Future MBA

100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 1

Students and elderly residents enjoy each other's company at Humanitas home.
Students and elderly residents enjoy each other's company at Humanitas home.
In 2014, author and TEDx speaker Giselle Weybrecht posted one short idea a day for 100 days exploring how we could rethink business education to produce the leaders that our business and the planet need. The ideas were compiled in a book, The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Educations. As a companion to the ideas in the book, each week for the next 10 weeks, GreenBiz will be posting 10 examples of how schools around the world are bringing some of these ideas to life, creating new opportunities for people and the planet. 
Business schools play a crucial, undervalued role in the successful long-run implementation of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. A growing number of schools and specific initiatives around the world are worth not only celebrating, but replicating.

The examples explore all aspects of business education including curriculum, research, partnerships and campus activities. Use them to engage and train the next leaders, whether within a business school, an in-house training program or any other educational institution. 

Day 1: Students living rent-free in retirement homes

A retirement home in The Netherlands has developed an ingenious shared-house solution to help both the young and the elderly. Students live rent-free at the retirement home; in exchange, they work 30 hours per month around the home, arranging dinners but mostly just spending time with elderly residents. The program has brought great results for both the elderly and the students themselves who learn a lot from their new, slightly older friends.

Day 2: INCAE and Nespresso’s International Case Competition

The Costa Rican campus of business school INCAE partnered with coffee brand Nestle Nespresso and the not-for-profit think tank CIMS. Together, they created an innovative international case challenge for MBA students from around the world based on real-world experience. Each year, students have the opportunity to come up with creative ideas for the company’s Creating Shared Value strategy and to make a real impact on the company’s supply chain and sustainability efforts. One past challenge was, "How should Nespresso capitalize on the opportunities of the circular economy to build a premium proposition for aspirational consumers?" In 2016, over 85 schools participated and the finalists were from Said Business School, INSEAD and Nottingham University Business School.

Day 3: Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience

The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) is a dynamic educational program that supports Indigenous students throughout high school and into college, employment or further education. The goal is to increase high school graduation rates and university admission rates among Indigenous youth and bring them in line with the rates of all Australian students. Students at business schools across the country participate as volunteer mentors and work with Year 12 Indigenous students to share real life experiences of studying in the field of business. Students completing the program are proven to finish school and transition through to university, training and employment at the same rate as every Australian child — effectively closing the gap in educational outcomes.

Day 4: Board Fellows programs

Many business schools, particularly in the U.S., have or are adding Board Fellow programs, student-initiated and student-led experiential learning programs. Each student fellow is matched with a local non-profit board of directors for 14 months. The fellow serves as a non-voting board member, actively contributing to the board’s work in a (mutually agreed upon) way. Each fellow is assigned a mentor from the organization’s board of directors who helps with the on-boarding process and provides ongoing guidance and insight into the workings of the board. Students involved in the programs are often required to complete a series of electives on campus around non-profit board governance.

Day 5: University for Seniors program

The University for Seniors is a pioneering program at the American University of Beirut, initiated in 2010. It addresses the aspirations of many older adults to remain intellectually challenged and socially connected. The university aims to create a new and positive image of aging in Beirut, Lebanon and the Middle East: one that offers visible proof that engaged aging is healthy, successful and possible in the Arab world. The program offers lecturers, study groups, educational travel programs, campus life and intergenerational activities, in addition to social and cultural events over two terms per year. It open to anyone 50 and older. 

Day 6: Women on boards

Increasingly, businesses around the world are recognizing that having women in business at all levels makes good business sense and are taking active steps to make careers for women more attractive. Business schools play a key role in enabling these businesses to reach their diversity targets by identifying, admitting and preparing the next generation of female business leaders. Today, the percentage of women in MBA programs — still the benchmark of education for executive career-seekers — varies quite significantly but hovers between 25 and 35 percent, according to the Financial Times.

Many schools are developing programs specially tailored to attract high-potential women: scholarships, clubs, mentors and even special courses geared specifically toward developing these leaders. For example, the American University in Cairo in Egypt has developed a unique series of initiatives aimed at improving gender balance of corporate boards in Egypt and the Middle East and North Africa region, by qualifying women to be appointed to corporate boards, sensitising male board members to gender issues, and advocating for policy and legislative changes that institutionalise gender diversity on corporate boards.

Day 7: Managing humanitarian emergencies

For one week in March, EADA Business School’s campus in Collbató, Spain, transforms into a model refugee camp. Here, participants from different programs at EADA meet to take part in an innovative elective offered on Managing Humanitarian Emergencies. As one of the most highly evaluated courses at the school, it introduces participants to the main components required to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

Day 8: A clinic for B Corporations

The Business Sustainability Collaborative at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University developed the B Corp Clinic, which matches students from across disciplines as volunteer consultants for local companies seeking certification as a B Corporation (B Corp). The B Corp Clinic is a collaboration between the Business Sustainability Collaborative, the NC State Net Impact chapters and HQ Raleigh, a community of purpose-driven businesses. The NC State program is the only one of its kind to include students from multiple universities.  

During the fall 2016 semester, 28 students helped six companies navigate the rigorous B Impact Assessment. Participants ranged in size from small startups to global corporations such as Red Hat, an open source technology company. Since B Corp Clinic began in 2015, the program has involved 72 students as volunteer consultants for 16 local businesses.

Each team has a coach familiar with the B Corp certification as well as a representative from the company.  The teams work with local businesses to help them, in real time, to transform how they operate and work with them to make progress on certification.

Day 9: Student Green Energy Fund

Students in the Student Green Energy Fund, a student-led initiative of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, lobbied the Board of Governors of the Florida State University system to set up a fund for "green energy" projects on campus. Under the program, approved in 2011, each student pays a $1 fee per credit hour to source revenue for the fund. A student-led committee oversees the fund and determines how it will be used by soliciting project proposals from the campus community and voting on the ones that should receive funding.

Day 10: Managing visitor impacts

Christian Schott’s Managing Visitor Impacts course at Victoria Business School in Wellington, New Zealand, uses digital technology to immerse students in the topic of tourism development. It provides a virtual fieldtrip that brings students into two villages in Fiji that are at a crossroads in tourism development. Students watch video interviews of key people in the village — they can virtually walk around the island in 3D as part of their assessment of the scenario. They work in small teams to role-play as a tourism consultancy and carry out discussions in the field. Then, they submit a report in the form of an online collaborative using video and audio recording.