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Placing sustainability at the core of your business strategy has never made more sense. Focusing on disclosure and increased resource efficiency helps to insulate businesses from the destabilizing threat of resource scarcity, and provides the necessary dataset for taking a longer-term view. Pursuing ethical leadership ensures that your business is able to maintain sufficient social licence to operate. This list of factors is ever-growing, but prioritizing sustainability within a corporate structure remains a daily struggle.

Having an executive team focused on these goals is no guarantee that your company will become a leader in the field, but an absence of leadership makes it almost impossible. A recent study published by the Network for Business Sustainability South Africa interviewed a range of leaders to find out the three main obstacles hampering CEOs from focusing on sustainability. It concluded that a lack of knowledge around environmental and social issues was the biggest factor, combined with an inability to determine why this was relevant to their specific businesses. For those CEOs who understood the link, it was often difficult to emphasize sustainability over competing priorities.

Business schools and in particular MBA programs – remain the main source of upper and middle management at multinational firms. Almost a third of the world’s 500 largest listed companies are led by MBA graduates. It’s for these reasons that Corporate Knights began sustainability-focused business school rankings in 2003.

In the 13 years since, business education has gone through a remarkable transformation. Part of this is due to demand from students, a generation more interested in purpose-driven businesses than before. A global survey of 3,700 business school students conducted by Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment in 2015 found 44 per cent of students willing to work for less at a company with a strong sustainability record. A further 20 per cent of students stated their refusal to work for an environmental laggard, no matter the financial incentive.

Changes have also been driven by increased demand from the corporate sector, as well as a desire by business schools to be ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing students for tomorrow’s economy.

Corporate Knights’ 2016 Better World MBA Ranking is a testament to this new sustainability-focused educational landscape. Schools from four countries and two continents head the top of the list, beginning with the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. The program continues to be a worldwide leader in sustainability, with a base of relevant research institutes and centres, faculty support and curriculum integration.

This is followed by MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business. The Copenhagen Business School and France’s INSEAD rounded out the top five. While all five programs finished in the top 15 of last year’s ranking, INSEAD managed to leap from 14th to 5th.

North America continues to lead the way with 53 per cent of schools involved, followed by Europe at 43 per cent. Programs in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom dominated the ranking, followed by a strong showing by Dutch schools. The top-ranked program outside of North America and Europe was Australia’s Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

The vision of the Better World MBA Ranking is to help ensure future business leaders know how to integrate social and environmental factors into their thinking, whether it’s how to do full-cost accounting, build inclusive leadership and governance structures, or engage in ethical marketing. We aim to do this by highlighting which MBA programs are leading the pack through the Top 40 list, as well as demonstrating which programs are lagging.

We’ve also created a complementary document for prospective MBA students (also here) that helps them to identify which schools are on the cutting edge of making the world a better place.


Click here to go back to the ranking landing page.

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