There’s not a single M7 business school in the best sustainability MBA programs ranking released by Corporate Knights, with a list of schools that looks starkly different to what we’re used to seeing in rankings of the world's best MBA programs.
The Better World MBA ranking for 2023 spans the globe, with 13 countries represented among the top 40, including strong representation from the UK, Canada, the US, France and The Netherlands.
The list is significant because, in the current political and business climates, students are increasingly applying to business school with the twin goals of learning to maximize profit and purpose.
There’s a growing understanding that business practices should make a positive impact on the planet, as well as a company’s bottom line.
Today, 42% of b-school candidates believe sustainability is essential to the curriculum, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council's (GMAC) prospective students survey.
So which schools offer the best sustainability MBA programs worldwide?
20 best sustainability MBA programs
Among the top 20 programs in this year’s ranking, the three highest ranked programs are Australia’s Griffith Business School—last year’s ranking leader—US-based Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business, and Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, a top b-school in the Netherlands.
Two US institutions take fourth and fifth places, respectively. They are Bard College—a new entry in 2023—and University of Vermont Grossman School of Business, up four places. Next up is Centrum PUCP Business School, based in Peru, which rises from 10th place in 2022.
One of this year’s top climbers, Colorado State University College of Business, is in seventh place, followed by another newcomer in TIAS School for Business and Society, and University of Exeter Business School, rising from 14th to ninth in 2023.
Other UK b-schools with top sustainability credentials include Durham University business School (10th), Warwick Business School (11th), and University of Winchester Business School (12th).
York University’s Schulich School of Business is the highest ranked Canadian b-school, in 13th, followed by Germany’s ESMT Berlin, which enters the ranking for the first time.
Two more Canadian representatives, University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business and University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, take 15th and 16th positions.
La Trobe Business School (17th) is another Australian institution to feature among the 20 best sustainability MBA programs, followed by Spain’s EADA Business School in 18th.
Rounding out the top 20 are two more Canadian schools: University of Guelph’s Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics in 19th, and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in the 20th spot.
Best sustainability MBA programs by country
The Better World MBA ranking produced by Corporate Knights is a truly global affair.
Among the 20 best business schools for sustainability, there are two schools from Australia, the UK has four, as does the US. Canada has five schools listed as having the best sustainability MBA programs, while there are four European schools in total, hailing from the Netherlands—which has two—Spain, and Germany.
Finally, Peru’s Centrum PUCP Business School is South America’s sole representative in the top 20.
Spotlight: The 3 best business schools for sustainability
3. Maastricht University School of Business & Economics
Located in The Netherlands, the Maastricht MBA is an Executive MBA program taught via both on-campus and online formats.
It involves a core focus on areas such as sustainability, responsible leadership, and digital business.
The ability to focus on sustainability, while attending a program known for its diversity and international student base, ensures a unique experience tailored to global, future-focused sustainable leaders.
This is the second year in a row that the Maastricht MBA has ranked among the top three best sustainability MBA programs, in turn securing Maastricht’s place as one of the world’s best business schools for sustainability.
2. Duquesne University Palumbo-Donahue School of Business
A US-based business school, the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business offers a one-year MBA that integrates sustainability throughout the entire curriculum.
The program, which is taught in-person at the school’s Pittsburgh campus, focuses on experiential learning opportunities including a variety of sustainable business development projects.
Underpinning the entire approach to the program are the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), which the school incorporates throughout the MBA experience.
1. Griffith Business School
Located in Australia, Griffith University's full-time MBA program tops the list of best business schools for sustainability. The program is renowned for its dedication to three core values: responsible leadership, sustainable business practices, and an Asia-Pacific focus.
Griffith’s faculty believe that business success in the 21st century relies on creating sustainable leaders who can take advantage of opportunities created by sustainable business practices.
Better World MBA Ranking: methodology
According to the report’s methodology, the 209 universities chosen for evaluation included programs from the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking, the Princeton Review Best Green MBA list, the 2022 Corporate Knights Better World MBA Results, and business schools accredited by the major accreditation bodies. Signatories to United Nations PRME that opted to be evaluated were also included.
In a break from previous years where schools were assessed across several criteria, this year the team at Corporate Knights based their evaluation primarily upon the proportion of a school's core curriculum that addresses concepts of sustainable development.
All course content covering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors therefore impacted a school's performance.
A much smaller proportion of a school's weighting—up to 10%—was also based on the percentage of recent graduates who landed roles in impact organizations. Corporate Knights defines these organizations as either nonprofits or those that appear within its Corporate Knights Global 100 or Clean 200 company rankings.
The 20 best sustainability MBA programs
This article was originally written by in November 2021, by Rita Krieg Nuemann, and updated in November 2023