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Green Dialogues: With Giselle Weybrecht, Author, The Sustainable MBA

“I’d like to see sustainability just become the norm for business and for all of us in the way we live our lives.”

– Giselle Weybrecht
Author, The Sustainable MBA

MBA programs world-wide have traditionally focused on conventional subjects such as Marketing, Finance, HR, Strategy, etc. But significant importance is now being attached to the role of corporate in managing their environment and to incorporate ‘sustainability’ principles in their business strategies. With ever-rising concerns on environmental issues, especially related to industrial projects, the corporate have finally started to take social and environmental concerns seriously. But to what extent are they prepared? Do they actually possess competent people in their staff to identify and analyze environmental risks and advice management on the best course of action?

These questions throw the spotlight on MBA colleges that prepare students to take up these new challenges in their professional roles. Are these MBA professionals being aligned with the emerging climate change concerns?

Giselle Weybrecht, author of the widely-acclaimed book – “The Sustainable MBA: The Manager’s Guide to Green Business” – shares her views and ideas in conversation with in Green Dialogues. Giselle’s book, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2010, aims to educate the next generation of business leaders about sustainability issues, whether these be students or business executives. What challenges does an MBA college management face in incorporating ‘sustainability’ in its course curriculum?

Giselle Weybrecht: The MBA college management face several challenges when it comes to incorporating sustainability into the course curriculum ranging from a lack of relevant case studies, faculty who don’t understand these issues, a resistance to making changes to the curriculum in general. This is why I wrote “The Sustainable MBA: The Manager’s Guide to Green Business”. When I was doing my MBA, I was looking for this information and couldn’t find it. So I decided to put together the information that you need as a manager, conveniently organized around the core topics of an MBA program: Accounting, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Organizational Behavior and Strategy. The book focuses on the business case in all of these areas along with tools and trends of what is happening in the respective disciplines and what you can do. What changes do you feel are needed in order to bring a better appreciation of sustainable development in MBA programs?

Giselle Weybrecht: Many students already think they know what sustainability is all about and have written it off as something that is about not for profits because it means giving away money rather than making it. This is not at all the whole picture; sustainability means a lot more and is being used in many different ways, profitable ways by businesses around the world. It is important that MBA programmes show this to students within core courses, electives, consulting projects, campus activities, just to name a few examples. It is important that they give the next generation of business leaders the tools to be able to apply this to their business in a way that makes sense not only to society and the planet but also to the business. How have MBA programs been able to integrate ‘sustainability’ into Finance, Marketing, Accounting, etc.? What has been your experience?

Giselle Weybrecht: MBA programmes have been slow to integrate sustainability into the core topics but this is increasingly happening. Many business schools and businesses around the world are using the book in their classes and training courses. I am often invited to give classes in the different topics on sustainability and it is amazing to see how the students and the faculty react to these. Often they didn’t realize that there was so much to it! What would be the key competencies of a “Sustainable MBA” graduate who would be considered by corporate as well-equipped to handle current environmental and social issues? How would these competencies benefit the student?

Giselle Weybrecht: Key competencies would include an entrepreneurial spirit, open mindedness, an understanding of stakeholder groups, an innovative spirit, ability to question fundamental assumptions around business, ability to see and take advantage of opportunities, to be able to understand the impact of business decisions on society and on the business in the short, medium and long term, and finally strong business skills alongside knowledge of sustainability issues. These are all skills that make a graduate a much stronger manager. How do you see MBA curriculum changing with respect to incorporating sustainability aspects related to businesses in the next, say, 5-10 years?

Giselle Weybrecht: The MBA curriculum around the world is changing significantly. I would like to see sustainability aspects completely embedded into the MBA within the next 5 to 10 years. I do see this happening, especially with business schools that are innovative, responsive and looking to continuously better themselves and provide their students with the best possible educational experience.

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