Taking concerns over sustainability is becoming more important than ever
In 2022, MBA schools offer more than business education in their curriculum. This is because profit in Business is not only an MBA student’s concern, further broadening the student’s abilities outside their expertise. Interestingly, over one-third of MBA students in Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois participated to take more than three elective units within the social impact discipline. From that group, over 80 percent of the students joined a relevant student club associated with social impact. The Director of Social Impact at Kellogg School explains the explosion of students with a genuine interest in social impact. “There has been a substantial increase of students participating to make a better impact on our society. It could be something like starting up a non-profit venture or a board to adjust the appropriate investment for the relevant organizations.”
This trend isn’t limited to Kellogg School itself, but across the US and European countries. “Broad but shared interest,” Tensie Whelan, a director of the Center for Sustainable Business in Stern School of Business at New York University, raised a point on why student involvement is becoming more rapid. “Apart from the business point of view, everyone in the society or students in our school are concerned about the social matters like everyone else. It could be a more urgent matter like climate change to a long systematic problem, such as racism and inequity. She continues, “As a business student, they view business as one of the most important tools in which students can contribute to both the problem, solutions, and students who want to create the solutions for it.”
The importance of sustainability is mutually agreed upon between the students and business schools. Therefore, business schools are actively encouraging responsible business practices in their core MBA curriculum. Different schools are approaching different ways to integrate the topic of sustainability into their courses. The main differences between businesses arise from the implication of the topic to be included and integrated into the traditional topics like accounting or teaching as a separate independent course.
The crossroad of the implication of the topic depends on the subject that is taught according to Batia Wiesenfeld, the director of Stern’s Business and Society Program. “The choice on how to be provided depends on the characteristics of the topic. Learning as an independent course will be more beneficial for fields like environmental investing with more time to invest.” Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands offer sustainability inclusivity within the core of their MBA courses with requirements to accomplish an expertise project on social impact.
Increasing attention on sustainability and responsible business practices are changing businesses as well. After the realization of the value of these factors, businesses are looking for employees that are competent in these matters to align their business plan with suitability and responsible business.
In the past, the business world’s only emphasis was to make more profit regardless of the consequences with the quote “Greed is good” from a known Hollywood film. This ideology is no longer considered assertive in the market. MBA schools, students, and businesses are looking to thrive more sustainability in our society with responsible business in practice.
What happens if sustainability and responsible business is included in the MBA curriculum?
There’s a contradiction that exists in the inclusion of responsible business and sustainability in the MBA course. Both sides on this agenda agree on the importance of introducing sustainability and responsible business practice as students desire more than a simple paycheck but an accomplishment and making change.
Director of Marketing in RSM, Brandy Kirby, suggests why it could cause a problem if sustainability is forced to be included in the MBA curriculum. “Due to the nature of the competitiveness and density of MBA courses, sustainability in the course means it will replace another important subject that cannot be ignored.” Wiesenfeld from Stern agreed with this. The MBA curriculum has been formulated over the years in its ideal state with every part contributing as a core function. Though she points to the possibility of consideration as some of these subjects are delivered inefficiently to the students meaning other subjects could be more useful to be taught.
On the other hand, Matthew Conisbee, MBA program director of the Business School at the University of Oxford, suggests that responsible business and sustainability should unquestionably be included in all MBA programs in the UK. He explains that global challenges are being fought together with several successes and its importance for businesses to adopt the sustainability agenda into their practice.
Oxford’s Scroll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship is also another strong follower of advocating sustainability and social matters. A social entrepreneur in Oxford, Charmian Love, emphasizes the importance of the student’s role to face the current challenges and work together to end them for all. Research conducted by Oxford focuses on the roles of business in our society to make improvements. One of the latest upcoming papers by professors Richard Barker and Robert Eccles highlights the non-financial corporate reporting and whether it is required to complete a compulsory reporting standard for the best result.
MBA Students considering sustainability agenda for a career path
Enthusiasm for sustainability and other social impacts during the school years is becoming more apparent in career pathways for graduates. To help this initiative, Kellogg School introduced a pathway for social impact in 2015 and energy and sustainability in 2019. It reinforces students’ ability to consider social values into greater changes with opened vision. Hence, it encourages more students to embark on the career pathway with social impact.
Kashner from Kellogg acknowledged the increasing number of graduates choosing a career path aligned with sustainability practices. According to Kellogg, over 44 students have participated to work as social impact interns for big non-profit organizations like BlueWave Solar, Quona Capital, and Gate Foundation in the past summer. Kashner further argued that although financial gain and fame is a big drive for ambition, the social impact that the students can make is as important as the other values. “Students will not only consider their financial benefits for their career but also the values that the companies produce and the positive changes it can output into the society. “
Despite the mutual agreement for the interest in these social agendas, Kirby from RSM suggests that even though graduates consider these values highly, financial gain and benefit cannot be replaced as the number one priority for their career. He explains that graduates will consider all of these factors when choosing their company to work with.