The University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School’s nationally and internationally ranked MBA program opens pathways for careers in the rapidly growing field of sustainable business. Recent graduates or professionals looking to understand key topics in today’s business environment, such as risk management and regulation compliance, may choose the STEM-certified program, recognized as sixth in the nation and 21st worldwide by Corporate Knights’ Better World MBA Sustainability Rankings, the only outlet that measures accredited programs’ level of student training in the developing field.
Challenging The Status Quo
“Ten years ago, only about 20 percent of S&P 500 firms were reporting on their sustainability initiatives. Now, the rate is well over 90 percent,” says Professor of Economics David Kelly. “Sustainable business has become deeply important to the business world.”
As the discipline gains ground as a foundational element of business enterprise, faculty at Miami Herbert foster academic content, experiential projects, and campus initiatives that equip students with the workforce skills to face challenges amid increasing environmental, social, and economic stresses.
“We have recognized the opportunity and built programs that prepare the next generation of leaders in resiliency and change response,” says Miami Herbert Dean John Quelch. “Both on the programmatic front and in-house management initiatives, such as with our recently LEED-certified buildings, we have stepped up to the opportunity.”
Since 2017, under Quelch’s leadership, Miami Herbert has emerged as a leader in sustainable business education, offering the only STEM-certified Master in Sustainable Business in the United States. Kelly, who serves as the academic director of the MS in Sustainable Business program, describes the effort as a shared vision among faculty.
“We have oriented the whole school behind sustainability,” he says. “Students across programs get the kind of training that shows exactly how a firm benefits from being more sustainable.”
An Understanding Of Key Sustainability Challenges And Opportunities
The shared vision has allowed Kelly and faculty to align the MS in sustainable business and MBA curricula for the most value to students. All core courses under the MS in Sustainable Business program are available to MBA students as electives. In this manner, students can choose among topics such as sustainability accounting, regulation compliance strategies, sustainable supply chains, enterprise risk management, and the legal and ethical implications of business decisions. These courses focus on core disciplines like finance, accounting, and marketing from a sustainability standpoint. For example, in sustainable finance, students learn not only about traditional financing vehicles, such as bonds and equity but also financing vehicles that have sustainability requirements, such as green and blue bonds and green private equity.
The emphasis goes beyond elective options. On average, a core MBA course carries about 15 percent of sustainability-related content. In Kelly’s Managerial Economics class, for instance, students learn about how sustainability improves production efficiency.
“I use an example in which students figure out how often they should wash the engine of an airplane because a clean engine leads to better fuel economy and less fuel use. This not only lowers costs but improves the company’s sustainability metrics,” he explains.
While learning to lead a business in all essential functions, MBA students also learn to think about sustainability in a rigorous way, enabling them to develop a sustainable business perspective that shows how sustainability adds value.
“As sustainability becomes more embedded, heads of companies see that being sustainable leads to more meaningful returns and healthier companies,” Professor of Economics Daniel Hicks says. He describes sustainable business as “the frontier of business,” pointing out that by investing in people, communities, and natural capital, company leaders are realizing that “this way of doing business is more in sync with how society wants corporations to contribute to social and environmental wellbeing.”
What Can You Do With An MBA That Incorporates Business Sustainability?
Hicks founded and organizes Miami Herbert’s annual Chief Sustainability Officer Summit & Symposium, which brings together corporate leaders and faculty for discussions that help advance an understanding of the field. The Summit enables MBA students to directly hear from and engage with leading practitioners, as well as to further explore the latest developments and potential career options in sustainable business. These may include consultancy roles for companies like Ernst & Young and PWC—both frequent recruiters of Miami MBA graduates—sustainability management positions and roles in governmental agencies and nonprofits.
MBA students also have the option to graduate with a dual degree by pairing the MBA with a Master in Sustainable Business.
“MBA/MS students build an extra skillset that not many competitors have for employment in finance, accounting, or supply chain,” Kelly says. “Many corporate leaders today want more than just the sustainability officer to understand sustainability issues. They want their team members in the other areas to understand, too.”
Though students who opt for the master’s receive training for a more concentrated path, all MBA students graduate with the coveted knowledge base in the critical aspects of sustainable business, making the Miami MBA a strong indicator of resilient future leaders prepared to both identify opportunities and steer through crises.
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