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Free guide to top grad schools for corporate sustainability

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Net Impact's annual guide features student-contributed profiles for programs that address corporate responsibility, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

Not that I have a whole lot of free time on my hands, but I've been thinking quite a bit lately about going back to school for some sort of graduate degree. When I wonder about what would be useful given the things that I write about, increasingly I come back to this: what are the best programs and curriculum that really apply the principles of planetary sustainability philosophy to the practicalities of the business world?

If you're also having this internal dialogue with yourself, you're in luck, because corporate social responsibility organization Net Impact has just published a new list called "Business as UNusual: The Student Guide to Graduate Programs."

The 95 schools featured in the guide were picked because members of Net Impact were attending them. Close to 3,000 students in total participated in creating the reviews for each of the program. There are about 20,000 students and professionals involved with the 20-year-old organization.

To give you an idea of the information you can expect, I scoured the entry for the Babson College F.W. Olin School of Business in Massachusetts, because I have been involved with programs there AND because the institution has been ranked THE top school for entrepreneurship for the past 17 years by U.S. News and World Report. That's a pretty amazing record, if you think about it.

According to the entry, Babson's strengths in sustainability education are focused on social entrepreneurship, energy and clean technology, and corporate social and environmental responsibility. Between 20 percent and 40 percent of the student body is involved in some sort of extracurricular activity related to environmental or social issues. I wasn't too thrilled by the satisfaction rating, though: Only half of the respondents said they were satisfied with the number of courses offered focused on social or environmental issues. That compares with 95 percent of students who said the same about another New England school: Antioch University, which actually offers an MBA completely designed and focused on organizational and environmental sustainability.

The Antioch reviewers write:

"The Green MBA recognizes that a company’s success is measured by a multiple bottom line—one that includes the company’s financial health as well as its quality of work life, ethical practice, social responsibility, and sustainable and ecologically conscious development. The Green MBA program supports the understanding that today’s enterprises need to operate in the present without compromising the future by looking beyond current resources to project what they will leave for generations to come."

Other interesting information for each entry includes prominent alumni and the success that graduates of each program have in finding jobs after they finish.

One thing that is missing: An assessment of whether or not each of the schools included offers some sort of online component for those of us who can't pick up and go back to college unless we do it remotely. (Note for next year?)

Incidentally, Net Impact also recommends these two other guides for those considering getting a degree in corporate sustainability matters:

  • The "Beyond Grey Pinstripes" publication from the Aspen Institute, which is a biennial survey and ranking of business schools and the way they integrate sustainability and environmental stewardship into their curriculum. The latest list is from 2009-2010, so I would imagine there's another one coming next year.
  • Net Impact also mentions the Idealist.org Graduate Schools Fair listing, which will point you to relevant events in your area of the country.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure