How the Top Undergrad Business Programs Perform on Sustainability

How the Top Undergrad Business Programs Perform on Sustainability

It's a mark of progress that a series of business-school rankings as influential as that of Bloomberg BusinessWeek includes metrics on sustainability in its annual scores.

Perhaps slightly less encouraging is the narrow slice of Venn diagram that marks where the top overall business schools and the top schools for sustainability in business education overlap.

The magazine last week released its 2011 rankings for business schools, with the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., taking first place for sustainability (and 23rd place overall). Notre Dame, the overall top-ranked school, also landed in 2nd place for sustainability, followed by Babson (overall rank: 20) and the otherwise unranked Seattle University landing fourth in sustainability.

William & Mary is understandably proud of its ranking, having also scored in the top 10 for marketing and accounting.

"We are creating the next generation of business leaders, where social and environmental concerns are woven into the core of business thinking," Chris Adkins, Director of Undergraduate Business Program, said in a statement. "The key for business and b-schools is partnership so we can scale impact. This year was a powerful year of partnership, launching the Corporate & College Collaborative for Sustainability with support from IBM."

Here's what the BusinessWeek profile of the school says about its sustainability: 

The No. 23-ranked Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary takes top honors in sustainability, thanks to the school's extreme focus on everything green. Undergrad business students can enroll in such courses as Green Supply Chain and Environmental Consulting, or join the Net Impact chapter. In addition, the Mason School, along with Saatchi & Saatchi S, a consulting firm focused on corporate social responsibility, has launched the "Do One Thing for Sustainability" initiative (DOT), pushing students to do their part in the green movement. Some student- and faculty-suggested DOTs include eliminating textbooks where possible and getting rid of plastic bottles at various campus events.

And Seattle University's Albers School of Business, BusinessWeek says: 

[A]lready ranked fourth in sustainability, is ramping up its efforts in the specialty by introducing a new special topics elective called Sustainable Marketing in the spring of 2012. And at Richmond's Robins School, ranked seventh in sustainability, the new business facility, Queally Hall, is expected to receive a LEED Silver rating in 2012, with such features as low-flow water systems and the use of recycled material in construction.

The rankings are drawn from surveys of business-school alumni, followed by analysis of that data by academics and corporate MBA recruiters, and an assessment of the intellectual capital of each school (based on journal and newspaper articles published by school faculty).

But aside from the anecdotes published above, there's very little to discern about the state of sustainability in undergraduate business programs. And while those anecdotes are interesting, and encouraging -- to a point -- about instilling a green focus in the next generation of business leaders, it feels more than a little bit insufficient.

Any time I talk about employees and recruitment with today's generation of business leaders, there is mention of just how important sustainability and environmental concerns are to people in the Generation Y and Millennial age groups, especially when it comes to companies to work for.

Given that, I'd hope to see a larger focus on sustainability, not just in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek rankings, but in the performance of the top-ranked schools themselves.

See the charts below for the comparative sustainability and overall rankings. The full set of rankings are available at

School name Overall rank Sustainability Score William & Mary (Mason) 23 1 Notre Dame (Mendoza) 1 2 Babson 20 3 Seattle U. (Albers) NR 4 San Diego 36 5 Santa Clara (Leavey) 35 6 Richmond (Robins) 12 7 Emory (Goizueta) 3 8 Oregon (Lundquist) 85 9 Duquesne (Palumbo) 78 10  

School name Overall rank Sustainability Score Notre Dame (Mendoza) 1 2 Virginia (McIntire) 2 18 Emory (Goizueta) 3 8 Pennsylvania (Wharton) 4 100 Cornell (Dyson) 5 12 Michigan (Ross) 6 111 Villanova 7 45 North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Kenan Flagler) 8 70 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) 9 NR Georgetown (McDonough) 10 32

Photo CC-licensed by Herkie.