Can you do an MBA without compromising your values?

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Not too long ago, issues like access to resources, social equity and climate change weren’t brought up in boardrooms because they weren’t viewed as making a big difference to the bottom line. MBA programs reflected this attitude by preparing students to focus on short-term gains that maximized profits for a small group of individuals. But that was then. Today, sustainable business is no longer overlooked and now MBA’s have a chance to make it their competitive advantage. So how are MBA schools responding to this change in attitude? Well, the UVic MBA has been doing it from day one. 

Woven into the fabric

Sustainable business is our biggest priority. That’s why we’ve woven triple bottom line thinking (profits, people, and planet) into the foundation of our school.  It’s ingrained into the program so that when our students are approaching a problem, they’re not only considering the economic outcome, like profits and expenditure, but also societal concerns like equity and fair access to resources, as well as the impact on the environment. For example, in one of our case studies last year, our MBA students examined the Kitimat pipeline project from the perspective of First Nations and the delicate BC coastal environment, as well as the economic benefits it might bring to communities.

“We are taught to look at things from all angles, to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to think of the world and sustainability, and to span boundaries.” – Jihane Bousfiha, MBA ‘17 

Tomorrow’s responsible leaders

As the foundation of our program, responsible leadership is a quality we champion right out of the gate. Before classes start, students participate in a three-week intensive introductory Essentials of Business and Leadership (EBL) course that bridges into the MBA program. The EBL course allows students from diverse professional, cultural and educational background to come together and form a common footing before classes begin. During this time, students explore issues relating to sustainability and social responsibility through group activities, classroom sessions and an outdoor experience. And thanks to a strong relationship with our community, we’re honoured to host some of BC’s distinguished business and community leaders, including recent guests like Andrew Weaver of the Green Party and Patrick Kelly of the Leq:amel First Nation (Sto:lo Nation). It’s our goal that by the end of the EBL course our students will have developed a shared language of business and an integrated approach to problem solving, while broadening their perspective and cultivating a strong sense of team and responsible leadership.

But this is just the beginning of our MBA experience. Our students continue integrating triple bottom line thinking in the months to come. So by the time our grads are ready to walk out the doors, they understand that when it comes to success and sustainability in the world of business, you can’t have one without the other.

“The Gustavson School of Business is pushing the boundaries on the Business Case for Sustainability, holding itself to the same values it espouses for the business community through research, consulting services, emissions improvements, and by making cooperative links for students, faculty and staff.” – Hazen Fowler, MBA ‘16