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10 Ways to Make Sustainability Part of Your Business Degree


Posted April 17, 2017 by Giselle Weybrecht - Author, Advisor, and Speaker - Sustainability and Business

As more and more businesses are taking sustainability seriously, business schools are following suit. They are putting in place a wide range of different initiatives and events focused on different sustainability topics for students to get involved in. Some even have degrees or certificate programs focused on the topic.

But if you are interested in sustainability you don’t necessarily need to look for a program that specializes in the topic. In fact, there are many ways to turn any business degree into one that incorporates sustainability topics. Here are 10 tips on how to create your own sustainability focus.

1. Look to see if the schools you are interested in are taking these topics seriously. A growing number of business schools are part of a network focused on embedding sustainability into business education, such as the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education. Many schools are also producing regular sustainability reports that outline what they are doing in this area. These can be interesting resources to see what opportunities already exist.

2. What electives are offered? The elective portfolio is where you are most likely to see courses focused on sustainability more broadly, or on specific sustainability topics such as impact investing, renewable energies, and social entrepreneurship. These courses are often taught by faculty actively doing sustainability-related research, and they can be another important resource to learn more about the topics you are interested in.

3. Look through the core courses. Some schools have core courses that focus on sustainable business, and now almost all students have access to a course on ethics that often touches on these topics, as well. But more importantly, see how sustainability topics come up in the individual core courses, such as marketing, finance, and operations. This is where you will really gain knowledge that will allow you to bring sustainability into your post-graduation career.

4. Make it a part of your coursework. Even if sustainability isn’t coming up in your core courses, make it a part of your studies yourself. Look for ways you can incorporate sustainability into some of your assignments throughout the degree. Some programs require you to do short consulting projects with companies. Look into working with social entrepreneurs, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or businesses exploring sustainability.

5. See what the school itself is doing in relation to sustainability. How is the school approaching sustainability topics as a business? How are they approaching issues such as waste, energy efficiency, diversity? Are there initiatives on campus you can get involved in? What about ones you can start?

6. Join a student club. Many business schools have a range of clubs that focus on sustainability broadly. Some are part of international networks such as Net Impact, Oikos, and AIESEC. If your school doesn’t have one, start one. Also look to bring sustainability topics to or hold joint events with other clubs you are interested in, such as the Finance Club.

7. Consider a range of careers options. Interested in sustainability as a career? You don’t only have to look at jobs with the word in the job title or work for a nonprofit. Many companies not only have sustainability-related jobs but are increasingly embedding sustainability strategies into all jobs. Explore how you can bring sustainability into any job you choose to take.

8. Research additional opportunities. Just because your business school doesn’t have sustainability-focused opportunities doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in those organized by other schools. Look at case competitions. Come up with a new business idea and pitch it at social entrepreneurship events. Organize or attend a sustainability-related event, either at a business school or in your community. Many will have discounted or free entry for students, and others welcome student volunteers, which can lead to some great networking opportunities.

9. Examine your impact as a consumer. Look at the decisions you make as a consumer while at school. What kind of school supplies are you buying? What about your business cards? Your commute to school? What you choose to eat and drink after class? Are you supporting local businesses? There’s a lot you can do to be sustainable on a day-to-day basis.

10. Network. Network. Network. Tap into the school’s alumni network, as well as fellow students’ knowledge, to learn more from those working in the fields you are interested in. Email individuals employed at companies you might like to work for. Ask them out for coffee to share some tips and insights with you. The worst they can do is say no!

Regardless of which business degree you choose, there’s no lack of opportunities to make sustainability a part of your studies, whether the school offers a specialization or not. Search these instances, and if you can’t find any, create your own. Chances are there are other students around you who share your interest and would partake in the initiative.


Giselle Weybrecht Giselle Weybrecht is an author, advisor, and speaker on sustainability. Her most recent book is The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Education. Follow her at project-insideout.com and on Twitter @gweybrecht.

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