MBA Programs Going Green

Big businesses use a lot of resources to function, and some of the largest businesses are based solely on the exploitation of finite resources. The increased environmental awareness since Al Gore’s movie has impacted interest in the relationship between the environment and business operations. Now, MBA schools have classes that focus on the greening of businesses.

Most business schools say that although interest in these courses and programs is probably going to peak and then drop off a bit, the need to study and understand how business impacts the environment will never go away. And business schools are the ones shouldering the responsibility to train a new generation of MBAs who are equipped to make sound decisions. “We don’t want to be in the business of chasing fads,” says Forest Reinhardt, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, where environmental considerations and case studies have been woven into the fabric of many courses. “We would not be making these efforts if we thought this was the flavor of the month.”

Perhaps the closest parallel to B-schools’ current interest in sustainability, the environment, and social issues is the push to add ethics to the MBA curriculum following the collapse of Enron in 2001 and the era of corporate scandals that followed. However, unlike that effort, which never resulted in full-blown business ethics programs, sustainability appears to be a trend that is carving out significant space for itself in the curriculum.