Skip to main content

Future MBA

100 seeds for a sustainable future: Part 5

In part five of the ten-week series, colleges launch massive open-sourced courses; ignorance is examined as a path to productivity.

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. This is part five of the 10-week series. The series can be found here.

Day 41: One day of emissions

In late 2012, The American University in Cairo (AUC) became the first institution in the Middle East and North Africa to conduct a comprehensive study of its impact on climate change. It publishes a biennial Carbon Footprint Report, which outlines campus-wide efforts measuring quantities of greenhouse gasses being emitted into the atmosphere as a result of its normal operations, including operating the campus and commuting by faculty, students and staff. It also provides a range of suggestions and actively encourages individuals on campus to help reduce AUC’s carbon footprint.

Day 42: Creative sustainability

The international Master’s Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability was launched in 2010 at Aalto University in Finland. It is a joint master’s degree program between the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, School of Business and School of Engineering. It provides a learning platform in the fields of architecture, built environment, business, design, real estate and water management. Students focus on a number of sustainability issues and challenges including climate change, resource scarcity, global poverty, social and economic inequality and adaptation to rapid socio-economic changes. The program brings together students from different fields to study in multidisciplinary teams that increase understanding and enables adapting a holistic approach.

Day 43: Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, an institution within the University of Cambridge, has a mission of empowering individuals and organizations to take leadership to tackle critical global challenges. They work with individuals, organizations and sectors to develop strategies that reconcile profitability and sustainability. They collaborate with their peers to develop solutions to shared challenges while catalyzing real system change. This is done through a number of executive, masters and special business programs in Cambridge (UK) as well as in Brussels (Belgium) and Cape Town (South Africa). Focus areas include natural resource security, low carbon transformation, sustainable finance and an exploration of the top research priorities in business sustainability.

Day 44: Sustainability MOOCs

Every year, there is an increase in the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) available on sustainability topics. These free online courses are open to anyone with an interest in the topic. Each term a list of currently available MOOCs focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other sustainability topics is posted.

Copenhagen Business School developed a MOOC on social entrepreneurship. During this three-part online course, students form virtual teams with others from around the world to study a problematic issue to learn more about its source. Based on this, they develop an idea and a business model to solve it. Students have the opportunity to compete virtually in a business plan competition based on the ideas they develop. The final part of the course involves developing a method to evaluate the social mission that you achieve while implementing your business plan.

Every year, there is an increase in the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) available on sustainability topics. These free online courses are open to anyone with an interest in the topic.

Day 45: Joint degrees

Sustainability is an interdisciplinary topic, meaning it calls for a diverse set of skills. A growing number of schools have innovative joint degree programs combining an MBA or business degree with a degree in another, sustainability-related topic. For example, students registered for the MBA at HEC Paris, France have the opportunity to pursue a double degree at London School of Economics in Environment and Development. Students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business can enroll in a joint MS with the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. Duke offers a joint Masters of Environmental Management/MBA and a Master of Forestry/MBA. John Cook School of Business offers an MS in Sustainability/MBA, Brandeis University a dual MBA/MBA in Sustainable International Development. The list goes on.

Day 46: A course on ignorance

Although this is not strictly a business course, perhaps business degrees should explore this: The University of Arizona has a curriculum on Medical Ignorance. The premise behind the course is the wealth of things that we don’t know about the fields that we are in. Rather than assume we have all the answers, the course trains students to ask the right questions: questioning what is already known and the history and development of selected ideas and methods. The course aims to help students recognize and deal productively with ignorance, uncertainty and the unknown; question critically and creatively raise, listen to, analyze, prioritize and answer questions from different points of view. Students are also asked to discuss their failures.

Day 47: Impact

Duke Fuqua School of Business’s CASE i3 Consulting Program offers organizations the opportunity to engage with a team of selected MBA students to work on impact investing projects. Projects have included working with an angel network in the U.S. developing impact due diligence guidelines for its investors, developing a social impact bond with an education nonprofit in Mexico and doing market analysis and investment landscaping for different locations for a number of organizations. Students receive academic credit and mentoring throughout the process. Fuqua also has an innovative Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition that connects students, academics and industry in pursuit of unconventional business-based solutions that expose unrecognized opportunities with positive social and environmental impact.

Day 48: All about food

The University of Guelph College of Business and Economics combines sustainability and food — the student-run campus restaurant was named one of Canada’s greenest restaurants.  Students study food waste, the impact of nutritional labeling on consumer choice and the benefits of serving healthy, local food. First-year students take part in Lemonade Day, where students all need to develop and sell their own brand of lemonade in teams and generate as much profit as possible (all proceeds are donated to a local charity). In terms of research, faculty is exploring food waste in restaurants, international food fraud, the ethical treatment of animals, increasing vegetable consumption and food traceability. The school releases the annual Food Price Report, which provides Canadians with a forecast of the food retail industry. The university also holds a Sustainable Restaurant Project Symposium every year, which is works with industry, government, NGOs and academics on the sustainable future for the restaurant industry across Canada.

Day 49: Learning while doing

Students at Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver have access to a course that introduces them to social entrepreneurship through due diligence and analysis of microfinance loan applications. The course is delivered in collaboration with Deutsche Bank. Students evaluate the microfinance institutions to which Deutsche Bank loans money — the bank oversees an $80 million microfinance fund — as well as the individuals receiving the funds. They do this while spending time in the countries where the banks operate, working and meeting with individuals receiving the loans and learning more about their businesses and circumstances. Students also work with local not-for-profits. 

Day 50: Contextualising the MBA

The Waikato-Tainui MBA from the University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand aims to foster Maori values and Indigenous ways of doing business. Unlike other MBAs, the Waikato-Tainui MBA has been contextualized with an Indigenous focus within a supportive Māori environment. It allows participants to explore real-world business challenges that involve and are relevant to Indigenous business and industry. The uniqueness of this program is its mode of delivery. It is delivered in waananga, or residential mode, from the College’s premises in a rich cultural environment that provides a holistic and collaborative atmosphere for participants, which is conducive to the way Māori learn. One element of the program that makes it unique is that whaanau (family) of the participants are invited to attend a number of events during the program, allowing collective interaction.

More on this topic

More by This Author