Managerial training: sustainability courses are booming – WELT

DUniversity of St. Gallen takes an offensive approach. Employees of the Social Innovation Competence Center invited to a promotional event on LinkedIn. “For four days in St. Gallen, we’ll be dealing live with your business and how you create value from the topic of sustainability, ”says Judith Walls, professor of sustainable development management.

There were 43 interested parties, including employees of start-ups, family businesses and a bank, as well as the founder of a multimedia agency and an employee of a large management consulting company. A course voiced called “Sustainability Management for Business Excellence” costs 4,900 Swiss Francs. University promise: “You will have confidence that you will develop and implement robust approaches to sustainability management in your company.” Of course, there is also a certificate at the end.

Sustainable development has become a business model. Not only for companies fighting for new markets, more reliable supply chains and a good reputation among their customers. Manager training centers have also discovered opportunities for change. There is no business school in the world that does not offer sustainability modules. But how will managers and prospective graduate students recognize which program is really worth something?

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Participants who partially pay for training and further education out of their own pocket hope for career opportunities. In everyday activities, the topic of sustainability is no longer just a side issue for the few people involved. For many, it is the heart of business. In a survey by Horváth management consultants in June, more than half identified environmental management and sustainable business management as “very important” strategic goals. 280 board members of companies with annual sales of at least EUR 100 million were examined.

In every fifth company, sustainable development already has a direct impact on the remuneration components of the management team. Big companies are pioneers here: a study found that half of companies with annual sales of at least € 10 billion have sustainability targets in their target pay contracts.

But where do managers find out what is needed to not only define the ecological and social goals of their company, but also to achieve them? Many training programs with a Master of Business Administration, or MBA for short, have included modules on “Sustainable Development” in recent years. However, it is difficult to compare offers.

Better World Ranking

The Canadian publisher of Corporate Knights takes an attempt at the annual Better World MBA Ranking. It compares nearly 150 suppliers and identifies the top 40. The points assessed there include: How well is the topic of sustainability integrated into the core courses? How many scientific publications are there on this topic? Do you have your own research centers dealing with all aspects of sustainability? Finally, what about the gender and ethnic diversity of the course trainer?

In Europe, the University of Maastricht ranks first in the Better World ranking. Globally, it ranks second behind the Australian Griffith Business School. British schools in Wartwick, Edinburgh, Bath and Durham are also in the top ten, as is St Gallen. From Germany, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar near Koblenz and the University of Mannheim are 23rd and 26th.

In turn, the “Positive Impact Rating”, funded by a number of non-governmental organizations, is based on a study of 8,800 students in 45 schools. This includes the university’s culture, teaching methods for sustainable development, and whether there are role models for personal involvement. Four Indian business schools, including IIM in Bangalore, top the “pioneer” category. The University of Maastricht and Esade Business School in Spain are again in the second group of the so-called transformers.

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In turn, the English daily “Financial Times” (FT) traditionally attaches great importance to the salaries of graduates in the well-known ranking of business schools. Last year, alumni from Pennsylvania’s leading Wharton Business School began their careers with the highest annual salary, averaging $ 238,000. In addition to the salary, other criteria were also taken into account in the ‘FT’ assessment. From last year, this covers the question of how much three points: environmental standards, social issues and good corporate governance are part of the teaching.

Sorted only by those criteria, which are abbreviated to ESG in English, the Spanish Iese Business School performs best. In the overall ranking, this university is in tenth place. The French Insead and the University of Oxford are also among the top ten educational institutions. St. Gallen ranks 12th, IMD Lausanne 31st.

In cooperation with two other local universities, IMD offers, among other things, the “Master in Sustainable Management and Technology” course. It is aimed at graduates of bachelor’s studies in managerial and technical faculties and aims to combine knowledge from both fields. The curriculum includes subjects such as ‘digitization and sustainable logistics’, ‘financing sustainable start-ups’ and ‘climate change science’.

Focus on new leadership skills

There are collaborations with eight business schools around the world in the field of climate research. “We have a clear focus on business opportunities and new leadership in this area,” says IMD’s head of sustainability, Natalia Olynec.

The key criterion by which the authors of sustainable development programs measure their quality is their proximity to practice. Is it in Lausanne, St. Gallen or Mannheim, students learn from people who already have a responsibility for sustainable development in companies and associations. From the director of sustainability at Nestlé to the board of the German working group on environmentally conscious management, the strengths are the lecturers who can bring hands-on experience.

In addition, the new network can be valuable, especially for graduates of managerial training. For example, IMD Lausanne relies on this. For 7,500 Swiss francs, the institute offers management, supervisory boards and their close employees a fairly compact course on “Introducing Sustainability from the Conference Room”. After ten days of preparation with various online modules, participants meet on site for two days and simulate, for example, interviews with environmental activists in role-playing games. After praising IMD, the group will remain united as a “community for the exchange of ideas.”

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Another quality criterion: How well is sustainability included in the “normal” curriculum for future managers? Vice Dean of Esade Spain Executive MBA, Michele Quintano, is proud of his school’s history. Founded by Jesuits and company owners in Barcelona in 1958, “social influence”, that is, the impact of one’s own actions on society, has been one of the institution’s core values ​​from the very beginning.

“Ethical and responsible behavior plays an important role in all of our courses,” says Quintano. For example, value chains also take into account the impact on the climate. Environmental aspects are taken into account in marketing. And in their diploma theses, more than half of the students presented ideas for social enterprises.

The director of the Maastricht University MBA program, Ron Jacobs, also prides himself on a holistic approach. “We have managed to make sustainability an integral part of courses like leadership, entrepreneurship, marketing and corporate strategy,” he says. In addition, the university offers a master’s degree in “Responsible Leadership and Sustainable Development”. According to Jacobs, “influence” is at the forefront of students and businesses. Presenting this in teaching is no longer a “nice extra offer” as he puts it, but an absolute necessity.

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