Since its establishment in September 2009, the Climate Change Education Roundtable (CCER) at the National Research Council (NRC) has provided a coordinated national network devoted to advancing a dialog about effective, high-quality education addressing the science of climate change and the impacts of climate change on natural, social, and economic systems. The CCER’s unique composition brings ex officio representatives from the major federal agencies that invest in climate change education together with experts in climate science, the learning sciences, best practices in formal or informal education, and other academic and professional areas relevant to climate change education. (See Appendix A for more information on the CCER.)
Following discussions about the need to address issues around climate change education for future business professionals, the NRC in March 2013 hosted a workshop on “Climate Change Education: Preparing Current and Future Business Leaders” that explored issues associated with teaching climate change-related topics in business schools. The workshop was conducted under the supervision of the Board on Science Education in the NRC’s Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Education.
The workshop focused on major gaps in our understanding of climate and sustainability education in postsecondary professional schools of business. The workshop connected discourse on climate education for current and future business leaders with the broader discussion on climate change education, in hopes that they influence and benefit each
other. The workshop followed a proven format of an NRC-convening activity that allows for decision-relevant exploration of timely and significant topics.
ISSUES AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE BUSINESS LEADERS
Climate change poses challenges as well as opportunities for business and finance and, broadly speaking for the entire economy. Three recent reports by the NRC Committee on America’s Climate Choices detail strategies to limit the magnitude of climate change, adapt to the impacts of climate change, and inform an effective response to climate change.1 These reports make clear how responding fully to the climate challenge will influence the economy of the United States (and the world). Businesses will have to provide services or products with less harmful influence on the climate; respond to a changing policy, regulatory, and market environment; and provide new services and products to help address the challenges that will likely result from climate change (Winn et al., 2011). In the short run, some business and market segments will see these developments as challenging (primarily those responsible for emitting greenhouse gases, such as fossil fuel-based energy production, agriculture, and construction), while others will see business opportunities expand (such as renewable energy production, energy savings technology, and alternative agriculture). The business community, therefore, is divided in its response to current policy proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Irrespective of the position that businesses take in the public arena, many are beginning to see climate change as another context within which core functions of strategy, finance, operations, marketing, or intersecting with regulatory environments occur, posing risks and opportunities. There are many examples of highly visible activities in which companies pursue opportunities in light of current and future expected changes to the climate system, such as Toyota’s marketing of its hybrid Prius and the reinsurance firm Munich Re’s operation of a climate intelligence unit. These activities, however, are eclipsed by the myriad of smaller steps the business community can take and is already taking to manage climate risks, and for which the private sector requires capable leaders and managers.
Arguments for why future business leaders need to understand the need to take climate change (or, more broadly speaking, sustainability) into account include operational perspectives (Hoffman, 2005, 2006) as
well as strategic and moral ones (Blowfield, 2009; Hahn et al., 2010; Patenaude, 2010). Scholars have explored what basic knowledge business leaders need in order to tackle issues related to climate change and global warming (O’Neill Packard and Reinhardt, 2000; Wittneben and Kiyar, 2009). These knowledge needs range from understanding and managing risk and uncertainty (iterative risk management) to system thinking and the ability to listen and communicate to diverse voices and perspectives.
Business schools throughout the United States have responded to this demand. Despite evidence that the issue has not yet penetrated the scholarly field of business and management (Goodall, 2008), the schools have responded in a variety of ways that range from embedding climate-related discussions into courses on risk assessment, leadership, regulatory environments, markets, or other key MBA courses (see Reinhardt and Hyman, 2007, business case 708-26), all the way to offering “green” MBAs or MBAs that focus on issues related to sustainability.
Some MBA programs have “greened” their curriculums not only in an effort to meet the needs of business, but also to respond to the increasing demand from students seeking alternative job paths in sustainability, or who consider climate change a salient issue for their career tracks. As described throughout the workshop, schools are employing myriad approaches to address environmental and sustainability issues in their MBA programs, including (1) incorporating classes on sustainability or the environment into the core curriculum; (2) developing degrees focused on sustainability and related issues; (3) offering specialized electives such as in energy or climate change; (4) creating innovative dual/joint degree programs partnering with other departments or schools; (5) creating teaching materials (cases) or modules for core business school subjects, such as finance, that can be used within the existing core curriculum; or (6) offering extracurricular activities on issues of climate change or sustainability. At Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, ranked in the top 10 business schools by U.S. News & World Report (see footnote 1 for the complete list), for instance, sustainability has been integrated into the core MBA program. In addition, Tuck has developed new programs and courses that focus solely on green issues, including a course on finance within the context of climate change.
In these programs, students can shape their education and career path on issues of sustainability through choosing different portfolios of electives and co-curricular activities. Various universities also offer dual-degree programs between business and law schools (Stanford) or business schools and schools of forestry (Yale) or natural resources (University of Michigan), degree programs that hold the potential to create cross-disciplinary leaders.
The Aspen Institute’s Center for Business Education concluded in a
September 2009 report (Shattuck, 2009) that (1) more and more business schools are preparing their students to be environmental and social stewards and ethical actors in the workplace; and (2) in doing so, faculty are drawing on interdisciplinary resources to teach sustainability and instill habits of mind that will serve students well in their careers. Programs and courses on sustainability-related issues prepare graduates and executives to include environmental externalities from ethical, economic, technical, communication, and financial perspectives into strategic business decision making. In addition, courses may focus on technical aspects of climate change adaptation or mitigation, ranging from addressing resource needs in a changing climate (e.g., drinking water availability for bottling plants) to carbon finance and management strategies (CO2 exchanges, certificates, and permits).
