A new wave of business administration courses is intended to prepare participant to face up to the biggest challenges of all

The somewhat mundane connotations inherent in the term ‘business administration’ seem unlikely to set the pulses racing. Add the prefix ‘master of’, however, and the attached associations transform instantly into something far more alluring. 

A ‘master of business administration’ suggests a specialist with the expertise to diagnose the chronic illness suffered by an ailing organisation beyond the ken of the average mere mortal executive director and, crucially, someone in possession of the knowhow to undertake the emergency surgical procedures to restore health and prosperity to said organisation. 

One of the most pressing challenges facing today’s business leaders is to ensure that they implement sustainable practices in their organisations – and not just for the good of the planet – but for the added benefits such practices bring to their businesses. 

Indeed, a recent McKinsey report revealed that businesses with strong ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles are more likely to attract the attention of investors, who see the potential for long-term success. 

With many organisations recognising the value of an effective sustainability strategy and seeking graduates who are equipped to shape an inclusive and sustainable future for business and society, there is a growing number of ‘green’ MBA programmes to supply that demand. 

Last month saw The University of Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow launch a first-of-its-kind MBA in Sustainable Energy Futures in response to the current global energy challenges and the drive to reach net zero. 

The course is designed to provide future leaders with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to stimulate change and innovation and to adopt a systems-thinking approach to the challenges we see in the world today. 

Dr Phil Considine, director of executive education at Strathclyde Business School, said: “We are facing unprecedented systemic pressure driven by a wide range of factors including geopolitics, climate change, net zero, cost of living, pension deficits, migration of people, global equity markets and part of the solution to these problems relies on new ways of building, consuming and paying for gas and power.  

“The MBA in Sustainable Energy Futures provides the knowledge and skills required to navigate these challenges. 

“As well as innovative design of the programme content, we have been equally focused on the cohort size and structure. It was important to us that all elements of the energy supply chain from generation, transmission and trading to pressure groups, suppliers, customers and the regulator are represented. 

“We want to create an environment whereby problems are being solved in a holistic manner. Not only is this a hugely relevant MBA, but we expect the systems approach to create new practices will solve some of the most pressing global problems.” 

Professor Elizabeth Gammie, dean of Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, said that demand for its new Sustainability and Energy Transitions MBA, designed to help mid-career managers transition their skills either to contribute more effectively to their transitioning organisations or to seek a new career direction, has been buoyant, particularly its digital offering. 

“Due to our close links with industry, we are in a good position to analyse trends and changes in individual learning preferences,” she said. 

“Our data shows that individuals with mid-management experience are less likely to opt for full-time on-campus MBA programmes as it would involve taking a 12-month break from work. 

“Responding to this change in demand, we are now focusing more on our distance learning courses which are offered through a variety of different flexible routes and can therefore be aligned with other work-based responsibilities.” 

And at Glasgow School for Business and Society, corporate responsibility and sustainability are seen as fundamental concerns that need to be acknowledged and addressed. It aims to provide solutions by seeking to improve the global economy and delivering social benefits to local and global communities with a green MBA programme focusing on global citizenship, responsible leadership, entrepreneurship, and social justice. 

Given the critical environmental concerns confronting us all, it could be that the next generation of MBA grads play leading roles in helping organisations save the planet. Could anything be further from mundane?