Embedding sustainability in MBA programs

Sunday, 07 January, 2007

A new research project is driving organisational change towards sustainability by educating Australia's future corporate leaders and decision makers via Master of Business Administration (MBA) and executive education programs.

The project is being undertaken by the Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability (ARIES) at Macquarie University, and is funded by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage.

In 2005, ARIES completed the first stage of the project when it reviewed how business schools internationally, but particularly in Australia, are responding to the global shift towards more sustainable practice in business and industry.

It found, in contrast to the teaching of many leading edge business schools in the US, Asia and Europe, that very few Australian business schools educate their MBA students about the concept of sustainability, let alone about how to practise sustainability in business.

The latest stage of the 15-month project involved seven leading Australian business schools, each of which used an Action Research process to make changes in its MBA program curricula. They used an education for sustainability framework, providing the future business managers and leaders with different skill sets needed to bring about change towards sustainability in their businesses.

"By identifying levers for change towards sustainability, securing executive support, developing new teaching resources and incorporating education for and about sustainability into MBA curricula, these participants achieved a number of significant outcomes," director of ARIES, Associate Professor Daniella Tilbury said.

"They developed new sustainability courses and resources and created demand for them; strengthened links and partnerships with the corporate sector; and formed a strong peer group of academics."

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