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MBAs, Money, and Mother Nature: The Motivation To Be Sustainable

The Role of Sustainability in Management

From time to time a post a guest blog when I a receive one for consdieration. If it touches upon an important topic and deals with the workplace, I consider posting the piece. Today's blog is by Julianna Davies.

In today’s uncertain economy, in a world plagued by environmental disasters and the looming specter of climate change, more companies than ever are moving towards sustainable practices. To become a better manager, it is often the case that one must become more well-versed in how to be environmentally friendly. Corporations like Wal-Mart, International Paper, AOL and Unilever are beginning to take their long-term environmental impact into account when making business decisions.

The new corporate focus on sustainability pleases consumers, who are more concerned than ever before about environmental issues. A 2008 study from Information Resources, Inc. revealed that 25% percent of American consumers take multiple sustainability concerns into account when making buying decisions. Fair trade, sustainable packaging and organic labels are among the factors today’s eco-conscious consumers look for when making buying decisions. As the market for sustainable products grows, it just makes sense that more corporations would cater to it.

But, corporate sustainability these days is about a lot more than wiggling into the pocketbooks of eco-conscious spenders. Corporations are realizing that, in a world where the economy is in flux, natural resources are dwindling, energy costs are rising, and the climate is changing rapidly, sustainable business practices are the only way forward. For even the largest corporations, sustainabilityisn't just a marketing strategy, but a way to keep costs low and share prices high.

Internet giant AOL takes steps to conserve electricity, fuel, and resources at its Dulles campus, which has earned Energy Star status. The company also practices widespread recycling of paper, plastics, cell phones, and batteries, among other items. Retail monolith Wal-Mart is working with retailers to replace its store label salad and fruit packages with corn, rather than oil, based plastics. In Japan alone, this saves the company $195,000 in shipping and production costs, since the new plastic is lighter and cheaper to make.

As corporations all over the world move towards more sustainable practices, the world’s future CEOs take notice. Sustainability MBA, also known as Green MBA, programs have been emerging around the nation since the early 2000s. These programs emerged to meet the needs of a generation of modern business students for whom sustainability is a virtue. For these business leaders, many of whom were raised in an increasingly eco-friendly culture, sustainability isn’t optional.

Green MBA programs, such as the one at Dominican University of California, teach business students how to incorporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability practices into a sound business model. Students in Dominican University’s Green MBA program have access to EPA and other government grants, internships, and important conferences. They’re getting a taste of corporate sustainability practices by working to place eco-friendly products in film and TV, and promote the use of non-toxic beauty and personal care products.

Educators claim that a Green MBA gives the modern business school graduate an advantage. Alain Gracianette, chair of Marylhurst University’s MBA in Sustainable Business in Marylhurst, Oregon, tells Oregon Business that today’s corporations"want people who see the big picture." Where a traditional MBA focuses on teaching students about financial strategy, the Green MBA teaches students to form long-term strategies that take environmental concerns into account.

 Blog wrirren by Julianna Davies who can be reached at:  julianna.davies19@gmail.com.

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