Shades of green in business education rankings
There is no shortage of advocates for “softer and greener” MBAs these days. Many activists now criticize business school rankings for focusing on graduate salaries rather than the tools and values needed for a more responsible form of capitalism.
But, while a growing number of institutions are launching sustainability courses, institutes and other initiatives, progress in evaluating their scope and impact is lagging. Most reports remain descriptive, anecdotal and difficult to measure. As the table below shows, efforts to track progress more rigorously are nonetheless underway. They offer some insights into which business schools are doing more according to a series of data points.
The FT’s business school rankings, like some others, have long assessed factors such as gender and international diversity among students, faculty and leaders. More recently, they have sought to track the extent to which environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are integrated into teaching.
In compiling the table, FT researchers took ESG in teaching as their starting point in the 2021 FT Global MBA Rankings. Participating schools are accredited by a leading agency (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or Equis), have a certain minimum class size, and agree to share data. Iese in Spain, Edhec in France and Darden in the United States, all performed well. The researchers then compared the FT’s performance measures with data produced by other emerging benchmarks. The variations are significant.
There is no attempt to provide an overall ranking: the methodologies vary, the data is imperfect, and the timelines and scope of analysis (sometimes from business schools; other times their broader university) are not not directly comparable. Instead, schools are listed alphabetically. The FT asked if they had target dates for becoming net carbon neutral. Although business schools are not major producers of CO2 in their own right and some have inherited older, less efficient buildings, those with goals demonstrate their commitment to fighting climate change and set an example for students. and to teachers.
Darden achieved net zero emissions in 2018, thanks to an innovative partnership with a local solar power plant. Twelve more schools are aiming to achieve the goal by 2030, including six within the next three years. Many have goals as distant as 2050, or even 2060 in the case of Miami Herbert School of Business, while seven did not disclose any goals. Many focus only on scope 1 and 2 emissions (respectively those produced directly by the school and those resulting from the energy it purchases) or on these plus parts of scope 3 emissions (which all cover other parts of the value chain, including travel) .
Choose your metric. . .
A second way to assess the societal impact of business schools is through their research results. Wilfred Mijnhardt, Policy Director at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), studied the proportion of articles published by academics in top schools between 2018 and 2021 which dealt with the subjects of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By this measure, Edinburgh, melbourne and Esade all get a high score.
A more holistic assessment comes from Corporate Knights, a Canadian publisher, which produces an annual Better World MBA ranking based on factors such as the integration of sustainability into core courses, research and specialist institutes and centers, and gender and racial diversity of the body professorial. Its latest edition puts Australia’s Griffith Business School in the lead, followed by Maastricht University School of Business and Economics in the Netherlands, although none are on the FT list. Others that do well but are on the FT list include Warwick, Durham and Edinburgh in the UK, as well as St. Gallen.
the Positive impact assessment for Business Schools released its second rating in 2021 based on 8,800 student ratings on factors including culture, governance, learning methods and public engagement. It gives four stars to Fordham and Grenoble School of Management in France, as well as Esade in Spain.
Times Higher Education also runs a impact ranking for universities, using data such as research, operations and teaching compared to the SDGs. Assuming business schools score in line with their parent institutions, some of the best are AllianceManchester and Leeds in the UK and Melbourne and Monash in Australia.
Finally, the heavily US-focused company Sustainability Monitoring, Evaluation and Rating System (Stars) – produced by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which also judges universities as a whole – awards its highest “platinum” rating to Cornell, Berkeley and the University of Connecticut, each of which has a business school.
Despite differing assessment methodologies, the trends and connections provide prospective students, employers, and faculty with a rich array of benchmarks – and business schools with plenty of room for improvement.
The winners of the FT Responsible Business Education Awards 2022 will be announced on January 19