MBA students from top business schools around the globe are pledging to combat climate change

BestColleges reports on top business schools looking to move future corporate leaders toward proactive climate accountability.


A professor in front of a class presenting about the green energy sytem.

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Students from top master of business administration (MBA) programs from across the globe are signing on to a pledge to combat climate change.

The Climate Legacy Commitment, created by a pair of University of Cambridge Judge Business School MBA candidates, calls on its signatories to recognize and work to mitigate climate change.

As reported by BestColleges, the initial pledge is open to candidates from 15 of the world's top MBA programs. U.S. programs included in the commitment are the Columbia Business School, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth Business School, and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.

A growing number of business schools have incorporated sustainability into their MBA programs in recent years, reflecting growing demand from students and employers alike.

Prospective MBA students from across the globe indicated in a recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey that sustainability was important to their education — and for many, a lack of sustainability instruction was even a deal breaker for a program. The Climate Legacy Commitment reflects that growing interest in sustainability among business students.

"This initiative is more than a pledge," Collin Janich, one of the Cambridge MBA candidates who co-founded the Climate Legacy Commitment, said in a press release. "It is a call to action for future business leaders to engage in transformative learning, develop collaborative networks, and drive innovative climate solutions. We are building a coalition of like-minded peers, industry leaders, and partners that will shape corporate cultures and operational norms and deliver a sustainable, net-zero future."

The pledge calls on signatories to recognize climate change as an existential threat and includes a commitment for MBA students to:

  • Use their influence to boost sustainable practices and work toward a net-zero future
  • Protect and prioritize climate-vulnerable communities
  • Collaborate and work across industries and countries to combat climate change
  • Practice continuous learning to stay up to date on climate strategy
  • Be transparent and accountable
  • Work toward building a sustainable economy and a brighter future for generations

"The climate crisis necessitates a fundamental transformation of the global economic framework, which will shape business strategies for decades to come," Peter Golding, Cambridge MBA candidate and Climate Legacy Commitment co-founder, said in the release. "While existing climate pledges focus on governments, corporations, and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), they neglect the critical role that future business leaders will play. As the architects of tomorrow's economy, MBA candidates from top-tier institutions are not only well-positioned but also have the responsibility to enact meaningful change."

International business schools include HEC Paris, IE Business School, IESE Business School, IMD, INSEAD, London Business School, Cambridge Judge Business School, and Oxford Saïd Business School.

Business Schools Embrace Sustainability

Many of the schools whose MBA candidates are invited to take the pledge have already taken strides toward integrating sustainability into their curricula. INSEAD, for example, announced a new MBA curriculum last year centered entirely on sustainability.

School leaders have underscored the importance of sustainability, not only from a career and educational perspective but also from a societal standpoint.

"The renewed curriculum aims to equip students with the knowledge and tools so that they can make the right choices and have their own positive impact during their careers, Urs Peyer, INSEAD dean of degree programmes, said in a 2023 INSEAD release. "When they make and create [a] solution for a business, they will take into account the social and environmental impact. When they lead a business and appreciate the financial performance, they also keep in mind progress."

Climate change has been an increasingly important topic for MBA students in recent years.

In addition to the 2024 GMAC report showing high interest in sustainability from prospective students, a report last year from the United Kingdom-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp showed climate change entering the top 10 most important topics for prospective MBA students for the first time.

Embracing climate change and sustainability isn't limited to the 15 schools included in the initial Climate Legacy Commitment pledge.

The University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business and Rausser College of Natural Resources plan to offer a concurrent MBA and master of climate solutions (MCS) program starting in fall 2024.

"Future business leaders will require a depth of training in both business and climate change to work across disciplines and execute competitive strategies," Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison said in the press release at the time.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business earlier in 2024 announced an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concentration for full-time MBA students — and school officials likewise underscored the importance of sustainability to future business leaders in announcing that new concentration area.

"We aim to equip students with the tools to lead in a world where decarbonization is imperative. Business can be a positive force for progress in the world, and the ESG concentration prepares Ross graduates to make that happen," Jerry Davis, the Gilbert and Ruth Whitaker professor of business administration and professor of management and organizations at Ross, said in a release.

This story was produced by BestColleges and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

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