As the Yale School of Management attempts to take its place among the nation’s top business schools, there has been speculation that the institution is slowly abandoning its commitment to the non-profit sector in favor of going “mainstream.”

But the SOM will put some of that speculation to rest today, when it accepts an honor for excellence in environmental stewardship from the Aspen Institute and the World Resource Institute.

The two organizations, which advocate environmental awareness in business, conducted a survey of all accredited business schools in the United States and 60 international institutions.

Based on those surveys, Yale will be joined in the winner’s circle by the University of Michigan Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, George Washington University’s School of Business and Public Management and the University of Jyvaskla’s School of Business and Economics in Finland.

“We’re very proud of this award and how we are preparing Yale MBA students to lead in a world where environmental stewardship skills are just as important as management, financial, or marketing skills,” SOM Dean Jeffrey Garten said in a written statement.

Through cooperation with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the SOM has been able to integrate environmental issues into the curriculum — a key to the SOM’s prominence in environmental business.

The SOM and the Forestry School offer one of the nation’s few joint-degree programs in management and environmental studies. Started in 1984 by Garry Brewer, an SOM and Forestry professor, it allows students to obtain a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in Environmental Management in three years.

“This program reflects the uniqueness of the SOM,” SOM Deputy Dean Stanley Garstka said. “We’re not a straight arrow, plain vanilla business program. There’s a socially aware mindset and attitude here that’s not necessarily prevalent at other management schools.”

A pioneer for the cause, Brewer left Yale in 1991 for the University of Michigan Business School, where he created a similar program. This year he returned to New Haven with intentions of injecting new life into Yale’s program.

“While enormous amounts of progress have been made, there’s still so much more that needs to be done,” Brewer said. “More enlightened business leaders are realizing that the environment is something they must take seriously. And at the same time, environmental groups are realizing that business is a medium for change.”

Dima Reda PM&E ’03 said as businesses are becoming more accountable for environmental hazards they may create, the relationship between the two fields will become increasingly inseparable.

“The businesses that don’t deplete natural resources are the ones that’ll be around in the future,” Reda said. “So a lot of companies are incorporating production measures that are environmentally safe. It’s becoming a very pressing issue.”

World Resource Institute President Jonathan Lash stressed the importance of integrating environmental and management studies.

“The school is being recognized for its leadership in preparing MBA students for a global marketplace where social and environmental issues are linked to business success,” Lash said. “The interdependency necessitates a broadening of the traditional MBA program, and Yale’s School of Management is extraordinary in its successful academic integration of environmental, social and sustainability management issues.”

But the SOM and the Forestry School have no intentions of resting on their laurels, said Gus Speth, Forestry School dean and founder of WRI. Instead, they will ambitiously attempt to strengthen the PM&E program.

“We’re not completely satisfied now,” Speth said. “I’d say we’re at the midway point. We have a good program, but we want to make it a great program.”