School of Earth and Environment

Earth and Environment Blog


Put Sustainability First for Innovative Business Education!’s always an interesting read, but the report last week with Forum for the Future querying “Are ‘slow-to-adjust’ business schools contributing to the sustainability skills gap?” really caught our eye! At Leeds we run two programmes which try to bridge the gap that Forum identified.  Forum’s own long-running MSc programme designed around learning in a variety or workplaces started a trend that definitely needs to continue!  But is this really an area where we expect Business Schools to lead the way?  We all hope they will do something about it at some point, however “the business of business schools is (still) business,” to misquote Friedman. We suggest that real, deep innovation and the sustainable development we need might have to come from other areas of education capable of bringing together a multitude of disciplines.

At Leeds, it’s a conscious decision to run our two postgraduate business-facing sustainability programmes from the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) at the School of Earth and Environment.  At SRI we put sustainability first, front and centre of our Programme Design, and then build connections with other Schools and fields, such as consultancy and management practice. For example, we have embedded relevant modules from Leeds University Business School in our programmes, and established an industrial placement where you might usually find a research dissertation. We put content, values and knowledge in place, and then help students work out how to apply this knowledge in a business context through formal study of topics like project management and stakeholder analysis.  The sustainability skills gap that the IEMA survey respondents described needs a bridge of two spans: one of technical knowledge and one of skills for implementation.   That’s quite different to studying business where efficiency and economic performance come first and then it is up to the students (and future executives) to working out how to tweak business so it is a bit more sustainable. We strongly believe that social science programmes with sustainability at the core are the ones which will close the gap.

Dr Alice Owen & Dr Pablo Munoz

Find the article that prompted this comment at–business-schools-contributing-to-sustainability-skills-gap/

Find out more about our MSc Sustainability programmes at

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