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How an MBA Degree Equips You to Drive Sustainability

Every business has a long-term goal of increased profitability. And for years, sustainable business practices seemed incompatible with that goal. However, corporate sustainability strategies are now a must. They are a proven means to profit, creating opportunities for leaders with the advanced business and management skills to drive this transformational change.

Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can position business-minded professionals to lead in these innovation-oriented roles. For example, St. Cloud State University offers an MBA with a concentration in Accounting that students can complete online.

Grounded in ethics, sustainability, leadership, communication and critical thinking, this MBA program prepares graduates to lead sustainability strategies for any organization.

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainable business initiatives often center on the environment and climate change. From installing rooftop solar systems (Target) to making clothing from recycled materials (Patagonia), companies are differentiating themselves through their efforts to do good for the planet.

Writing for Forbes, Talal Rafi defines sustainability as “providing for the present needs without compromising the needs of the future generations to meet theirs. It has three pillars: economic, environmental and social.”

According to Global Reporting Initiative, 83% of companies support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs center on 17 global goals to protect the planet and improve lives through economic, environmental and social sustainability.

What Is the Business Case for Prioritizing Sustainability?

As many companies are discovering, doing good can also be good for business, which is the idea behind the “triple-bottom-line” (TBL) approach to business success. Known as the three Ps, the TBL prioritizes People, Planet and Profit.

The business case for doing good is growing. Sustainability increasingly drives consumer decisions. Customers drive profits, making them the key to survival.

Results of the Global Sustainability Study 2021 support the value of implementing sustainability strategies. Findings from the survey include the following:

  • Globally, 85% of consumers have moved toward making purchasing decisions based on sustainability.
  • More Gen Z (39%) and Millennials (42%) are willing to pay a higher premium for sustainable products and services compared to other generations.
  • One-third of Millennials will choose a sustainable option when available, compared to 24-30% for older generations.

Other studies reveal similar findings. For example, a Nielsen survey found that nearly half of U.S. consumers would change their buying behaviors to reduce environmental impact. Again, Millennials came out ahead, with 91% being more willing to pay a premium for products with environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients, compared to 61% of Baby Boomers.

Together, Millennials and Gen Z make up over half of the world’s population, making them a powerful force in influencing corporate sustainability decisions. For prospective MBA students who want to get in on the push to innovate and transform businesses toward a future that is both profitable and sustainable, now is the time.

Equipping Business Professionals to Lead in Sustainability

Managing reputation risk is a leading reason for pursuing corporate sustainability initiatives, with Volkswagen’s emissions scandal serving as a lesson in what not to do. Earning an MBA can prepare business professionals to lead their companies in achieving many other benefits of sustainability as well, including:

  • increasing customer loyalty
  • expanding market opportunities
  • boosting sales
  • building brand image
  • improving operational efficiency
  • reducing costs
  • increasing innovation
  • attracting talent and improving employee retention
  • creating long-term value
  • keeping shareholders happy

An MBA is generally seen as a worthwhile investment, with graduates typically enjoying career advancement and six-figure salaries. But in today’s business environments, MBA graduates may experience even greater rewards.

There are many elements of sustainability that organizations can focus on, but the plastics industry is a major one. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch consists of 175 million pounds of plastic waste covering an area of the North Pacific Ocean the size of Alaska. As the world’s largest collection of floating trash, it is harmful to marine animals and to humans. Along with climate change, plastic reduction is a top sustainability priority for businesses and their investors.

MBA graduates have an opportunity to lead companies across every industry in giving new meaning to “business as usual” through sustainability practices that are good for people, the planet and profits.

Learn more about St. Cloud University’s online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting program.

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