A new study of graduate business students titled, “Rising leaders on environmental sustainability and climate change: A global survey of students from top-ranking business schools,” finds widespread consensus that business must lead on solutions to climate change and sustainability to attract and retain talent.

Data from GNAMThe study of more than 3,700 students at 29 top business schools, including the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, found that corporations unwilling to act on environmental issues are increasingly punished by the men and women they would like to recruit.

The study, conducted by Yale University in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), of which Sauder is the only Canadian member, shows that 44 per cent of students are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a company with better environmental practices. Conversely, about one-fifth of respondents expressed an unwillingness to work for companies with bad environmental practices regardless of salary considerations. Students also overwhelmingly consider environmental action a profitable stance, noting that environmental protection will improve economic growth and provide new jobs.

Data from GNAM“The role of business in society is changing,” said Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the WBCSD. “Business leaders need to understand the complex nature of sustainability issues and integrate solutions for social and environmental challenges, with the need for good financial results. Today’s summary of survey results brings a clear call for change, demanding action on environmental sustainability. If business schools and business can deliver against this call for change, the necessary transformation toward a sustainable future will clearly be much more impactful.”

These next generation leaders expect business leaders, and in particular the C-Suite, to prioritize and responsibly lead in the search for environmental sustainability solutions, and they are willing to assume leadership roles themselves. More than two-thirds of participants said that they want to incorporate environmental sustainability into their careers, regardless of their role or industry. All else being equal, 84 per cent of students would choose to work for a company with good environmental practices.

Dean Robert Helsley“Increasingly our students are seeing business as a means for creating positive change in the world and are asking the school to prepare them for careers that prioritize sustainability along with profit,” said Robert Helsley, Dean of the Sauder School of Business and Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy. “It’s our responsibility to equip our students with the education and skills they need to lead the forward-looking organizations they want to see in the world.”

While voicing a need for future employers to act on the environment, business students also demanded action from the schools they attend; students want a more thorough integration of environmental issues into the core operations and curricula of business schools. Sixty-one per cent of survey respondents thought that business schools need to hire more faculty and staff with expertise in sustainability; 64 per cent also wanted more career services and counseling on sustainability-related jobs.

“Worldwide, today’s business schools are being called to act from the very people we’re training as leaders,” according to Edward Snyder, Dean of the Yale School of Management. “It’s incumbent upon us to prepare our students for the world not of last generation, but the next.”

As the climate change negotiations at COP21 in Paris build steam, these results highlight the rising priority of solving climate change among future leaders.

Murali Chandrashekaran“As management education moves to address the challenges found at the nexus of business, government and civil society, students are becoming inspired by the possibilities afforded by the tools of business and what they can accomplish with them,” said Murali Chandrashekaran, Sauder’s senior associate dean for strategic partnerships and global initiatives, and UBC’s GNAM representative. “They are being inspired by what they’re learning and pushing us for more.  It is exciting to be co-creating, with the leaders we are training, the future of management education.”

The Global Network of Advanced Management is a network of 28 leading business schools (including Sauder School of Business, Yale School of Management, Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, INSEAD, and the London School of Economics and Political Science) from diverse regions, countries, cultures, and economies in different phases of development. The GNAM seeks to leverage collaborative capacity among the network members to mobilize talent, and enhance leadership development around the globe.

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