Integrating Sustainability into Business Education

Six ideas drawn from the book The Future MBA.

Looking for ways to integrate sustainability into the curriculum? One hundred of them have been collected in a new book by Giselle Weybrecht, an author, advisor, and social entrepreneur who also blogs about sustainability for AACSB International. In The Future MBA, Weybrecht proposes ideas about new courses and strategies that business schools might adopt. Here are six:

Something Different. In this class, students would focus on something completely unrelated to business, such as baking, surfing, studying indigenous medicines, writing a novel, or creating a community garden. At the end of the class, they would share with fellow students what they’ve done and what they’ve learned. Weybrecht predicts many students will discover new business ideas or career directions as a result of their Something Different focus.

Today. In a short class held every morning, students would examine the impact of current events on business. For instance, if an NGO releases a report that will have a negative effect on Company X, students could debate how Com­pany X should respond and then track its actual reactions over the next few days. The school could even invite a representative from Company X to class.

Flavor of the Month. Schools might organize special-themed programs that run parallel to traditional programs. Open to alumni and outside partners, these programs would be designed to make students more aware of topical issues. Themes would be regionally relevant and could include topics such as conflicts, politics, environmental concerns, or new discoveries.

Shifts. In a special series of modules, students would be placed into situ­ations with no warning or prior knowledge. For instance, students might have to prepare a presentation for the dean in 24 hours, take over the management of a special project, find a solution to an emergency, or even fly to a foreign country on a special mission. Students would be evaluated based on how well they ap­proach the unexpected situation and what they learn from the experience.

Start Something. Throughout the program, the school would hold a series of 24- to 48-hour entrepreneurship boot camps, where one group of students presents a business idea and classmates help get the business off the ground. Students and faculty from other disciplines such as engineering and design would be available to help, and funders could provide seed money. Some students might even put their ideas into practice after the boot camps are over.

Plus One. This technique encourages students to think about challenges and solutions more broadly and explore multiple scenarios more deeply. Writes Weybrecht, “For every answer or solution offered in an assignment, project, or class discussion, students will need to offer a second alternative. This will be done even when the question has a ‘clear’ right or wrong answer in order to encourage students to question long-standing assumptions.”

On her website, Weybrecht is posting examples of ways schools have imple­mented ideas from the book; she also offers a free email course based on the book. “Sustainability will increasingly be part of every job, and it will be an intri­cate part of business itself,” she writes. “The curriculum of the business school of the future will embed current sustainability topics throughout all classes and experiences.” The Future MBA is available from Greenleaf Publishing.