How To Choose A Green MBA Programs
A sustainable or green MBA may be ideal for people who are interested in a more niche career path, such as sustainability consulting
In this article, MBA candidate Kaity Tsui, who was named “Greenest New Yorker” by state tourism agency I Love New York in 2010, gives us the lowdown on the greenest MBA programs in the US.
A Green MBA, also known as a Sustainable MBA, is a traditional MBA with sustainability woven into the entire curriculum.
For the past few decades, and despite the continued pressures of the economic downturn, interest in business ethics and corporate and social responsibility (CSR) has grown throughout the MBA world, and green career opportunities have increased too.
Companies have followed suit as more and more become aware that sustainable practices matter to their customers and employees.
Businessweek’s “Going Green: MBA Sustainability Programs” emphasizes that, “From clean energy to programs to reduce a company’s carbon footprint, sustainability knowledge is in practical demand.”
Andrew Hoffman, professor and director of the Erb Institute at University of Michigan, supports this notion, saying that, “Sustainability is a business opportunity that compliments the MBA.”
I recently stumbled on a helpful article: “Choosing the Right Green MBA program for Career Success” by Chris de Morsella in the Green Economy Post.
The article highlights 10 key factors to consider before taking the plunge. They range from the school’s reputation to placement stats to price comparisons to financial aid opportunities.
When investigating green MBA programs, also consider looking into specialized alternative ranking lists as a means of finding out more about a program. These lists are meant to help you assess the quality of the MBA programs against your own objectives, as well as those of recruiters.
Here are two alternative rankings - a great place to start your researching journey!
Netimpact 2009 Business as UNusual: The Student Guide to Graduate Programs
Net Impact's annual Business as UNusual guide shares the inside scoop on what business programs are doing to prepare students for careers that make a positive impact on the world.
The guide includes “106 school profiles representing programs with a demonstrated commitment to social and environmental responsibility, including 12 international programs” and “2,500 student voices contributing thoughtful reflections on each program's curriculum, student activities, career services and alumni, administrative support, and more...”
And according to Maggie Davies, deputy director of Net Impact, the organization has seen “a 171 percent increase in the number of traditional MBA programs offering sustainability coursework in the five years they’ve published the “Business as UNusual” guide.”
Beyond Grey Pinstripes
For over a decade, the Aspen Institute has produced a sustainability-focused MBA ranking called Beyond Grey Pinstripes. This ranking highlights the institutions that are promoting the idea of ethical, social and environmental impacts in modern-day business through coursework, research and activities, and preparing their students to address those stewardship complexities within for-profit businesses.
It also serves as an aid for MBA applicants interested in sustainability, CSR or ethics to select programs that are most aligned with their business goals.
Results are “based on four ‘raw score’ metrics; availability of relevant courses (20%), student exposure (25%), relevant courses on for-profit business (30%), and faculty research (25%). The full methodology of the Beyond Grey Pinstripes sustainability MBA ranking is available here.
Straight from the Aspen Institute’s website, the top five green MBA programs in the US are: Stanford, Notre Dame - Mendoza, Yale, Kellogg, and Michigan-Ross
The Green Economy Post lists several programs that focus on sustainability in interesting ways, including:
• Goddard College has a low-residency socially responsible business and sustainable communities program and students are offered an optional one-year, 24-credit certificate of graduate study.
• Green Mountain College offers an online MBA in Sustainable Business Practices that requires a brief residency followed by a series of six-week online courses are taken sequentially, so students can focus on the content of each course as they proceed through the program. They also offer a certificate option which provides a four-week exploration into the theory and real world implementation of sustainable business.
• Marlboro College MBA in Managing for Sustainability is taught in person and online, with students and faculty coming together for three days each month.
• Walden University has an Online MBA with a concentration in sustainable futures, designed to be flexible to accommodate working professionals.
New York University’s Stern School of Business is also emphasizing sustainability. Its Social Impact Internship Fund provides funding for students who pursue internships in the social sector, and a student-led task force, the Stern Campus Greening Initiative, creates green initiatives at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
“The size and complexity of the problems—and opportunities—facing business today require leaders who understand the linkages between the financial and the real economy, between business and policy, and who can balance the quest for profit with a responsibility to the public good,” writes Jill Kickul, professor and director of Stern’s Stewart Satter Program in Social Entrepreneurship. “Tomorrow’s global business leaders must be forward-looking to succeed.”
It also helps to hear from those who have pursued and graduated with a Green MBA. According to Earth911’s “Is a Green MBA Right for You?”, there are “a growing number of professionals who pursue an MBA to advance their sustainability careers and hone their skills for implementing environmental programs.
Many of these eco-minded individuals are turning to dedicated green MBA programs or traditional MBAs that offer a strong sustainability or corporate responsibility focus.” However, Net Impact’s Maggie Davies suggests that a regular MBA might be better for people who want to make a difference from within a traditional corporate function:“A sustainable or green MBA may be ideal for people who are interested in a more niche career path, such as sustainability consulting,” she says.
“For people who are more interested in making a positive impact from within a traditional functional role, like finance or marketing, or for those interested in social entrepreneurship, it may actually be worth considering an MBA program that offers an integrated curriculum.”
Kate Drane earned her MBA in Sustainable Management at San Francisco’s Presidio Graduate School, and is launching a green business venture with four of her fellow Presidio alums.
The Can Van, a mobile beer canning service, aims to bring Bay Area craft beers to a wider audience, while reducing the beverage’s environmental impacts.” You can read similar stories about MBA grads going green here “Degrees in Sustainability: Risky or Worth It?”
Only you can decide if a Green MBA is right for you. Going to business school is an important life choice that warrantscareful, in-depth analysis and consideration. Look beyond simple ranking metrics of a school and the green MBA programs that it offers.
Greener business can have a positive impact globally, but be wary of greenwashing!
Last but not least, be honest with yourself on what paths will help you grow and will challenge you. As Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”
Kaity is best known as I LOVE NY’s first ever Greenest New Yorker. Honored on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, she earned this title through her volunteer and work experience at places such as the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation department at the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Restoration Project on the MillionTreesNYC initiative.
An aspiring MBA, this article is the result of Kaity’s personal hunt for a green program that will help her expand her knowledge and networks in the area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Metropolitan Studies from New York University.
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