Yale Daily News

Researchers from the Yale School of the Environment and the Yale School of Management have found that more than half of business students worldwide are concerned about global warming’s impacts. 

First published in 2015, the second “Rising Leaders on Social and Environmental Sustainability” report was released this month and analyzes survey responses from 2,035 business students around the world. The report is a collaboration between the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, or CBEY; Global Network for Advanced Management, or GNAM; and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, or YPCCC. The foreword was written by the Dean of the School of the Environment, Ingrid C. Burke, and the Dean of the School of Management, Kerwin K. Charles.

“It’s really remarkable to see the School of Management and the School of the Environment where both deans come together to write the foreword,” study author Stuart DeCew said. “Centers and programs and faculty and staff and research scientists from both schools are able to kind of connect and do this over an extended period of time. It just shows the kind of ability for Yale and the way that we can work together and leverage the different expertise and networks across campus.”

DeCew — who serves as CBEY executive director — co-authored the report along with CBEY Faculty Co-Director Todd Cort, freelance writer Katie Gilbert, Associate Director for Global Initiatives at Yale School of Management Elizabeth Wilkinson, YPCCC Associate Research Scientist Matthew Harris Goldberg and CBEY Associate Director Heather Fitzgerald. 

In the inaugural “Rising Leaders on Social and Environmental Sustainability” report published in 2015, 80 percent of business students surveyed believed that corporations, businesses and industry should be doing more to address climate change. The report was published before the Paris Agreement and was presented at the World Economic Forum. 

“There’s real nuance in this data,” Cort said. “If you’re going to be a business leader, if you’re going to be the executive of this and or an executive of business, you’re going to have to balance these issues, these megatrends in environmental and social sustainability, against the realities of running a business, making a profit or doing whatever your organization has to do. It’s kind of incumbent on these students to start to figure that out.”

Cort, who had worked with DeCew on the first report, described business schools, business students and corporations as significant stakeholders for the report’s key findings. One relevant finding for business schools was student desire for more education on sustainability, with 70 percent of students surveyed wanting more experiential sustainability learning. 

One key result that multiple authors highlighted was a “carbon tax on talent” for companies that sought to employ graduating business students. Fifty-one percent of students are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a company that has better environmental practices while 26 percent say that they would not accept a job at a company that has bad environmental practices.

“CBEY brought interest and expertise on the topics of sustainability and social responsibility as they relate to business school education,” Goldberg said. “Coming from the world I work in day-to-day, we’re interested in communicating more effectively about climate change. So I brought that perspective into the room when we were designing the survey and thinking through the implications of the findings.”

While Goldberg did not work on the 2015 report, YPCCC has been a collaborator on both reports. This year’s report summarized the data into four takeaways. The first focused on business students’ belief that the corporate world should be involved with solving climate change, while also believing that the most serious climate issues affected regions distant from their own.

The second highlighted how business students want sustainability to be incorporated into company practices rather than being a separate goal, while the fourth discussed the “carbon tax on talent.” 

Connecting to other business schools for survey subjects was facilitated by GNAM. Cort noted the significance of business schools’ collaboration in distributing the survey to students who evaluated the education that these schools provided. The report’s third key finding highlighted students’ push for more integration of sustainability-focused education within their schools. 

“We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of the Global Network, which was launched in the spring of 2012,” Wilkinson said. “The network was built on the idea of working with other top business schools around the world to increase the opportunities and global perspective of all our students. The network has grown from 21 schools to 32 now, based in 30 different countries on six continents.”

94 percent of students surveyed believe that global warming is happening. 

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.