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How Do MBAs Go Beyond Grey Pinstripes?

We explain how the Aspen Institute’s rankings, which grade business schools on their environmental and corporate responsibility bona fides, are calculated.

By  Stephen Bush

Fri Aug 19 2011

For a second successive year, Nottingham University Business School has been ranked first in the UK, third in Europe, and fifth in the worldwide research rankings by the Aspen Institute’s ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes’ rankings.

The result places the School at the top end for MBA students who want a business education grounded in ethical behaviour and sustainable corporate behaviour.

But how are these rankings calculated, and what should the aspiring MBA applicant looking to put ethics and social responsibility at the heart of their qualification look for? BusinessBecause explains.

The rankings, created in 1998 by the World Research Institute (WRI), initially ranked business schools on their environmental programs, but in the following year, the Aspen Institute introduced a focus on social responsibility.

The rankings aren’t just the result of high-minded ideals; as the Institute explains, in a changing global economy, with unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly methods of production incurring increasingly high costs, both in terms of output and reputation damage, the modern MBA graduate needs to be equipped with the knowledge and ability to understand environmental and social concerns just as keenly as economic and industrial ones.

The rankings are calculated using three metrics; the coursework, the institutional support offered, and the quality of faculty research.

Firstly, business schools are assessed by the proportion of courses they offer and the total teaching time given over to ethical business teaching; contact hours and the number of classes are all-important here.

Secondly, the level of support given to MBA students to find employment in sectors and companies that also prioritise environmental or socially responsible concerns. Here, the number of campus presentations, networking events and internships offered in responsible and sustainable industries is a crucial aspect of the rankings.

Lastly – and this is Nottingham’s highest ranked area – the amount of research published in peer-reviewed business school journals on subjects of corporate, social and environmental responsibility.

By collating these findings, the Aspen Institute then produces the ‘Beyond Grey Pinstripes’ rankings, which give the ethically-minded MBA applicant another metric to consider in their applications. With top business schools increasingly focussing on environmentalism and social responsibility – Yale is ranked third in the overall world rankings, while HEC Paris has made a surge up the rankings in recent years – the Aspen rankings will provide an increasingly important guide to MBA applicants.