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Growing Number of MBA Programs Back Sustainability

An increasing number of graduate business schools in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Americas say they are dedicated to including social and environmental issues in MBA programs.

That's the word from Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2001, a just-released survey conducted by the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, and the Aspen Institute Initiative for Social Innovation through Business (Aspen ISIB).

Although 82 MBA programs worldwide report including social and environmental topics, the survey also finds that far greater integration of these issues into required MBA curricula is urgently needed to meet the business challenges of a global marketplace.

Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2001 is the only business school survey evaluating how well MBA programs integrate social, environmental and sustainability topics into business training. This was the third such survey since 1998.

Firm Foundation Essential

According to Judith Samuelson, executive director of Aspen ISIB, as industry leaders become world leaders, business schools have a pivotal role to play in training them for an increasingly economically interdependent world.

"The events of the past weeks have underlined the urgent need for business and academic institutions to engage in a real dialogue about the role of social and environmental issues in academic research and in the education of future business leaders,"Samuelson said.

Wednesday, the organizations honord nine business schools and five faculty pioneers cited by the survey at an awards ceremony hosted by Citigroup at their headquarters in New York. These winning schools and individuals demonstrate exceptional dedication, leadership, and risk-taking in preparing future business leaders to manage complex social and environmental challenges.

"Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2001 is a call to action for business schools and businesses alike. Together we can close the gap between the skills taught today and the skills needed by tomorrow's business leaders," said Jonathan Lash, President, WRI. "We applaud those schools leading the way, and recognize that the efforts of a few pioneers can create tremendous change."

The nine schools honored for their leadership are: the Asian Institute of Management (The Philippines); Harvard Business School; Loyola Marymount University's College of Business Administration; University of Michigan Business School; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School; York University's Schulich School of Business (Canada); George Washington University's School of Business and Public Management; University of Jyväskylä's School of Business and Economics (Finland); and Yale University's School of Management.

Five Faculty Pioneer awards were presented to: Arthur P. Brief, A. B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University; R. Edward Freeman, the Darden School, University of Virginia; R. Bruce Hutton, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver; Andrew King, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University; and Marilyn L. Taylor, Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

According to Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2001:
  • There remains a distinct "disconnect" between the kind of sustainability training (i.e., in social and environmental issues) that business leaders are asking for, and what MBA programs are actually delivering.

  • Since the 1999 Pinstripes survey, many schools have supported new research, established new chairs in stewardship issues, and made significant institutional commitments by launching or expanding centers dedicated to sustainable enterprise.

  • In spite of new institutional commitments, stewardship progress remains largely in the hands of dedicated faculty, who are "going it alone."

  • While MBA faculty who teach social and environmental issues rate them as 'A-' in importance, they report that their school's offerings fall far short of this grade.

  • Students who seek this coursework give MBA programs 'D+' on how often social and environmental issues are raised by faculty in required courses.

  • There remains a lack of integration of social and environmental issues into the core MBA curriculum: ethics classes, volunteer and philanthropic activities remain the predominant vehicles for teaching social stewardship skills in most business schools. Environmental topics are generally taught in stand-alone electives rather than linked to core business strategy.

  • Surveyed for the first time, international schools show significant commitment to integrating social and environmental curriculum into core programs.
To download a copy of the report in PDF, click here.

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