Green MBAs: Business Schools With A Focus On Sustainability

Once considered passing fads, environmental and social stewardship are now incorporated into the learning environment at most business schools.

Historically, the business world has been slow to integrate social and environmental issues into its practices. In the last several years, however, companies (along with their MBA counterparts) have begun to realize the importance of addressing sustainability in their operations and coursework.

The business community has begun to focus on fields such as renewable energy, carbon emissions, and sustainable development. The need to protect dwindling resources has compelled programs and companies to integrate environmental concerns into their visions. In fact many business schools are now offering programs that have a primary focus on energy and the environment. These are often referred to as green MBA programs.

For those students with a social-impact consciousness, a so-called green MBA can satisfy the desire to do good while still yielding healthy earnings.

Top Green MBA Programs

At the venerable Harvard Business School, MBAs can join a program called the Business and Environmental Initiative. It features coursework dedicated to examining today’s environmental challenges, and creating compelling business solutions. The school also boasts 400 Green Business Alumni Association members.

At Babson College, a leader in entrepreneurial studies, MBAs learn from an “Entrepreneurial Thought and Action” methodology that places value on purpose as much as it does on profit. Students study social, economic, and environmental issues in the context of entrepreneurial and socially responsible solutions.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School for Business features a dedicated Ethics and Social Responsibility track with an emphasis on energy and environmental policy.

Standout offerings can also be found at Clark University. Here, aspiring MBAs build expertise in sustainability with classes such as Green Operations Management, Sustainability Marketing, and Leading Change.

At Pepperdine University, MBAs can earn a certificate in Socially, Environmentally, and Ethically Responsible (SEER) business strategy.

Career Opportunities

Students interested in green MBAs can explore the following fields; the organization Net Impact also lists some advice and specific job postings for relevant MBA career paths.

Corporate Impact

One way you can apply your love for the environment and for business strategy is to work in a company’s corporate impact department. This field takes on social and environmental concerns, and integrates them into a company’s practices and vision. For example, you could work to improve the supply chain or develop an ethical sourcing strategy. Most large corporations, such as Walmart, Disney, or Sony, have teams dedicated to the implementation of such initiatives.

The Energy Industry

Large energy companies, such as Exxon, Shell, or GE, are often seeking professionals who understand the energy space and can manage their portfolios or provide insight into the field. Similarly, car companies employ specialists in (bio)fuel or environmental impact to advise them on their business strategy.

Other businesses, either established or new, are seeking to create and implement clean energy solutions. Each of these companies needs people to manage their operations, finances, and initiatives.

Environment and Natural Resources

Corporations, nonprofits, research institutes, and government agencies alike are seeking professionals with a knowledge of economics and the environment to ensure that natural resources are conserved for future generations. Job duties can range from incorporating green practices in the workplace, to engaging other companies in sustainability partnerships.

Impact Investment

The finance sector is exploring more investment opportunities that promise to make an environmental impact. Jobs in the impact investment field can range from advising a bank on how to invest its assets responsibly, to participating in energy ventures at the World Bank or IFC.

Nonprofit and Public Sector

Many NGOs and government agencies, with the aim of facilitating a more sustainable future, are looking for qualified individuals who can lead, manage, invest, and finance their operations.

Green Campuses

Happily, the greening of the MBA has moved outside the classroom. Environmentally-conscious ideas and practices flourish on many business school campuses; from how they design and fuel buildings to how they recycle water, many business schools now pride themselves on not just teaching the green, but living it as well. Perhaps the most ambitious efforts can be found at the Stanford Graduate School of Business — “sustainable Stanford” — which has made conserving resources and finding alternative energy sources its mission in an effort to inspire others to do the same.

MBAs of today are poised, and even being encouraged, to make a difference. For those who want to lead companies in socially and environmentally responsible businesses, the eco-path of the MBA maybe the perfect fit.