RSM Erasmus is another such curriculum. That explores how environmental and social performances do (and do not) go hand-in-hand with financial performance in a global economy, reports Kirt Wood, Director of Marketing and Admissions of the MBA programmes at RSM. Additionally, elective communities like the Sustainability Club generate a space where students can analyze, debate and talk about the possibilities of microfinance as a sustainable instrument to improve individuals' lives by developing very small businesses for people without access to standard credit mechanisms. We attempt to do this by hosting seminars, conferences and debates with the participation of professionals that are active in the industry and can show students field cases from around the world.

Of course, in today's media-driven society, image is almost everything, and it doesn't hurt to be equipped with the newest, most effective marketing tools that MBA programmes can provide. There's no business disaster worse than making socially irresponsible decisions that damage a company's reputation and revenue. As a result, some schools have created specialty MBA programmes that focus on corporate social responsibility. Nottingham University Business School and the University of Geneva are two such schools. Additionally, schools like Tuck have launched several conferences on the topic and corporate governance is a mandatory core course as well as being integrated within many other subject areas at the school. Dean Paul Danos says, "We take corporate governance very seriously at Tuck. We aim to instill good practices with our students, which will stand them in good stead throughout their careers." Instilling such fundamentals in MBAs will create the most effective marketing campaigns.

Globalization and the challenges it brings to business are creating knowledge gaps that need to be filled, regardless of incentives. And many businesspeople are seeing this as an ethical drive. As Tony Sadownichik explains, "Voters and consumers are increasingly focusing on responsible business strategies that provide them (and their children) and those in the developing world with a healthy, sustainable quality of life. Governments and business realize the need to develop policy and business strategies that reflect this reality."


This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in July 2014

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