How this European business school is teaching leadership skills in sustainability |

How this European business school is teaching leadership skills in sustainability

By Laura L

Updated Updated

Securing a higher salary and a better career is still a key priority for choosing to go to business school, but it’s increasingly important for MBA applicants to have a wider impact on society and on the planet.  

Demand is growing for business schools to teach sustainable skills to the next generation of business leaders who not only want to prevent further environmental and societal damage, but have a desire to actively contribute to building a society that thrives more sustainably in the long term. 

One of the most obvious ways to do this is for business schools to create programmes that encompass all aspects of sustainability. At POLIMI Graduate School of Management, sustainable topics are implemented into all programmes and the school has launched five sustainability-focused MSc programmes.  

Federico Frattini, Dean of POLIMI Graduate School of Management, said: “We think that creating specific programmes is important because given the central role of sustainability in creating long-term value in any industry, it deserves a focussed approach.  

A sustainably-focussed portfolio 

“This is why our school’s portfolio includes programmes covering topics such as environmental sustainability and circular economy, sustainability management and corporate social responsibility, sustainability and impact leadership as well as human resource management for sustainability.”   

Besides the increase in demand for sustainability skills, Dean Frattini and faculty have realised that today’s generation of students is no longer willing to work for companies that are not perceived as “authentically committed toward building a better society.” 

“It has therefore become vital for companies that want to continue to attract talent to move in a new, more purpose-driven direction. This is also true for business schools as students are choosing institutions that practise what they preach.” 

Alongside the master’s portfolio, POLIMI GSoM has introduced a ‘new generation’ MBA, focused on purpose and the social good that future leaders are increasingly required to bring to the table.  

“In the new generation MBA, we’ve added sustainability, corporate social responsibility, environmental social and governance, as well as impact courses and workshops run by The Mind At Work – a London-based consultancy firm specialising in purpose and the psychology of leadership and management.  

“It's an MBA built around the core concept of purpose, with a strong focus on developing the inner, human, and personal qualities of students, to grow their consciousness and awareness about the role they can play on others and on their businesses.” 

For students looking for a business school that can provide leadership skills in sustainability, Dean Frattini said that students should look for schools that can “demonstrate a strong interest in the social aspects of sustainability, such as inclusion, equal opportunities and access to training,” which are taught at POLIMI GSoM.  

The school’s approach to sustainability leadership training has resulted in being awarded ‘B Corp Certification’ – a prestigious recognition awarded to companies and organisations for their commitment to sustainable development and building a more inclusive society.  

“You cannot simply teach sustainable skills, you must also create a sustainable environment for your students to learn in,” said Dean Frattini.  

Creating a collaborative sustainable environment 

Beyond the curriculum, POLIMI GSoM has launched a student competition alongside EDHEC Business School and ESMT Berlin, called INNOVA Europe which aims to tackle societal, economic and environmental challenges.  

Supported by Microsoft Italia, INNOVA Europe invites bachelor’s and master’s students to submit innovations and new business ideas that use technology to address any one of the challenges outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

“With collaboration and entrepreneurial thinking at the heart of this initiative, we believe the competition will generate new products and solutions relating to at least one of the 17 UN SDGs,” said Dean Frattini.  

“Sustainability is not an area where we should be competing with other schools; instead, we should come together to create new opportunities for students to make a collective, positive impact.” 

The winning team will receive a prize of €5,000 (~£4,400) and access to entrepreneurial incubation services offered by the three partner schools. 

Dean Frattini added: “Sustainability is one of the most important focuses  ̶  academically, politically, socially, and financially – for now, and for generations to come. Where it was once far from the top of the agenda for students, developing sustainable skills is now one of the driving forces behind their decision to go to business school.  

“Rediscovering the human and inner aspects of leadership and the profession of management is of crucial importance in this endeavour.” 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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