While you are probably familiar with the term “sustainable,” you may be wondering why you’ve seen a surge in advanced business programs offering a concentration or some other focus in sustainability as of late.

To clarify, sustainability, in its most simple and literal definition, is the ability to remain ongoing. For the aspiring business thought leader, it is crucial to understand what it means to be ongoing with regards to the earth’s resources and to understand humankind’s impact on social and economic systems.

Academic institutions are adopting the mindset that teaching business through the lens of sustainability is ultimately central to adapting to the future of business as a whole.

Understanding the Triple Bottom Line

Thinking of sustainability as a complex integration of environmental, social, and economic factors is an ideology often referred to as the “Triple Bottom Line.”

In other words, the Triple Bottom Line is a methodology that understands the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic factors — all the while rooted in sustainability. According to this ideology, in order for meaningful, impactful, and systemic change to occur, professionals in all fields, including business, must understand how crucial it is to adopt sustainability-related practices. But first, aspiring business professionals must understand the importance of developing knowledge and skills with a sustainability-focused education.

Sustainability-Focused Business Academic Programs Prepare Leaders for the Future

So, why specifically does this matter for aspiring business leaders who hope to advance in a rapidly changing world?

Good question.

  • It matters because thousands of organizations, large and small, are embracing triple bottom line management.  More than 81% of S&P 500 companies now publish Corporate Sustainability Reports tracking their environmental, social and economic activities and results.
  • It matters because organizations managed on the triple bottom line have more success in attracting employees and a higher level of employee engagement.
  • It matters because organizations managed on the triple bottom line are realizing superior financial performance - they are “doing well by doing good.”

“Many companies are actively integrating sustainability principles into their businesses … they are doing so by pursuing goals that go far beyond earlier concern for reputation management — for example, saving energy, developing green products, and retaining and motivating employees, all of which help companies capture value through growth and return on capital.” —McKinsey Global Survey

Sustainability is quite literally, the future, and aspiring for-profit and non-profit managers and leaders must develop the knowledge necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Understanding Green Mountain College’s Sustainable MBA

Green Mountain College offers an online Sustainable MBA (SMBA) program (the first 100 percent online Sustainable MBA program in the nation), which is designed to “teach students how to achieve their economic objectives while addressing the needs of the environment, employees, communities, and other stakeholders.”

GMC’s SMBA is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the core areas of business administration, including:

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Business law
  • Operations
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Ethics

The principles of sustainable business are woven through every course and taught by experienced faculty who possess real-world sustainable business experience and who are committed to helping students understand today’s sustainable business issues and challenges.  Students research and present their final Capstone project as the final requirement for the degree; many students use the Capstone project as a stepping stone for their career.  For example: writing a business plan for a new venture, or recommending the creation of a new sustainability based position at their firm.

Faculty at GMC possess in-depth experience teaching and practicing sustainable business. Many have held executive positions at leading sustainable businesses and have extensive networks in the sustainable business community.

For instance: Karen Martinsen Fleming, professor in GMC’s Sustainable Business graduate program, served as Senior Vice President of Marketing at companies recognized as leaders in sustainability — like Seventh Generation, Inc., “a leading brand of non-toxic and environmentally responsible products for the home and a leader in socially responsible business” and Stonyfield Farm, Inc, “one of the leading brands in the natural/organic products industry and a pioneer of socially responsible business.”

Fleming uses her hands-on, previous work experience and her academic expertise to teach and lead research in practical strategy and branding for sustainable business success.

What do GMC SMBA Graduates Kat McCarthy, David Widener, and Ian Lanza have in common?

Kat-McCarthy.jpgKathleen “Kat” McCarthy grew up in upstate New York and developed an early sensibility to the notion of sustainability, before the word became part of the lexicon.

“Like a lot of families, we approached it from an economic standpoint—it just made sense to conserve fuel by turning the thermostat down a notch. So the idea of conservation as part of the triple bottom line—people, profit, planet—has always been in the background for me.”

David_Widener.jpgThe first thing David Widener wants you to know about Green Mountain College’s Green MBA program is that it’s academically challenging. The second thing he wants you to know: it’s not an impersonal program, even though most of the coursework is conducted online.

“Think about it this way—it’s late and you have a big project due. The geographical distance between you and your professors and classmates can ordinarily make that a pretty lonely experience. But knowing all my fellow students and professors personally is reassuring. You have that personal connection and sense of shared purpose.”

Ian-Lanza.jpgVermont native Ian Lanza began his college search with a unique set of criteria in mind: he was looking for a school where he could play football and pursue an interest in ceramic arts. He decided on Alfred University, where he played for the Division III Saxons and pursued his love of the fine arts.

Now the regional life science director at Triumverate Environmental in Somerville, Mass., Ian found kindred spirits when he enrolled in Green Mountain College’s MBA program.

Attending graduate school for an education in sustainability is one way to deepen your knowledge, hone in on your skills, and discover your strengths. Here at Green Mountain College, we are dedicated to teaching a curriculum that is built on a framework of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. In our Sustainable MBA program, burgeoning business professionals learn the practical skills needed to succeed in a business landscape. Graduates of GMC enter their business industries or start their new enterprises as thought leaders with a competitive edge — with a deep knowledge of sustainable thought and innovation.

Interested in pursuing a graduate degree based in sustainability? Access our digital page — A Guide to Green Mountain College's 4 Premier Online Graduate Degrees — for an in-depth look at our master's programs.

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