SMU focusing on sustainability

MBA program ranks 9th in Canada for sustainability education

In a recent survey evaluating sustainability education in Canadian universities, the Saint Mary’s University MBA program moved up 11 places from last year to 9th in the country. Photo: Nick Ritcey
In a recent survey evaluating sustainability education in Canadian universities, the Saint Mary’s University MBA program moved up 11 places from last year to 9th in the country. Photo: Nick Ritcey

At a time when many Canadian corporations are adding green initiatives to their business models, it only makes sense that the concept is being introduced in university classrooms. 

This movement is known as corporate sustainability.  MBA programs across the country have been adding sustainability content to their programs.

In September, Corporate Knights, a Canadian company focused on the promotion of sustainability, released a survey rating the quality and quantity of sustainability content in Canadian MBA programs. 

Saint Mary’s University placed ninth out of 35 schools, with a score of 36 out of 100.  

Although the program’s score is low, it’s a significant improvement over last year, when it placed 20th.

Saint Mary’s professor Cathy Driscoll teaches ethical issues in business in the MBA program.  She says part of the program’s sustainability improvements come from the university’s green culture.  

“At Saint Mary’s the support for sustainability comes more from the top,” she said.  “So, as far as why the MBA program has been successful with what they’re doing, I think it’s inherently connected to what’s happening in all parts of the university and comes from that Saint Mary’s’ mission and values.”

Driscoll acknowledges SMU’s score could be better and says there is a lot of work to be done to compete with the top ranking schools, such as the Schulich Business School at York University.  York, which scored an 86 on the survey, offers numerous courses in sustainability and allows students to not only concentrate their degree in the field, but also earn graduate diplomas in various areas of sustainability.

Corporate Knights rated MBA programs on faculty support, student involvement and coursework. 

Driscoll says the nationwide comparison of the programs is somewhat skewed, as larger schools such as York have more students and faculty, along with greater access to external funding for programs focusing on sustainability. 

“If you don’t have as many students, you’re not going to have as many students start a club in sustainability or do an extra-curricular activity centring around social impact,” she said.

Nathan Campbell, who graduated with his MBA in 2011, says while the program did not extensively cover sustainability, the topic was incorporated into some of the core courses.

“I remember discussing sustainability in ethics class, where we touched on real world events, and in economics class, where we discussed carbon emissions trading and other types of trade.”

Like the university, the students understand the growing importance of being educated in this field.

“If there had been a class offered in sustainability, I probably would have taken it,” Campbell said.  As of 2012, the program offers a new course on sustainability in management, focusing on integrating sustainability into corporate culture.

This is one of many possible additions, as Driscoll says the MBA program at Saint Mary’s is currently under review, with sustainability featured as a main discussion point.

“Yes, we’re doing a great job and we’ve moved back up in the Corporate Knights ranking, but we still do have so far to go to integrate sustainability into everything we do in our MBA program.“