Which business schools are tackling sustainability head-on?

Which business schools are tackling sustainability head-on?

By H. Young

Updated July 1, 2023 Updated July 01

In recent years, business schools have pledged to do more when it comes to the environment and sustainability. One way they have approached this is by introducing sustainability topics into their courses.  

In recent years, business schools have pledged to do more when it comes to the environment and sustainability. One way they have approached this is by introducing sustainability topics into their courses.  

The increase in companies involved in sustainable practices is driving the increased focus on this area in business schools. Nalisha Patel, Regional Director, Europe for the Graduate Management Council (GMAC), says: “It is increasingly rare to see a company that does not have some form of sustainability measure.  

“In a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, 43 percent of companies reported that they aim to align sustainability with their overall business goals.   

“The role that business schools play in developing business decision makers is significant and so it’s appropriate that they have evolved to help people understand the complex, often ambiguous, globalised intersectionality of business with environmental, social and geological factors.” 

Which schools are incorporating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their curriculum? 

BI Norwegian Business School, with four campuses across Norway, is a huge proponent for sustainability, actively striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) outlined by the UN through various initiatives and new programmes.  

One of these programmes is the MSc in Sustainable Finance which recently accepted its first cohort. The multidisciplinary degree was introduced due to sustainability becoming a core concern for investors and companies. It’s designed to prepare students for positions at the intersection of finance and sustainability. 

Associate dean of the programme, Professor Bruno Gerard, says, “ESG factors have become increasingly important in the financial industry and are rapidly becoming a vital part of the investment process.  

“Students looking for a career in finance need to learn how ESG issues affect financial management and how financial constraints can limit or support action towards sustainability.” 

How is sustainability being integrated into executive education? 

In the neighbouring Nordic country of Finland, the Strategic Sustainability for Business programme is offered at Aalto University Executive Education. Co-created with UC Berkeley Executive Education and first delivered in 2021, this programme is designed to help businesses integrate sustainability into their business strategies – something that is crucial for all companies and organisations today. 

Speaking on the career paths graduates could pursue, Senior Programme Manager Anna-Maija Ahonen says: “Country-specific legislation, EU taxonomy, expectations of customers, and arising needs to measure GHG/CO2 emissions require a skilled workforce and leaders to drive this change.  

“As participants gain understanding of the strategic importance of sustainability and the ability to build a clear roadmap and strategy for sustainable success in their context, they will become key partners and change makers in driving the transformation process within their own organisation.” 

Another executive education programme focused on sustainability topics is the Executive Master in Future Energy (EMFE) offered by ESCP Business School. The EMFE is aimed at executives with at least five years of working experience who are interested in the energy sector. 

Designed to be a practical course, it will offer relevant and practical expertise that will allow participants to apply their learning during their course and approach the energy sector in a holistic way covering all active forms of energy production. 

This blended programme also offers fully online option which gives participants the opportunity to study anywhere in the world.

Why is learning about sustainability important for your career? 

ESSEC Business School in France, another country often performing well in regards to sustainability, has developed a brand-new MSc in Sustainability Transformation accepting its first cohort in August 2022. This course is designed to equip future managers with the knowledge, know-how and network they need to have a sustainable impact on their companies and organisations. 

Alexis de la Tour du Pin, Executive Director of the MSc in Sustainability Management, says, “We believe the job market has reached a tipping point: the pressure to be more sustainable has pushed organisations to empower CSR teams and consultants to adapt their business models and upskill their employees.  

“The result is a shortage of all-around talent with a systemic vision of sustainability challenges, from understanding technical implications to strategic and financial impacts, and communication tactics. As an MSc in Sustainability Transformation graduate, you can pursue a wide array of careers related to sustainability across numerous fields of activity in multiple industries.” 

France is also home to emlyon business school which runs a recently launched specialised master’s in Energy Transition Management. Xavier Blot, Programme Director of Master’s, says: “It is very important to have specific programmes like this where you can mix different disciplines to make sure future generations will find concrete solutions to answer every issue, whether it is economic, industrial, social or environmental.  

“In an increasingly climate and energy-constrained environment, making organisations evolve towards sustainable and low-carbon activities becomes crucial.”  

Another programme launched in September 2021, across the Channel in the UK, was the Master’s in Energy Systems Management at Durham University Business School. Graduates from the programme will have an appreciation and understanding of the balance between the technical engineering and business aspects of future energy projects. 

Joanna Berry, Co-Director of the programme, says, “The Master of Energy Systems Management programme will provide students with world-class, research-led teaching and learning about the most up-to-date issues affecting energy management and energy management systems.  

“It will also introduce them to a wide range of globally respected and world class industry contacts, cultivated and curated very carefully to ensure their experience at Durham is underpinned with an international perspective and a fully commercial understanding of the priorities and urgencies of climate change. 

“Sustainability is not a simple concept; business needs to be financially sustainable; the planet needs to be ecologically sustainable, and communities need to be psychologically and environmentally sustainable. This triple bottom line needs to sit at the heart of every business decision.” 

This article was originally published in April 2023 . It was last updated in July 2023

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