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B-schools Get Their Green On

Tue, Sep 7, 2010

NCBR, Stories

When I was finishing my graduate degree in environmental management, a group of executives and leaders from several major conservation organizations came and spoke with a group of us and each offered the same piece of advice, which at the time seemed a little late: Take some MBA classes.

While some classmates were pursuing a joint degree (MBA and environmental management), many of us had steered clear of management courses. By the end of my two years, I realized that learning about accounting or executive admin didn’t mean I needed to be an investment banker (nor would it turn me into a morally bankrupt environmentalist). Fortunately, b-school students are figuring out the converse as well, taking course-loads that combine traditional business education with sustainability and environmental premises.

Two years after the financial meltdown on Wall Street and across the nation, a number of graduate business-school programs have shifted some emphasis to ethics and environmental consciousness and, as with all things green, Colorado is at the forefront. I wrote about the green MBA movement on the Front Range in my July 1, 2010 column for the Northern Colorado Business Report.

The article looks at the different directions and concentrations that universities are developing for their students who administrators say are driving the agendas through their own interests and career goals. I sort of expected to hear a little more academic snobbery among the different programs, but even though the green MBA field is relatively young, the universities are each working distinct niches, and even cooperating on initiatives.

From my column:

The academic partnerships seem to underscore that the green-MBA universe isn’t a wild competition; there is plenty of ground to cover. Developing a natural cleaning product, implementing corporate sustainability practices, building and financing solar panels, and creating an organic coffee cooperative are very different endeavors but they’re all “green business.” Schools also recognize that established professionals will need to become more conversant and familiar with environmental principles and new ways of evaluating profits and costs. Corporate partnerships and mentor relationships are two-way streets for all the schools and their students.

“Sustainability is not something you learn once,” said Bill Kramer, senior associate director of CSU’s Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Enterprise housed within the business college, which provides support for innovative startups and resources for both student entrepreneurs and executives.

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