Survey: Stanford Tops List of Sustainable MBA Programs

Survey: Stanford Tops List of Sustainable MBA Programs

The MBA program at Stanford University ranks tops for sustainable-business education, according to Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2005, a biennial survey of business schools.

Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2005 identified the Top 30 MBA programs by inviting nearly 600 MBA programs to report on their coursework and research; 1,842 courses and 828 journal articles from leading peer-reviewed business publications were analyzed. Stanford's program distinguished itself not only by offering a large number of courses that addressed social and environmental issues in business, but also by the relatively large proportion of students who actually took those classes.

In general, the report finds that more business schools are doing a better job preparing students for the reality of tomorrow's markets, equipping them with an understanding of the social, environmental, and economic perspectives required for business success in a competitive global economy. The report was released jointly by World Resources Institute and the Aspen Institute.

The 2005 survey finds that an increasing number of business schools are offering courses in ethics, corporate social responsibility, or environmental sustainability.

"To be competitive, corporations need to recast social and environmental problems as business growth opportunities," said Jonathan Lash, president, World Resources Institute. "These schools are leading the way in providing students with the skills that are becoming increasingly valuable to the bottom line. Such skills are needed to meet the emerging challenges of climate change, water scarcity, labor issues, and poverty alleviation with innovative technologies and entrepreneurship."

In the survey, changes in coursework proved noticeable. Of the 91 business schools surveyed on six continents, 54% require a course in ethics, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, or business and society, up from 45% in 2003 and 34% in 2001. Additionally, the report finds that some leading schools are launching innovative courses on such topics as exploring private-sector approaches for addressing problems in low-income markets. The number of these courses offered has increased dramatically since 2003.

As a clear indication of the importance of these issues globally, three of the top five ranked schools, and 12 of the top 30, are located outside the United States.

Although the business schools surveyed are making important progress, the report's authors note that teaching and research on these topics often remain limited to disconnected pockets of innovation. While students at schools ranked in the top 30 were exposed to ethical, social, and environmental issues in an average of 25% of their required coursework, other students saw these issues only 8% of the time. Only 4% of faculty at the surveyed schools published research on related issues in top, peer-reviewed journals during the survey period.

"MBA programs still have a silo mentality when it comes to teaching business ethics as well as social and environmental stewardship," added Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program. "For MBA students to be truly prepared for the challenges they will face as executives after graduation, these topics need to be integrated across the business-school curriculum and in other required courses such as accounting, economics, finance, information technology, marketing, operations, and strategy."

The report is the only global survey that evaluates MBA programs for their efforts to prepare graduates on social and environmental stewardship in business. A full description of the report, its methodology, and complete MBA program rankings are available online.