In recent decades, businesses have come to wield more power than ever before — the income of many multinational corporations now exceeds that of several countries. Today, there’s a growing expectation that business should be beholden to multiple stakeholders — not just investors.
Many of those businesses embracing that approach are outperforming more traditionally managed organizations. As a business professor and former business executive, I believe that creating employment and delivering critical goods and services while also taking into consideration the welfare of people and the planet presents some of the most critical challenges — and exciting management opportunities — of our times.
That challenge comes down to a “triple bottom line” — one encompassing profits, people, and the planet.
According to the Governance and Accountability Research Institute, 81 percent of Fortune 500 companies published a corporate sustainability report in 2015 (up from 20 percent in 2011). These reports track company progress on environmental performance — such as energy, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions — and social performance — including workforce and supply chain working conditions, and workforce diversity.
With today’s conditions affected by a changing climate, depletion of natural resources, and growing inequalities in wealth — business as usual will not work. That’s why Green Mountain College has been offering its premier online Sustainable MBA for more than a decade.
Our goal at Green Mountain College is to shape students into change-makers who have a genuine understanding of what it means to create a sustainable future and can lead their organizations to create competitive advantage through managing the triple bottom line. Our teaching methodology integrates real world experiences with online teaching expertise to connect students to the core of sustainability’s mission — to create long lasting change across business landscapes of all sizes and types.
In this post, we highlight our Sustainable MBA program and discuss how our unique teaching methodology is leading the way to more sustainable financial, social, and environmental results.
Understanding GMC’s Sustainable MBA
GMC’s Sustainable MBA program was the first online Sustainable MBA in the nation and is the only online MBA offered by a college nationally known for sustainability and sustainability based curriculum.
The SMBA program reflects the growing trend among successful companies, large and small, to focus on the triple bottom line, seeking competitive advantages through practices that are succeed economically, are socially responsible, and environmentally sound.
The program provides students with a solid foundation in the core areas of business administration, including:
The Capstone project, the final degree requirement, encourages students to create a business plan or research project that will help them move forward in their specific career path.
What makes GMC’s Sustainable MBA truly unique is that sustainable business concepts are woven through every course. Most other MBAs offer one or two courses related to sustainability. Also, all GMC MBA courses are taught by committed faculty who possess real-world sustainable business experience. Our faculty members have highly regarded professional backgrounds, and they are committed to helping students understand today’s green business issues and challenges. Our graduates go on to lead sustainability initiatives in organizations large and small, and launch their own ventures.
Seeing the Principles of the Triple Bottom Line in a Business Context
Consider EILEEN FISHER as an example:
EILEEN FISHER is a growing brand of women’s clothing that is committed to a vision of “an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative but the cause of a business well run. Where social and environmental injustices are not unfortunate outcomes but reasons to do things differently.”
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet and also known for sweat shops and other challenges. Amy Hall, graduate of the GMC SMBA program, took on the task of shaping EILEEN FISHER's Social Consciousness department. Over the years, the Social Consciousness team has grown in size and scope, integrating its work into the warp and weft of the company.
Today, Social Consciousness at EILEEN FISHER extends across the company — from marketing to manufacturing, from design to finance. In recognition of Amy’s leadership, she was recently promoted to the level of Vice President.
For another example, take The World Wildlife Federation (WWF):
WWF is a leading non-profit normally known for wildlife protection. In recent years, the WWF has expanded the scope of its efforts to include the important topic of food.
“Around the globe, food production, distribution, management and waste threaten wildlife, wild places and the planet itself. By improving efficiency and productivity while reducing waste and shifting consumption patterns, we can produce enough food for everyone by 2050 on roughly the same amount of land we use now. Feeding all sustainably and protecting our natural resources.
WWF works to secure a living planet that will sustain a more affluent population. From refining production and distribution to combating waste and environmental impacts, we want to improve how the world grows, transports and consumes this precious fuel.”
Pete Pearson, a graduate of the GMC SMBA program and Director of Food Waste at the WWF, works on food waste prevention and food recovery, helping businesses understand the intersection of agriculture and wildlife conservation. For almost a decade, he has been working as a change agent within various businesses and non-profits on regenerative agriculture, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The Triple Bottom Line — What it Really Means to Be Sustainable
Here at Green Mountain College, we aim to demonstrate what it truly means to apply the Triple Bottom Line — people, profit, and planet — in our sustainability-focused MBA program.
The Triple Bottom Line provides a framework for people to continuously focus their mission to the core values of sustainability. However, sustainable practices take time and effort to implement, which is why our world needs more change-driven leaders — leaders who understand both the complexities and the value of sustainability — to share their stories, make connections, and spark passion.
Attending graduate school for an education in sustainability is one way to deepen your knowledge, hone in on your skills, and discover your strengths. For more information on Green Mountain College’s advanced programs, check out our website and see what it would mean for you to become a leader in sustainability.