The Aspen Institute Releases its Alternative Business School Rankings

October 10, 2007  • Institute Contributor

The Aspen Institute Releases its Alternative Business School Rankings

NEW YORK, October 10, 2007—A small but growing number of business schools are leading the charge in driving discussions of social and environmental issues into the core curriculum, which means prospective students have some real choices when it comes to selecting an MBA program, according to the Aspen Institute’s 2007-2008 Beyond Grey Pinstripes, a biennial survey and alternative ranking of business schools.

At the schools that ranked high in the survey, students can select from an array of electives that deal with social and environmental topics, as well as encounter this content in core courses.  In general, social and environmental issues have continued to grow in importance in the business school curriculum. However, the survey also revealed that the proportion of schools offering core courses to address these topics in terms of mainstream business decision-making remains low.

“This year’s survey tells us that society and the environment are becoming significant issues on campus, not just for students, but in the Dean’s office and in many classrooms,” said Rich Leimsider, Director of the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education.  “However, in most institutions, they are still pretty much confined to discussions of nonprofit management, social entrepreneurship and ethics. What we are not seeing in most schools is an examination of these issues through the lens of risk management and strategy and the realization that mainstream, for-profit business can be a force for positive social and environmental change.”

To help students find those MBA programs that mainstream discussions of social and environmental stewardship, The Aspen Institute Center for Business Education will be producing an “Alternative Guide to MBA Programs,” based on this year’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes findings, according to Leimsider.

As in 2005, Stanford University ranked first in the survey, getting high marks for the number of courses it offers students that have social and environmental content as well courses that explicitly address the role of mainstream business in improving social and environmental conditions. It also ranked high in creating an environment in which faculty feel free to explore social and environmental topics in their research.

Rounding out the top 10 business schools were:

  • The University of Michigan
  • York University (Canada)
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duquesne University
  • Yale University
  • Instituto de Empresa (Spain)

“In the Beyond Grey Pinstripes rankings success is measured not by how much new MBA graduates earn or how many offers they get,” said Judith Samuelson, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, “but by how well prepared they are to guide a company through the complex relationship of business and society, where issues relating to the environment or the well-being of a community can impact a company’s performance and reputation.

“While graduate business schools are finding the ability to deal with such issues an increasingly important part of the training for successful business leaders, there is still room for innovation and improvement,” Samuelson added.

The Aspen Institute Center for Business Education, a program of The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, compiled Beyond Grey Pinstripes, its biennial research survey and alternative ranking of business schools, looking at how well social and environmental issues are incorporated into the training of future business leaders.

Invitations to participate in the 2007 survey were sent out to 600+ internationally accredited business schools with in-person, full-time MBA programs. Over forty thousand pages of data were collected from 111 schools this year—71 institutions located in the U.S. and 40 international schools, representing 18 countries.   

Sample Findings

• The percentage of schools surveyed that require students to take a course dedicated to business and society issues has increased dramatically over time, from 34% in 2001 to 63% in 2007.
• Since the last survey in 2005, the number of elective courses per school dedicated to social/environmental content has increased 20%.
• The proportion of schools offering general social and environmental content in required core courses has increased in most business disciplines—Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing, Strategy—since the 2005 survey.
• However, the proportion of schools requiring content in core courses on how mainstream business can address social or environmental issues remains low.
• Of the 112 schools that responded to the survey this year, 35 offer a special concentration or major that allows MBAs to focus on social and environmental issues inherent in mainstream, for-profit business.
• Change is still occurring slowly when it comes to published academic research on social or environmental topics. In the 1999-2000 survey, even top schools had as few as three to four published research articles on these concerns across the entire faculty.  In the 2007-2008 survey, only 5% of the faculty at the surveyed business schools published research that examined important social or environmental impact or business opportunities.

The complete ranking of the Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2007-2008 “Global 100” business schools can be found at  For particular questions or issues related to social and environmental coursework and MBA education, contact the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education (

The Aspen Institute Center for Business Education (Aspen CBE) seeks to create business leaders for the 21st century who are equipped with the vision and knowledge necessary to integrate corporate profitability with social value. To that end, it offers programs that provide business educators with the resources they need to incorporate issues of social and environmental stewardship into their teaching, research and curriculum development.

As part of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program (Aspen BSP), Aspen CBE maintains close ties with over 100 MBA programs in 23 countries. Its websites draw over 75,000 visits monthly and its events and networks attract over 1,000 participants each year.



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