Aspen Institute Releases List of Top Green MBA Degrees

The Aspen Institute recently released their annual list of top business schools that offer sustainable MBAs. According to Beyond Grey Pinstripes, a biennial survey:  “The number of business schools teaching MBA students to examine the social, environmental and ethical impacts of business decisions continues to grow, spurred by the global economic downturn, rising student demand and increased faculty willingness to explore those issues”

This year the survey is especially interesting because it comprehensively measured the extent to which MBA programs have altered their course content since the financial downturn. This is especially important because sustainable development is such an integral part of a viable business model. It also addresses whether faculty are pursuing research that focuses on on the role of business in society. 

According to Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute: “In the wake of the financial crisis we’re seeing an increased willingness to address these issues. That willingness is coming from a variety of factors, including student demand, faculty readiness and a desire on the part of business schools to clarify what exactly they’re doing to prepare business leaders to serve the needs of society, such as job creation and energy conservation.”

One hundred and forty nine schools from 29 countries submitted data for the 2011-2012 rankings. The data included over 6,000 course descriptions and over 6,000 faculty research abstracts. The project team also collated information on the schools’ extracurricular activities, joint degrees and specializations. Seven months was spent analyzing all this information and coming up with the ranking.

Stanford University bounced back from its #4 place in 2009 to #1 in the 2011 survey. It received high marks for the number of courses with social and environmental content. It also offers students courses that explicitly addresses the role of mainstream business in improving socio-enviro problems.

List of the top 10 MBA programs according to Beyond Pinstripes:

  1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  2. York University, Schulich School of Business (Canada)
  3. IE University (Spain)
  4. Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business
  5. Yale School of Management
  6. Northwestern, Kellogg School of Management
  7. University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
  8. Cornell University, Johnson Graduate School of Management
  9. University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School
  10. UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business

At top ranked schools, students encounter core courses that deal with social and environmental topics and can select from an array of electives addressing this content. The survey shows that many schools are adapting their curricula to focus on responsible decision-making in business. It also found that the core curriculum is changing across disciples. There has been a striking increase in ESG content in required courses. Even more striking was the increase in the percentage of schools requiring students to take a course solely dedicated to business and society issues.

Another finding was that Social Entrepreneurship courses are gaining prominence across MBA programs. These courses focused on values driven entrepreneurship and between 2007 and 2011, there was a 60% increase in these types of courses being offered.

Faculty research on topics relating to business and environment, including renewable energy, climate change and carbon markets, has also increased. Many of the studies were theoretical, so the next step is an increase in practical applications.

Samuelson commented that, “it is important for leadership at top business schools to unleash faculty talents on problems they know business needs to resolve.”

While the list seems solid enough, the low number of foreign universities and other newer institutions in the United States like the Presidio Graduate School, Dominican University, and Bainbridge Graduate Institute is unfortunate. However, the fact that so many universities are taking pains to educate the future business leaders on sustainability is remarkable.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

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