When it comes to advancing environmental, social and economic goals, we already know that business plays a crucial role. But what we often don’t fully recognize is that business schools play an equally and perhaps even more important one. They are training the current and future generations of leaders in not just the business sector but also NGOs and government to be able to recognize and act on sustainability risks and opportunities. They produce research that heavily influences the way managers make decisions, and they are shaping, reinforcing and spreading business culture, both the positive and the negative.
Business schools are made up of expert faculty, diverse stakeholders and students, with a range of experiences from across countries, disciplines and industries. Together this offers a unique, and underutilized, laboratory to explore and test solutions to push sustainability forward in ways that benefit both business and society at large.
The challenge is that it isn’t just society that often fails to recognize the important role that business schools play; the schools themselves often fail to recognize their role and the increasing range of opportunities that sustainability can offer them, particularly now that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in place.
A look at the 2017 Top 40 Better World MBA ranking demonstrates that this is beginning to change, with business schools around the world taking their own ideas of how to make sustainability the business of business education and putting them into practice.
Author and sustainability advisor Giselle Weybrecht delves deeper into some of these more innovative approaches here, looking at examples from both the Top 40 schools and other programs from around the world.
In first place this year is the University of Exeter Business School, which barely edged out perennial winner Schulich School of Business at York University as well as Warwick Business School on the strength of its curriculum. All three programs earned top marks for their institutes and centres, along with faculty research.
Following the top three were the Copenhagen Business School and Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business.
The 2017 list represented a 17.5 per cent turnover rate from last year’s list, welcoming new schools such as the University of Edinburgh Business School and the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.
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