- An MBA is a common degree among business leaders, including 40% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
- Students and employers want business schools to add more sustainability-focused master's programs.
- Top MBA programs are also integrating sustainability into their research, curriculum, and hiring.
As sustainability becomes a growing issue among more companies, students are increasingly signing up for graduate business programs offering more courses, advanced degrees, and job opportunities that integrate corporate and environmental interests.
Demand from both students and employers has led business schools in the US, Canada, and Europe to expand core courses and flagship MBA programs to better include the issue of sustainability. Program directors and professors are including sustainability in a wide variety of classes and fundamental business areas such as marketing, supply chain, investing, and data management at Stanford University, Duke University, and the University of Toronto.
These changes reflect how sustainability has become a higher priority among a growing number of companies, as well as a desired skill in traditional management roles.
Experts told Insider that students with an interest and education in sustainability were more attractive job candidates, with salaries comparable to other MBA graduates.
Broad demand for sustainability by employers
An MBA is a common degree among business leaders, including 40% of Fortune 500 CEOs. And with climate and sustainability strategies now affecting a wide variety of corporate areas, business professors have learned that employers want MBA graduates from these new programs and courses in a wide variety of positions.
"Most companies, even if they're not hiring somebody in a sustainability role, might want their employees to know about sustainability and be able to incorporate them in their decision-making," said Vishal Agrawal, an associate business professor at Georgetown University.
Agrawal has been researching sustainable operations for well over a decade and said that his students who are interested in sustainability, including those who are completing specialized certificates, aren't struggling to find jobs like graduates in the past. Part of the reason is they're applying to and getting conventional positions in areas that don't have sustainability in the title, but they still work on the issue on a daily basis, a strategy that Agrawal said is more effective by design.
"The job of how to actually make sustainability happen is throughout the organization," he said. "No matter what industry or what functional area they're going into, they need to know about sustainability and how to incorporate that for their businesses or their organizations."
An increasing shift to fundamental integration
At the University of California, Berkeley, Michele De Nevers' job as the executive director of sustainability programs at the Haas School of Business is to ensure that every graduate develops a basic level of literacy on the topic.
"Future business leaders will need to manage stresses on natural resources, particularly water scarcity in western states like California," she said late last year, "and they will also need to manage the social side of sustainability, which will increasingly determine support from constituents - shareholders, employees, customers, and communities."
Griffith University's business school goes even further by highlighting sustainability as one of its three core values "crucial to doing business in the 21st century" and integrating issues such as responsible corporate practices into its main MBA program.
"We have made a conscious decision that we believe every MBA should be a sustainable MBA," Stephanie Schleimer, the university's MBA director, told Corporate Knights, a media, research and financial-information company in Toronto. It's a strategy that also helped vault the business school to first place on the magazine's 2020 list of the top 40 global business schools with environmentally friendly values.