Despite the progress schools have made in incorporating sustainability and green issues into their programs and practices, specifically integrating climate change into curriculum and research agendas has not yet been as prevalent. From 1992 to 1998, only seven articles in the top 30 peer-reviewed management journals included “climate change” or “global warming” in their titles; further, of thousands of courses listed by the Aspen Institute 2010 MBA ranking (Aspen Institute, 2011-2012), only 12 course titles included those two terms (Patenaude, 2011).
Of the top 10 business schools identified in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools,2 three overlapped with a national survey by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine that identified the 16 Best Business Schools for Green Business Education3 (Columbia
2In order: (1) Stanford University Graduate School of Business; (2) Harvard Business School; (3) MIT Sloan School of Management; (4) University of Pennsylvania Wharton School; (5) Northwestern Kellogg School of Management; (6) University of Chicago Booth School of Business; (7) Dartmouth Tuck School of Business; (8) UC Berkeley Haas School of Business; (9) Columbia Business School, and (10) tied—NYU Stern School of Business and the Yale School of Management. See http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduateschools/top-business-schools/articles/2011/03/15/stanford-tops-harvard-in-2012-bestbusiness-schools-rankings [May 2014].
3The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine, 16 Best Business Schools for Green Business Education, in order: (1) Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, (2) Bentley University McCallum Graduate School of Business, (3) Brandeis University International Business School, (4) Claremont Graduate University Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, (5) Clark University Graduate School of Management, (6) Columbia University Columbia Business School, (7) Duke University The Fuqua School of Business, (8) McGill University Desautels Faculty of Management, (9) New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business, (10) Portland State University School of Business Administration, (11) Stanford University Graduate School of Business, (12) University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business, (13) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, (14) University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, (15) University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business; and
Business School, New York University Stern School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business), although most of the other top 10 schools do incorporate some sustainability/environmental issues into their courses and programs. The survey was based on criteria in four key areas: (1) the amount of research the school conducts related to sustainability, (2) availability of courses in sustainability, (3) percentage of faculty teaching such courses, and (4) career services for students interested in green business/social responsibility employment. Below is a brief overview of several programs recognized for their leading programs in this area:
- Stanford has created a dual MBA/MS in Environment and Resources Program between the Business School and the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources in the School of Earth Sciences. They offer seminar series in a variety of climate topics as part of their Center for Social Innovation.
- Columbia Business School offers an Individual, Business, and Society (IBS) curriculum as part of the Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. Center for Leadership and Ethics. The center provides students with frameworks and tools to think critically about ethical conflicts and trade-offs, and includes a broad theme of corporate social responsibility. Specific courses, such as “Business in Society” and “Finance and Sustainability,” take the approach that profitable financial services can simultaneously create sustainable value for society.
- University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business offers courses on greening the supply chain and improving environmental accounting, as well as how to become a leader who uses sustainable enterprise strategies to create business value. A lecture series explores issues, ideas, and trends likely to affect business and society over the next decade and how environmental issues can be incorporated into business practices.
Directly or indirectly, climate change education is beginning to find its way into the curriculum of current and future business leaders. Thus, the time seemed ripe for a workshop to explore the role of climate change education in preparing current and future business leaders, and to build relationships between thought leaders and decision makers in the area of climate and sustainability education in business and finance, and private-sector leaders who hire top business school graduates.
(16) University of Wisconsin–Madison Wisconsin School of Business. See http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219236 [May 2014].
The group of experts assembled by the Board on Science Education to organize this workshop was guided by the following Statement of Task (see Box 1-1).
The one-day workshop addressed the above-stated questions through a sequence of panels and audience discussions. In the first panel, industry representatives discussed the opportunities and barriers that businesses face when addressing climate change. They then reflected on the skills and capabilities that graduates from business schools should bring to their enterprises. A second panel of business school deans responded to these demands by discussing barriers and opportunities to include climate-relevant content in the education of their students. A third panel of business school faculty and staff provided an overview of current best practices for including climate-relevant content in the business school
Statement of Task
An ad hoc steering committee will plan and conduct a public workshop to feature invited presentations and discussion from leaders in climate and sustainability education from business schools, including educators, deans, and presidents; for profit and nonprofit business leaders from a variety of sectors with varying exposure to climate risk; human resources and other hiring decision makers; experts in decision support; learning researchers and educators with expertise in the domain of climate, and others to address a range of critical issues such as:
- What kinds of knowledge related to climate change are considered essential, valuable, or useful in business organizations, both from the perspective of businesses and from the perspective of business schools?
- Does formal postsecondary climate education provide advantages to future business leaders beyond the typical climate-related business sectors such as energy, transportation, energy-rich manufacturing, or agriculture? How does the marketplace respond to MBAs with climate-relevant education: is there demand?
- What is current practice in including climate change-related knowledge into the curriculum of future and current business leaders? What models are common in MBA programs? What is the rationale/purpose for including climate change directly in the education of business professionals and future business leaders? What are current strategies for including climate issues in the curriculum and what are the pros and cons of doing so?
- What have been the objectives of such courses and what is the state of evidence on their success/best practices?
- What are challenges and barriers in offering such courses?
curriculum and discussed challenges and solutions from the perspective of practice. A fourth panel of university and industry representatives was then charged to respond to the previous discussions and extract common threats and insights. A final open discussion with all workshop participants concluded the day-long proceedings. A detailed workshop agenda can be found in Appendix B. Appendix C provides a complete list of all registered participants, some of whom followed the discussion via remote access. Biographical sketches of committee members and speakers are featured in Appendix D.