The Climate's Changing at Business Schools


We've looked into a number of MBA programs around the US that focus on sustainable business -- shoot, we've even hired a couple of their graduates! But a greener business education may no longer require attending one of the specialized programs, as MBA programs around the world are now incorporating courses on sustainability and corporate social responsibility into their curricula: 54% of these schools now require such courses. While some will surely argue that this only adds to the evidence of academia's liberal bent, professors and administrators of these programs make a much more pragmatic argument: environmental challenges, particularly climate change, create business challenges and opportunities, and their students must be aware of both. A newly-created course at MIT's Sloan School of Management is founded on just this perception:

This month, Sloan is unveiling a course, the Sustainability Laboratory, that examines how current business models have created severe strains on the environment. The course, which combines traditional lectures with simulations and hands-on work, tackles how business leaders should reconcile the virtues of free-market capitalism with the need for more sustainable corporate practices.

Richard Locke, who helped design the class, says it is meant to inspire students to think about how these real-world challenges could be recast for future competitive business opportunities. "The idea is to change the discourse away from the notion that [these issues pose] limits and constraints on growth, and move it toward thinking about how they could be viewed as real opportunities for new businesses and rethinking existing business models," he says.

The creation of these programs seem to stem from student demand: administrators at the University of Rochester and UC-Berkeley note that their students are "very concerned" about these issues, and recognize their potential impact on a wide range of industries. In fact, the main challenge for some of these programs may be finding faculty to teach the courses: the World Resources Institute and the Aspen Institute report that scholarly articles on business sustainability represent only 4% of the total articles in top business journals, and many schools have to reach out for external faculty in these subject areas.

Of course, the business world is largely embracing more sustainable business practices, so we're not surprised that B-schools are following suit. This looks like a genuinely positive "positive feedback loop." ::Financial Times via the Los Angeles Times

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