Thursday, July 30, 2009

What is a Sustainable MBA?

A freelance journalist recently contacted me (thanks to my Net Impact Boston buddy Asheen) and asked me a few questions about my experience at BGI. Since I have not written in a while and would like to get back into the groove (a book review for "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller by Jeffrey Rubin is overdue) I thought I would post the comments here (image from These are my comments/opinions as a recent graduate from the program...that's it.

How does a sustainable business program allow students to see beyond a company’s stock price and focus on becoming a long-term economic steward?
In my experience the course-work of BGI was all about long-term and holistic thinking. We routinely discussed the impacts of corporate decisions on stakeholders that included shareholders, but did not disproportionately weight their importance. The BGI student body has a diverse professional background, with non-profit employees and executive directors sharing space and conversation with CSR and other professionals from small & large, public and private companies. These various perspectives brought additional topics into the room for discussion and consideration, things beyond quarterly earnings. Our coursework tended to emphasize content that illustrated long-term economic, social, & environmental success over short-term "turn & burn" models. Ultimately, the students at BGI are self-selected and interested in changing the way business is done, including the integration of long-term and sustainable business practices within the mission of the company. The program created space for analysis of different forms of business, with visitors to the school providing insight into their successes in these new forms (B Corporations come to mind).
Do you use a combination of regular and specialized coursework, or are sustainability lessons integrated throughout the program?
At BGI, sustainability is integrated into all the courses; sustainablility is not a "bolt-on" elective, something core to BGI's teaching of sustainability. In addition to the standard curriculum, students may choose to pursue an industry concentration by focusing their project work throughout their two or three years in the program to align with their personal passions and career aspirations. BGI's curriculum included a unique class called "Leadership & Personal Development" that was part of coursework throughout the program. This unique element taught us to understand our own motivations, strengths, & weaknesses and prepared us for leading the change required to move to a sustainable business world. There are also ample opportunities for students to help create the BGI experience, with committees, clubs, and task forces that directly impact the schools strategic planning available to them. Creating one's own is highly encouraged.
Why is an emphasis on social and environmental issues, ethics, and managers’ obligations to society integral to students making their mark on the business world in a positive way? [I edited this question as it was phrased awkwardly and tried to tie in to the current recession. Honestly, I did not have the energy to go there.]
In my opinion a conscious business person, one connected to the place they live and the places their business impacts will act in a more responsible manner, thinking critically about their business actions instead of merely taking them unconsciously in a "business-as-usual" environment.
How long does it take to receive a degree through your program? Are there any special pre-requisites an undergrad must fulfill in order to apply to the program?
BGI's MBA program has both 2 and 3 year options. As for pre-requisites, when I started in the fall of 2007 I had to take basic accounting and economics before classes started. Additional details on prereqs would be better sourced from the admissions staff at BGI.
Where can a graduate from your program expect to be employed?
The potential really is limitless. We have graduates starting their own businesses in energy, food, and business services (among many others). Graduates also work in the heart of corporate America, managing environmental efforts or even working as an "intrapreneur" to change the organization from the inside. BGI grads go on to non-profit leadership roles or start their own, or perhaps they just take their new-found business skills and stay where they are, growing within their existing organizations. From a "trend" perspective, CO2 accounting/tracking is hot as well as alternative energy. BGI graduates, especially if they focus on an industry, are well prepared to make an impact in those areas.
OK then, some comments about sustainable MBAs through the BGI lens.

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