Green MBAs

June 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm 5 comments

tom_green_face_biggerPenned by Tom

Perhaps the question we get asked most at Bright Green Talent is: “What do I need to do to get a green job?”

Despite the economic crisis, the environmental movement is gaining traction by the day, and the trickle of green jobseekers has turned to a flood. It seems that the meltdown in traditional careers, coupled with an increased desire for meaning in the workplace, has prompted this awakening and the resulting exodus toward meaning and greening.

Over the past month or two, I’ve been helping Alliant International University with its new beautifully-named(!) Bright Green MBA, assessing the rationale for studying environmental business. Inevitably, I’ve been thinking back to my own education. While studying business at undergraduate and graduate level, many of my colleagues expressed a desire to “change the world” and make a significant contribution. Despite the intense business-focus of these courses, the environmental and ethical business courses were still popular. Yet at the time (early 2000s), it failed to translate: Many joined traditional consultancies, investment banks and private equity firms.

Now that salaries have decreased and new jobs seem almost non-existent within those traditional careers, it’s inevitable that people are once again looking for meaning in the environmental sector. When you couple the increased salaries that can be earned in the green space, you might even be excused for asking whether it is money, rather than the sector, that is driving jobseeker decision-making — or perhaps the symbiosis of the two that now proves most attractive. What remains unchanged, however, is what companies want and need — environmentally-minded businesspeople. Almost every client tells Bright Green Talent that the most important combination is a deep knowledge of the environment coupled with business savvy. If people can display both and understand the drivers and interaction of each, they are supremely valuable in a sector where credibility is key. At this point, I’d argue that ensuring organizations attract the right people will be the factor that has most impact on our ability to affect the environmental crisis. Which is why the green MBA programs that many universities offer are well worth considering, particularly at a time when jobs are harder to find.

It’s not just Alliant’s MGSM that is offering a (bright) Green MBA program. Yale, Michigan, Presidio, and Bainbridge are familiar names, and the Aspen Institute ranks 100 programs according to their integration of sustainability issues. In addition, some of the traditional MBAs are starting to move in this direction: The wunderkind of them all, Harvard, recently saw a group of MBA students voluntarily sign an oath to be more ethical. So, if you’re desperate for a green job but don’t know where to look, then it’s likely you don’t know enough about the market — yet. It might be time to consider going back to school.


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. TImothy Baca  |  June 18, 2009 at 5:11 am

    This is great info. But what about those of us about to graduate with a traditional MBA (or just graduated) who didn’t have the opportunity to take any “Green” specific courses? How can we show that we have Green intentions despite a lack of Green experience?

  • 2. orion walker  |  June 18, 2009 at 5:46 am

    I’m disapointed that you didn’t mention the greenmba program at Dominican U in San Rafael. I’m an alum, it’s a great program, and one of the originals, started in 2000.

  • 3. Meike  |  June 23, 2009 at 12:12 am

    I also just want to point out that Thunderbird was the first MBA program to create an ethical oath of honor of its graduates ;-).
    Otherwise I echo the sentiments of Timothy – what about us “normal” MBA grads who just recently turned “green”?

  • 4. Therese  |  June 29, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Why the big focus on MBA’s? They’re just paper pushers. What we need are real green jobs that make change on the ground.

  • 5. savage77  |  June 29, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    It’s a good point Therese, in fact we need both…


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