Green MBA: No, It’s Not an Oxymoron

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Forget orange! Green is the new black. It’s also becoming a major player in the world economy. For this reason, schools offering MBAs are beginning to take the economic impact of the planet and all things related to preserving said planet into consideration when offering degree programs. Hence the birth of the Green MBA.

Once upon a time, the term “green” was one reserved for people who went to extreme efforts in order to save the planet. Their actions were noble, but they were considered a subsect of society. Some called them unkind names, but largely ignored them and their warnings about chlorofluorocarbons and the breakdown of the ozone layer – at least until there was irrefutable truth to the contrary in terms of global climate change or global warming.

Now people are beginning to take planet-friendly products and business practices seriously. This means businesses are scrambling to adapt to new priorities among the consumer population and change in big ways from the types of products they make and how they are manufactured to what happens at the end of the product life cycle and the way corporations do business. Even product packaging has come under fire as people are looking for less waste and recycled/recyclable materials for packaging.

This calls for leadership that has been trained to take these considerations in mind, while still making it possible for businesses to turn profits. Thus the birth of a new area of concentration among business studies and the Green MBA.

Benefits of Green MBAs

More and more colleges are beginning to offer either complete MBA degrees or MBA with concentrations in environmental studies, sustainability, or even social issues that relate to the planet. While public attention shifts towards greener attitudes raising demands for green products and business practices, colleges see an opportunity to offer a new program to students in anticipation of growing demand for business professionals trained to meet these new consumer demands.

These are some of the benefits green MBAs offer students and businesses.

  • Teaches students to balance the needs of businesses with a focus on environment and sustainability while continuing to concentrate on the bottom line.
  • Provides students new opportunities to pursue careers that have a great significance on the planet.
  • Creates opportunities in which students must never feel forced to choose between careers in business and doing what they believe to be right for the planet.
  • Allows businesses to choose from highly qualified and specifically trained candidates to take the planet in mind when making business and production decisions.
  • Gives students a solid foundation and education they can take with them to help businesses create and manufacture goods that are actually good for the planet.

Students who earn green MBAs have the tools they need to begin green businesses of their own or to embark on careers that help other businesses leave smaller carbon footprints as they go about their business.

Colleges and Universities that Offer Green MBAs

There are many colleges and universities that either offer fully green MBA programs as well as many that offer concentrations or emphasis in areas like sustainability or environmental impact. The ones listed below provide a small sample of the opportunities available to students interested in pursuing green careers. Keep in mind that the specifics of the program offerings may change over time.

University of Michigan

The Erb Institute at University of Michigan offers an MS/MBA degree that is a three-year joint degree program offered by the Ross School of Business and the School for Natural Resources and the Environment. Program offers a wide range of course including courses in sustainable manufacturing, environmental economics, and green development.

Portland State University

The MBA at Portland State University’s School of Business Administration works classes in sustainability into the curriculum for all MBA students, and offers a concentration in sustainability that includes courses like metrics for sustainable enterprise and social sustainability or product design and stewardship. The program offers students opportunities for experience in the field, and is one of the more affordable of the green MBA programs, weighing in at less than $19,000 tuition, according to, where similar programs at other colleges easily exceed $40k tuition.

New York University

New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business offers a green MBA specialization that explores social innovation and impact. What’s truly remarkable about the NYU program is that 60 percent of MBA courses offered by the college integrate content into the classroom curriculum involving environmental and social impacts and stewardship.

University of Notre Dame

The Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame offers many sustainability courses in the MBA curriculum. They also bring speakers to the campus to discuss how environmental concerns can be incorporated into business practices (rather than existing solely in rhetoric and intention). In fact, Notre Dame Management professor Sarv Devaraj’s research brought to light the surprising number of companies that while talking about sustainability more in annual reports were actually doing little, if anything, to actually reduce carbon emissions.

Yale University

Practically a pioneer in the field of joint degrees in business and the environment, the Yale School of Management, in combination with the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, has been around since 1982. According to Bloomberg the program has evolved over time and graduates of the program receive an MBA degree in addition to a degree in either forestry or environment.

Stanford University

The Stanford Graduate School of Business in combination with the School of Earth Sciences, offers a joint MS Environment and Resources/MBA degree. The degree program focuses on using a combination of science, engineering, and technology to address issues related to the environment. Students must complete a capstone project demonstrating proficiency in doing just that. Alternatively, students may choose to pursue a public management certificate in social responsible business.

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Another lower cost option for students interested in Green MBAs, the school of business at the University of Wisconsin in Madison offers a certificate in Business, Environment, and Social Responsibility in conjunction with the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. Tuition for this program, though more than Portland State University, is still considerably less than many other programs at only $25,805, according to

These are just a few examples of the many exciting and green MBA programs available to students today. There are many more green MBA programs to consider.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Colleges for Green Business Education

While many students are eager to dive into studies and advance their educations, it’s a good idea to take a little time and select the program that’s right for you and the direction you want your career to take before diving in. These are a few factors to consider when choosing a college for your green MBA.

What kinds of specializations are offered?

Some colleges focus on the business side of the education, and offer a very limited scope of coursework related to the green nature of studies. Make sure the specialization available meets with your interests.

How much does the program cost?

Whether you like it or not, cost is a factor. Whether you’re paying up front for the tuition or taking out student loans, you need to be certain that the cost of the program is justified by the expected starting salary once you complete the program, and the number of jobs available in the industry.

What kind of reputation does the university AND the Green MBA program have?

This matters more than you may realize as it affects how easy it is for you to get a job after graduation. If no one has ever heard of the university or the Green MBA program at the university has a bad reputation, then you may have trouble overcoming those stigmas.

Does the program match your career goals and ambitions?

If not, move along. It’s not like the beginning when there were only a couple of options available. More and more colleges have seen the needs, and new programs are added each year. Find one that does match your career objectives.

Will there be hands-on opportunities for learning?

Many colleges offer internships and other programs where students are able to get a real feel for what life will be like after graduation. Look for colleges that specifically offer green internships.

How green is the program really?

Just because the program promises a greener education doesn’t mean it delivers. Take a nice long look at the course descriptions and see which types of courses are available and how often these courses are offered. The greater selection, variety, and availability, the better able you will be to work it into your schedule.

The truth is that businesses are beginning to understand the importance of being green. That means they need people who understand the environment in regards to the way businesses operate and function in order to help businesses, large and small, make those necessary turns in the right direction for the sake of the planet.

Students who obtain green MBAs are the perfect choice to be green leaders in business today and as the world of business evolves. The right educational foundation is the beginning to a brilliant career doing great things for the planet.

*Don’t forget to check out our Green Scholarship!

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