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What is a Sustainable MBA?

Sustainable MBASustainability has become a buzz word in industry as companies recognize the need to be ecologically sensitive. Across the world, the number of companies reporting on sustainability performance is on the rise. Over the last five years, there has been a steady increase in the demand for sustainability professionals.

B-Schools have responded by introducing exclusive MBA programs and short-term courses that incorporate sustainability principles. The business world has also shown a great deal of interest in such programs. But what are these programs all about? What can students expect and how are they different from the traditional MBA? We take a closer look at the need for MBA programs on Sustainability.

How Did The Need For Sustainability Arise?

Since Industrial Revolution, business had virtually ignored the social and environmental impacts of business. Toxic emissions, water contamination, and release of other dangerous chemical wastes in soil have resulted in rapid environmental degradation.

Greenhouse effect, caused by carbon emissions from excessive burning of fossil fuels, has been found to be a significant contributor to global warming. The scientific community has concluded with greater certainty that such human activity is responsible for climate change.

Climate change is already causing extreme weather events – floods, droughts, severe winters and heat waves.

Industrialization has had many unforeseen social consequences as well. Many local communities suffered as their traditional homes were taken for setting up of industry, mostly in developing and poor countries. The poor, uneducated and marginalized sections of society suffered the worst as they had very few alternative sources of livelihood.

A majority of resettlement and rehabilitation programs also turned out to be quite inadequate or grossly misaligned. “Especially while talking of new industrial projects popularly known as ‘green-field’ projects, it has been found in many instances that there is a lack of commitment towards the needs of local communities. While these projects appear to adhere to the ‘prescribed’ statutory requirements, there is a perceptible gap between “what the company delivers” and “what the local communities need”, says Nelmara Arbex, Deputy Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative (In Green Dialogues, a brand forum of ThinktoSustain.com).

Chimney and smoke

Greenhouse Gases from Industry

Society has been paying for these negative after-effects (and the scenario is expected to be worse for future generations) but it has started questioning and challenging government policies and corporate actions that can cause potential harm to society and environment.

Nowadays, there is an appreciable level of public awareness on such issues. News media, internet and social media, and NGOs have played a significant role in disseminating information about environment malpractices.

Judicial activism in both developed and developing countries  has led to framing of newer environment-sensitive legislation, imposition of penalties on companies and government agencies that do not comply with law of the land.

Environment experts call these developments as a “social movement” that has put pressure on corporate to own responsibility for social and environmental impacts. Failure to do so has resulted in de-listing of companies from stock exchanges, initiation of strong legal action and has even led to closure of business. The strain between business and society is much more palpable nowadays. Demonstrations against corporate and government on their industrialization policies have become a common instance the world over.

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