Green is the new black – a saying coined not long ago. However, wouldn't it be more appropriate to paraphrase to green is the new red? Because integrating sustainability in business education is not just a modern whim but a red flag indicating we should act now to ensure equal access to resources, safe environments, and eco-diversity.

Sustainability, often described as setting long-term social and environmental goals to ensure the continuity, diversity, and well-being of the world we know, is a global concern, and business settings are no exception.

Incorporating sustainability in business education is one of the most important steps to help business leaders of the future pave the way to a greener world.

Why sustainability should be a mandatory part of today's business education curricula

Research shows that educational institutions can facilitate the transition to a sustainable society. Why? Because students, the decision-makers of tomorrow, are involved! By educating students, they not only acquire vital competencies on the topic of sustainable business practices but develop critical thinking that can help open a dialog on different levels, including employment, politics, and media.

Interestingly, reports by the UN indicate the need to “ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development […]” by 2030 at the latest. Such ambitious goals are of high priority because by educating business leaders on the topic, the ESG and employee programmes planned within an organisation can become more effective. Businesses that incorporate sustainable practices can reduce costs, improve their relevance and ensure employee satisfaction. Furthermore, sustainability in business education can play a crucial role in resolving global environmental problems and fighting climate change and wealth inequality. Last but not least, Masters that include sustainability can benefit students on an individual level. To provide an example, many students can gain a competitive advantage in the job market as more employers nowadays are looking for candidates with a good understanding of the topic.

How can sustainability be integrated into business education?

Since climate change affects people’s health, occupational safety, and employment opportunities across the globe, it’s no surprise that sustainability has become a focus for many organisations. More and more courses and practical programmes promote sustainable development, as well as the need for establishing cross-department connections to facilitate the actual implementation of such initiatives.

Interestingly, educational organisations can integrate sustainability as a topic in a variety of ways:

  • Core courses paired with field trips and conferences to put knowledge into perspective
  • Optional courses to engage different students (for example, art students seeking to visualise the problem)
  • Case studies to gain a practical understanding (for example, role-playing development of a consulting model on sustainability)
  • Guest speakers or eco-reps to boost motivation and engagement through P2P learning methods
  • Practical experience, such as internships, to give real context to the problem
  • Campuses as a laboratory ground (for example, guiding students to work on greenhouse gas or energy projects that can be used by the whole university)
  • Green infrastructure that connects students, applicants, lecturers, and staff not only in the classroom (for example, a farm on-site)

Top 5 Master’s programmes in sustainability to choose from

While the implementation of such sustainability-oriented courses is still in progress, the good news is that some top universities are already setting an excellent example:

  1. To start with, a pioneer in the field is ESSEC with its one-year MSc in Sustainability Transformation (ST), with a modern campus in the growing in popularity town of Cergy-Pontoise, France. Through this engaging programme, the university aims to equip leaders with knowledge and tools to make a real impact in business settings globally.
  2. If you prefer the gothic charm of Edinburgh, the MSc in Global Strategy & Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh can be just right for you. The programme enables students to gain a critical understanding of all the forces and risks that affect the social sustainability of private, public, and third-sector organisations.  
  3. The MSc in Transformative Sustainability provided by Bocconi is another internationally-oriented programme to help understand the influence of ESG criteria and how companies are transitioning toward a sustainable approach by implementing technology.  An extra point: the campus is in the classy city of Milan, Italy, which can help you experience the dolce vita.
  4. Another French leader in the field is IESEG and its MSc in Management for Sustainability: a 4-term programme designed for future problem-solvers that can make better short- and long-term decisions regarding green technology, labour practices, and engagement with stakeholders.
  5. If you are looking for opportunities across the Atlantic, put Kogod Business School - American University on your list. The prestigious school offers an MSc in Sustainability Management (in-person or online) to help business leaders learn to provide social solutions while keeping businesses thriving.

In short, Masters programmes that incorporate sustainability are slowly becoming the most in-demand programmes to help students land the job of their dreams but also to equip organisations and societies with leaders who know how to lead us toward a better future.

Will you lead the way?