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New Ranking Spotlights Business Education That Works for the Planet

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It took a global meltdown and harsh criticism of the education system, but business educators are stepping up to the plate to bring the so-called "soft stuff" -- like values, ethical considerations, long term environmental impacts and the complex interplay between business decisions and the health of society -- right smack into the B-school classroom.

With today's release of "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," the Aspen Institute's ranking of the Top 100 MBA programs worldwide, prospective students, faculty and alumni can see which schools are on the forefront of balancing the conventional focus on hard numbers and analytical tools, with courses and research that evaluate the complex role and impact of business in society.

Stanford snared the #1 spot but the next two, York in Toronto and IE in Madrid, make this a global conversation. The top ten still include a number of the U.S. market leaders -- Notre Dame, Yale, Northwestern, Michigan, Cornell, UNC and Berkeley among them. And there are many other gems among the Top 100.

Three big themes jumped out in the analysis of reams of data submitted by 149 schools around the globe. One, we are witnessing a significant increase in classroom teaching -- and even faculty research -- that examines the social and environmental impacts of business along with the financial measures. We are also seeing higher percentages of students exposed to this line of teaching. Schools that did both leap-frogged competitors.

Two, the content is making its way, steadily, into the core--into marketing classrooms as well as finance classrooms. The complexity of business is no longer cloistered away in "ethics."

Three, business education, and teaching students about the challenge of social impact management, is a global enterprise -- fully 30 percent of the schools are from outside the U.S.; Australia, Europe, China, Korea, Mexico and Colombia, Peru and South Africa are all well-represented. Europe/UK has sixteen MBA programs in the Top 100. And six of the top twenty are U.S. public institutions. Teaching the notion of stewardship is not confined to the well-endowed private schools.

This ranking isn't about the typical metrics, like for example, "Who makes the most money after graduating?" or "Who has the highest GMATs?" It's about aligning business with the long term health of society. It's about the awesome responsibility of business -- to appropriately assess risk, invest capital, and make wise use of the power that resides in the C-Suite. It's about making sure business decisions stand the test of time.

Making judgments about what is taught and researched in business education isn't for the faint of heart -- 12 Ph.D. students and a tireless staff examined more than 12,000 courses and research abstracts to find the content that comes closest to integrating the questions of social impact with the business decisions that need to be made. The schools that take this effort seriously signal that being a steward of wider society must be part of the business analysis and risk assessment; it must guide business investment decisions and investment opportunities.