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The Sustainable MBA

On The Need for Green MBAs

Two years ago the Worldwatch Institute indicated there were only 4 business schools in the U.S. that focused on sustainability. Fast-forward to today and a simple Google search shows many more institutions have integrated sustainability as a component in their business school curricula.

Globally, institutions seem to be recognizing the necessity of educating a next generation of business leaders who will have more than just financial returns and industry domination on their minds. Policies to lessen pressure on resources, improve management of environmental risks and increase the social equity of business practices and procedures are on the rise. Additionally, increased consumer awareness of environmental and social issues will continue to influence actions of corporations, governments and non-profits.

We are seeing "sustainability" appear in corporate social responsibility programs, staff titles, public relations campaigns and triple bottom line reports. Even companies without historical expertise in environmental technologies or sustainability, including mainstream banks and consulting companies, have developed "green funds" or branches that offer sustainable consulting services.

Then there are the new companies that are seizing the opportunity of the pending climate crisis. The cleantech industry is the poster child of this movement. The new startups generally require the expertise of engineers and other high-level positions, but once established they can also create demand for laborers. The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders is one group working to promote policies and initiatives infuse investment in clean energy technology and energy efficiency, thereby placing millions of Americans to work in a new generation of well-paid, "green collar" jobs.

Former President Bill Clinton also sees the potential for job creation. Last year, addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Summit, Clinton said that initiatives taken to combat global warming have the potential to "produce job gains and income gains substantially greater than the 1990s."

Just a month ago, the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., brought together 1,000 advocates representing local, state and federal policy makers; labor; business; the environment and public health; economic and workforce development specialists; investors; and scientists and technology experts to strategize moving our country rapidly toward leadership in promoting the benefits of a new green economy.

As these companies begin modifying the way they do their business to include greater environmental and social responsibility they will be seeking talent to help successfully shape these changes. Green collar jobs will likely be filled by laborers shifting from blue collar work and it seems that future C-level and upper management positions will need to be filled by leaders with working knowledge of sustainability.

However, firms have only begun to take that leap of faith. To date, large corporations like Wal-Mart, GE and DuPont have used consultants to help begin to green their bottom line, but their management teams are filled largely by professionals without expertise in sustainability. Part of the reason many haven't hired business leaders with sustainability expertise is likely to be the newness of the field. As more MBA students with a focus in sustainability management infiltrate the working environment they are likely to prove themselves invaluable to those corporations that integrate them into their management teams.

While society works to advance sustainable development and equity and reduce our impact on the environment perhaps the day will come where an MBA in Sustainable Management rivals an MBA from Harvard.

Vanessa Crossgrove Fry is founder and CEO of Viridian Search, a recruiting firm focusing on placing candidates in positions of sustainability management. Vanessa also serves as the executive director for Citizens for Smart Growth in Blaine County, Idaho.Vanessa Crossgrove Fry is founder and CEO of Viridian Search, a recruiting firm focusing on placing candidates in positions of sustainability management. Vanessa received a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the Presidio School of Management in San Francisco and a Bachelor's Degree in Biology and Fine Art from Wittenberg University in Ohio.

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