Students Are Set in Sustainability

The environment matters more in career choices.
Students Are Set in Sustainability
HR PROFESSIONALS WHO THINK job candidates aren’t paying attention to their companies’ environmental practices should think again: A new survey finds that the vast majority of business students—96 percent—believe businesses should take a leading role in addressing climate change. At the same time, 64 percent do not believe that businesses have done enough to solve the world’s environmental challenges.

These are just two results from a survey conducted by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Network for Advanced Management. The survey asked more than 3,700 students at 29 leading business schools in 25 countries about their stance on the role of business in addressing issues related to environmental sustainability. Here are a few of its other findings:

Eighty-four percent of students reported that they would choose to work for companies with good environmental practices, and 67 percent want their future jobs to incorporate environmental sustainability in some way.

In addition, 44 percent would choose jobs with companies that had better environmental practices over those whose practices lagged behind—even if it meant accepting lower salaries. And 19 percent would refuse to work for companies with bad environmental records, regardless of the salary offered.

The students also indicated that they believe that profit and purpose are not mutually exclusive and that measures to protect the environment will drive economic growth, create jobs, and make companies more competitive in their industries.

“The role of business in society is changing. Business leaders need to understand the complex nature of sustainability issues and integrate solutions for social and environmental challenges, with the need for good financial results,” says Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the WBCSD. The survey indicates that today’s students are “demanding action on environmental sustainability,” he adds. “If business schools and business can deliver against this call for change, the necessary transformation toward a sustainable future will clearly be much more impactful.”

An overarching finding from the survey is that 92 percent of these students believe that the world already is seeing the impact of climate change. They want to start addressing these challenges during their business school programs.

Sixty-four percent also want business schools to integrate issues of environmental sustainability into their core curricula, while 61 percent want business schools to hire more faculty and staff with expertise in sustainability.

These results send a clear message to business schools as they consider the content of their curricula for the 21st century, says Edward Snyder, dean at Yale. “Worldwide, today’s business schools are being called on to act by the very people we’re training as leaders,” he says. “It’s incumbent upon us to prepare our students for the world not of the last generation, but the next.”

Download the report, “Rising Leaders on Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change” at cbey.yale.edu/ risingleaders.