Business Schools Get a Little Greener, Survey Shows

Posted by: Alison Damast on October 21, 2009

Students with a keen interest in the social and environmental savvy of business schools should keep an eye on the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey, a biannual “green” alternative ranking of business schools released Oct. 21. Unlike other business school rankings like the ones conducted by BusinessWeek and other outlets, this survey takes a close look at how MBA programs weave social and environmental topics into their core classes, electives and academic research. The data taken is from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years.

The number one-ranked school this year is York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, the first Canadian school to top the list in the survey’s 10-year history. Closely following on the heels of Schulich are the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the Yale School of Management, the Stanford Graduate School of Business (the number one school in the 2007 ranking) and Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. For the full list of the top 20-ranked schools, click here.

Schulich stood out as the top school because of what the Aspen Institute called the “extraordinary number of courses” available to students with environmental and social content, as well as the large number of relevant academic articles published by the school’s faculty.

Dezsö J. Horváth, dean of the Schulich School of Business, said he was pleased that the school was being recognized for its years of work in this area. The school’s emphasis on sustainability was more important than ever given the “watershed events of the past year,” he says.

“Schulich began laying the groundwork for research and teaching in the areas of business ethics and sustainability back in the early 1990s when few other business schools were doing so,” Horváth says. “Today’s number one ranking is recognition of close to two decades of research, innovation and curriculum development at our School.”

This year’s ranking, which surveyed 149 business schools from 24 countries, had plenty of good news for business-school students with a green leaning. According to the ranking, the percentage of business schools that require students to take an elective course focused on “business and society” issues continued to increase, jumping from 63% in 2007 to 69% in 2009. And of the schools surveyed, more are offering electives that feature social, environmental and ethical content. Back in 2005, schools offered only 12 courses that met these criteria, a number that jumped to 19 in 2009.

This is an encouraging trend, one that is indicative of just how important schools are taking their responsibility to prepare students for the social and ethical complexities of modern day business, says Rich Leimsider, director of the Aspen Institute’s Center for Business Education.

“In these challenging economic times, the general public, not just scholars, are questioning whether the established models of business are broken,” Leimsider says. “Beyond Grey Pinstripes schools are thoughtfully pursuing new approaches. They are preparing students who take a more holistic view of business success, one that measures financial results as well as social and environmental impacts.”

Despite the progress being made, not all of the survey’s findings were cause for optimism. Of the schools surveyed, the percentage requiring student to take a core course in social and environmental change remains low, at 30%.

For Adam Aston’s take on the ranking, check out his post on the Green Business blog.

Readers, what do you think? Should more schools require students to take these sort of classes as part of the core curriculum?

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