In an era marked by pressing environmental challenges and a growing global awareness of the need for responsible resource management, the pursuit of sustainability has taken center stage across industries and sectors. As societies strive for a more harmonious relationship between human activities and the planet’s well-being, the role of well-informed and skilled sustainability professionals has become paramount.
Enter sustainability masters programs, specialized educational pathways that not only equip individuals with a comprehensive understanding of sustainability principles but also empower them to drive meaningful change within their organizations and communities.
From exploring cutting-edge eco-friendly technologies to fostering innovative strategies for long-term societal and environmental balance, business schools are playing a pivotal role in shaping the leaders of a more sustainable future.
One of the many options for sustainability masters is the MSc in International Sustainability Management at ESCP Business School based in Berlin and Paris. Oliver Laasch, Chair of Responsible Management and the program’s Academic Director, stresses the importance of such masters degrees.
“In the era of grand sustainability crises, we need an army of competent sustainability managers internationally, to both ensure business management stops inflicting social and environmental harm, and ideally, to become restorative and revert the damage we have done,” he says.
As such, ESCP’s MSC in International Sustainability Management has been highly sought after. “In the past we had limited the program to 40 places, but noticed that we had to turn away just as many highly qualified candidates. For this reason we have doubled the number of places this year and still are highly selective,” Laasch says.
The curriculum is reviewed on an ongoing basis in order to stay ahead of a quickly developing field of research and practice, he continues. “Recent and ongoing additions include, for instance, the twin transition of digitalization and sustainability, post-growth approaches, and net-positive carbon management, just to mention a few.”
Additionally, ESCP incorporates real-world, hands-on experiences or projects related to sustainability in the program. Most lectures involve some form of practitioner guest lectures and project work, often in cooperation with practitioners, companies, or prospective employers, who Laasch says value the students.
“Graduates often transition into corporate sustainability management jobs, work in specialized or mainstream sustainability consultancies, or in sustainability-oriented ventures,” he adds.
ESCP’s course is just one of many options. Another is the Master in Sustainability and Impact Management at Mannheim Business School in Germany, a part-time program delivered through a combination of online and on-campus teaching.
The program’s blended delivery method means it attracts an increasing number of students who are already in employment. “An increasing number of companies now recognize its value and actively support their employees in pursuing the degree,” says Kai Stenzel, chief market officer at Mannheim Business School. “Last year, over half the students received financial backing from their respective companies, often to the tune of more than 70 percent of the tuition fees.”
Students in this program come from diverse areas within their companies: all functional areas are represented, from supply chain and marketing to HR, finance and strategy. “This diversity underscores the relevance of the master’s program, as it equips employees across the corporation i to integrate management with sustainability and to comprehend the current demands of their respective area,” Stenzel says.
Indeed, sustainability is currently a trending subject due to rapid change in business and society. “At the same time, companies find themselves in a state of transformation, facing not only shifting competition but also current and future employees’ demands for a sense of purpose,” adds Stenzel. “In our view, this calls for an academic program that empowers students to connect management with sustainability issues and their impact while understanding the current demands and frameworks.”
Although the Mannheim Master in Sustainability and Impact Management attracts mostly already-employed candidates, the career outcomes are still strong.
“Our graduates understand how to manage a company and make sustainable management decisions, so they are best prepared for future leadership positions,” says Stenzel. “The need for our students was evident from the first cohort’s initial survey, showing that over 50 percent of them had already taken a further step in their career even before completing their studies. This included transitioning into strategic and operational sustainability roles, as well as assuming leadership responsibilities.” This presents a compelling reason to consider from a wide array of masters programs in sustainability at business schools.