World Environment Center and Net Impact Spotlight Business Skills for a Changing World with New Report on Teaching Sustainability in Business Schools
(Washington, D.C.) October 27, 2011 – The World Environment Center (WEC) and Net Impact today released a joint report evaluating the skills required for advancing the sustainability strategies of global companies. The report, Business Skills for a Changing World: An Assessment of What Global Companies Need from Business Schools, highlights the skills required for careers in companies with strong sustainability commitments, and discusses what business schools can do to ensure graduates have those skills.
The study evaluates data taken from interviews with 33 senior sustainability executives in global companies. They included senior leaders of companies sponsoring this assessment: The Boeing Company, The Campbell’s Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Ltd., IBM, and Johnson Controls, Inc. The data underscores the importance and business value of sustainability, and contains numerous concrete examples of what global companies are doing to implement sustainability throughout their operations, from cross-functional management advisory groups to employee driven green teams. It also looks at how Human Resources can help or hinder the acquisition of new talent with the skills necessary to enact business’ evolving priorities, particularly in sustainability.
The study resulted from a September 2010 roundtable event hosted by the World Environment Center in which representatives of global corporations and academia met to discuss the teaching of sustainability, the needs of the marketplace, and opportunities for better alignment between the two.
The report includes a review of the skill sets required of new MBA hires who plan to work in companies that are actively implementing sustainability programs. According to the executives interviewed, the balance between inward-looking technical and management skills, outward-focused communications, and customer and stakeholder management skills is a priority for nearly all companies represented in the report. While technical knowledge and traditional business acumen are key to understanding business and environmental challenges, it is equally as important that professionals addressing such challenges also have the communication skills necessary to galvanize various business units across the organization. Citing examples from the executives interviewed, the report outlines the skills necessary to navigate the unique requirements of sustainability in business.
The report also underlines executives’ thoughts on the most effective ways to teach sustainability in business schools, including practical examples of curricular changes. Executives had many suggestions on how companies could become more engaged with business schools, too, in order to make their skill needs known to the schools, such as allowing themselves to be the subject of case studies, speaking to MBA audiences, and advising schools on curricula planning.
“The integration of sustainability into the business strategies of companies is one of the most important emerging opportunities for value creation in the global economy,” stated Dr. Terry F. Yosie, President & CEO of the World Environment Center. “This study identifies the skills that will add value to a sustainability strategy, and examines the space between business and academia to determine not only what the real-time needs of the market are, but also how graduate students are being taught to address them.”
The report is being released in conjunction with the 2011 Net Impact Conference, held this year in Portland, OR. Net Impact’s annual conference brings together over 2,500 business school students and practitioners to discuss trends in socially and environmentally responsible business.
“Students are demanding to learn sustainability-relevant skills from their MBA programs, and are looking for employers who value this mindset,” said Liz Maw, Executive Director of Net Impact. “We are excited to see companies engaging more with business schools to prepare future sustainability-minded leaders.”
Dr. Yosie will lead a panel discussion at the Conference on October 29, in which the teaching of sustainability in business schools, and the skill requirements of the marketplace, will be addressed.