The University of Exeter is offering the first sustainable MBA. But shouldn’t all MBAs be teaching these skills?
By Duncan Graham-Rowe for the Guardian Professional Network
Photograph: NOVASTOCK/REX FEATURES
It’s been described as one of the most pressing challenges that businesses are likely to face over the next five years, and one that could save them a collective £55bn a year in the UK alone – that is, the task of ensuring that business leaders and professionals have the skills they need to take their companies forwards into a sustainable economy. But exactly what kind of skills are we talking about?
The ability to collaborate, innovate, inspire and communicate are often bandied around, leadership qualities that are recognised as essential for transforming a business into a sustainable enterprise. But while the drive for change and cost reduction has led to a surge in demand for these kinds of skills, it is not entirely clear how they differ from the skills you would expect any competent business leader to possess.
But that’s the point, says Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, international director of corporate communications at the WWF, which has jointly launched the first MBA geared towards sustainability, the One Planet MBA at the University of Exeter Business School. “It’s in your interest to put your business on a sustainable footing,” he says.
Jeanrenaud believes that the decline of religious influence on society is largely to blame for the business community’s unbridled quest for profit and growth. This absence of moral values is reflected in the way that business leaders are trained and educated, he says. “Most MBAs are really geared towards being successful in terms of profitability and increasing shareholders value.”
One Planet is attempting to change this business culture from the inside out, but not by teaching different skills about how to run a business. It’s more a shift in mindset, says Jeanrenaud. “It starts from the standpoint and recognition that business-as-usual is not desirable. Money is not evil, but it has to be put in the context of the broader good and the good of the planet, embedding those values into everything you do,” he says. (…).
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