Partner Sites


Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Is Sustainability Profitable?

Green business is a hot topic right now, but is it a rival for traditional business models? That depends on who you ask

Wed Apr 17 2019

BusinessBecause
More than 100 billion plastic bottles were produced by the Coca-Cola Company in 2016. There's a warning that by 2050 there'll be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Maximizing profit, it seems, means ruining the environment.  

Business schools are under pressure to change that. Creating the next generation of business leaders means creating a generation of ethically minded, environmentally conscious leaders.

And they have to respond. It shouldn't just be down to 16 year-old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, and children around the world boycotting school in protest, to force capitalism to change. 

Is sustainability even profitable, though? 

It has to be, according to Michigan Ross School of Business professor, Gautam Kaul. In 20 years, he thinks, if a typical firm is only looking for a financial return, it might as well be fossilized. 


“20 years from now, a typical firm that’s only looking for financial return won’t exist"

kaulgautam.jpg

Gautam is a professor of finance at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the head of the Social Venture Fund at the Zell Lurie Institute, which provides funding to VC startups with impactful missions. He believes that the problem lies in how we currently measure business success.

“From society’s perspective, sustainability has to be addressed. But if you’re talking about whether it’s profitable for a corporation, I don’t think that will ever be the case if profitability is measured in purely financial terms,” he asserts.

Rather, Gautam says that we need to recalibrate the conversation about a company’s “value” away from the purely financial, focusing more on an economy of social and environmental value—minimal cost to the environment, for example, and the creation of jobs.

The other key element is introducing regulation for the biggest companies, penalizing them for the harm they do to the environment in pursuit of growth.

As Gautam points out, if this isn’t done, then the least sustainable companies will always be the most profitable, because they are prioritizing purely financial returns and with the least obstacles in terms of growth.

In such an environment, how could sustainable business not be a sacrifice when it comes to making a financial return?

Systemic change is necessary, then, if we are to reach a sustainable business future—and Gautam believes that it is coming, and it is being pushed forward by the people.

“20 years from now, a typical firm that’s only looking for financial return won’t exist,” he says confidently.

“People’s preferences are changing, and that’s what makes the market—it’s not a magical thing, it exists because people are willing to make exchanges, and people aren’t willing to make exchanges that are just financially motivated anymore.”

andreas.jpg

Andreas Rasche, associate dean at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), agrees. 

Much like digitization, he says, sustainability is a “mega-trend” that will affect all industries and job functions in the future, and the MBA at CBS seeks to prepare its students accordingly. As a result, the course has found itself well-ranked in the Corporate Knights Better World MBA ranking for its approach to responsible business.

“The main mindset [we try to teach at CBS] is that this is mainstream business—it is a very modern business education,” says Andreas. “It’s not a tree-hugger business education.”


“In the long run, it’s really about managing risk”

CBS is not the only graduate management education institution to be pushing forward the idea that soon the “triple-bottom line”—a company's positive impact in terms of people, planet, and profit—will be the only bottom line that businesses care about in future.

rapaccioli.jpg

At the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in New York City, dean Donna Rapaccioli puts sustainability at the heart of the school’s mission to inspire positive global change.

Like Andreas, Donna believes that teaching students to implement sustainable business strategy is not a question of immediate returns but rather an investment for the future.

“I think there are people that are concerned about the whole notion of [social impact] and profit coexisting,” she admits. “[But] what we try and do is explain to the students that it’s a journey, and this is a long haul—maybe in the short run you can make the argument that paying attention to people and the environment is costly, but if you look at the long run it’s really managing risk.”

When looked at through the lens of risk management, sustainability training certainly seems like it should be an increasing priority for business educators, and accreditation and rankings organizations are starting to agree.


The problem with finance

The Association of MBAs (AMBA) considers a school’s sustainability and ethical business provisions when awarding accreditations, and this year the Financial Times debuted Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a metric in its Global MBA ranking.

Donna believes that this outside pressure is a positive force in encouraging higher education institutions to use their influence for the public good; however, she is skeptical of the extent to which rankings systems like the Financial Times can actually push a sustainable agenda forward.

As in the business world at large, the problem comes down to finances.

“Almost all of the rankings include salary and salary progression [as metrics],” Donna explains. “But if you’re going to go work at an NGO or a green company, you’re not going to have that high salary [straight away].

“Whether we like it or not, we all pay attention to rankings, so by choosing to enrol students who are predisposed to go into these [sustainability-focused] career paths, you’re hurting yourself [as an institution].”

The question of whether sustainable business is profitable is a thorny one, then, both for businesses and business schools.

By current measures of “profitability”, businesses who want to function sustainably are forfeiting short-term profits for long-term gains—in such a climate, and without government regulations on corporate sustainability, a fully-sustainable company may never rival the likes of Apple and Amazon.

But, if these professors are to be believed, this definition of profit's days are numbered—it's up to MBAs to prepare for what comes next.

Student Reviews

Copenhagen Business School (CBS)

Student

Verified

29/09/2019

CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.

Stella

Verified

24/04/2019

Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.

Student

Verified

13/04/2019

CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.

Stefani

Verified

12/04/2019

The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro

Verified

22/09/2019

A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.

Cathy

Verified

5/02/2019

Environment

The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.

Philip

Verified

15/04/2018

Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!

Student

Verified

27/09/2017

Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.

Student

Verified

22/09/2017

A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.

Student

Verified

29/09/2019

CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.

Stella

Verified

24/04/2019

Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.

Student

Verified

13/04/2019

CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.

Stefani

Verified

12/04/2019

The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro

Verified

22/09/2019

A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.

Cathy

Verified

5/02/2019

Environment

The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.

Philip

Verified

15/04/2018

Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!

Student

Verified

27/09/2017

Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.

Student

Verified

22/09/2017

A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.

RECAPTHA :

8b

12

09

00