Sustainable MBA: The "Green" MBA option |

Sustainable MBA: The "Green" MBA option

By QS Contributor

Updated March 3, 2021 Updated March 3, 2021

Do you have a great idea that could help the environment? A sustainable MBA can help you turn this idea into reality by giving you the skills needed to run a green business or social enterprise. You may be wondering, however, what is meant by the term sustainable.


What is sustainability?

Not all MBA programs define sustainability the same way, and each sustainable MBA program has its own emphasis. In addition to addressing traditional topics most sustainable MBA curriculums include business ethics, as well as the study of managing environmental and social sustainability. But you may be wondering, what is sustainability exactly?

When most MBA programs use the term sustainability, they are usually referring to the three-pillars model of sustainability (aka the Triple Bottom Line) that was formulated by the EU in 1997. The three pillars are economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The three-pillars model  is based on the belief that global environmental protection is only possible if economic achievements and social institutions are also taken into consideration. All of these pillars of sustainability are dependent on one another.

Sustainability in the context of the Triple Bottom line is defined as the ability for each of these pillars to continue into the foreseeable future without any major breakdowns. Breakdowns in one pillar can offset another resulting in weak sustainability.

While most sustainable MBA programs share similar definitions of sustainability, they stress different aspects of business management. Some programs focus more on the general management side of things, while others look more at entrepreneurship, and then there are schools that just include a few "green" classes in their MBA curriculum.

Sustainable MBA Rankings

Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranks full-time MBA programs based on how they integrate social, ethical, and environmental content into coursework and faculty research. The sustainable MBA rankings are based on the results of an independent survey conducted biennially by the Aspen Institute. All of the schools included in the ranking are accredited by AACSB, EQUIS or AMBA.

You can download the syllabus for each program in the ranking by doing an advanced search. You can find out about extracurricular activities and internships by clicking on the "activities" tab of each school profile. You can also view MBA program offerings by topic area.

Sustainable MBA Programs

Here is some information on the top 5 sustainable MBA programs, according to Beyond Grey Pinstripes:

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Corporate social responsibility and social impact are integrated into Stanford's MBA program. For example, the curriculum includes case studies on international bribery, design for social good, forest conservation, sourcing products in developing countries, and microfinance in Africa. Stanford's Social Innovation Fellowship provides students or recent alumni with a $80,000-$120,000 grant to launch a social venture. There is a Non-Profit/Public Section Loan forgiveness program to lessen the debt for students working in the non-profit sector. Stanford also offers an MS MBA program for future environmental leaders in conjunction with the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) at the School of Earth Sciences.

Schulich School of Business, York University

Schulich's International MBA degree focuses heavily on public policy, cross-cultural matters, and the intersection of business and social issues between countries. The Sustainable Enterprise Academy provides sustainability management training for senior level executives.

IE Business School

IE's IMBA program includes 3 modules devoted to promoting change on individual, group and societal levels. Topics covered by these modules include: design thinking for social innovation, cross-cultural intelligence, and the optimization of living spaces, as well as sessions led by actors from London’s Globe Theatre on how to enhance the use of creative thinking to provide corporate and social solutions.

Mendoza College of Business, Notre Dame

The Mendoza MBA program emphasizes how businesses can impact positively impact society by focusing on three chief tenets: individual integrity, effective organizations and the greater good. All 20 required courses, along with 143 electives, integrate social, environmental, or ethical issues into the coursework.

Yale School of Management

Social, environmental, and ethical considerations are incorporated into the majority of Yale's MBA classes. Core class projects have included creating proposals for redeveloping Governors Island, analyzing South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment program, and studying General Electric’s Ecomagination initiative. A student-managed Global Social Enterprise initiative allows student consulting teams to work with non-profit organizations throughout the developing world.

This article was originally published in June 2012 . It was last updated in March 2021

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