Online MBA Programs in Sustainability

Updated June 9, 2022 | Amy Boyington

Online MBA Programs in Sustainability

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Businesses with sustainable practices, also known as green businesses, aim to reduce their environmental and economic impacts. According to the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, 78% of consumers globally value sustainability, indicating an ongoing trend that may favor green businesses.

An MBA in sustainability qualifies learners to pursue leadership roles in renewable energy and environmental engineering. With a sustainability management MBA, graduates may introduce eco-conscious policies and sustainable products to their organizations.

Sustainability MBA graduates sometimes seek certifications such as sustainability excellence professional or certified climate change professional, depending on their career goals and job requirements.

In this guide, explore what MBA sustainability programs typically offer, how they can propel your career goals, and whether this concentration is right for you.

Why Enroll in a Sustainability MBA Program?

Sustainability is increasingly crucial to today's business models. According to CEO Magazine, businesses that focus on sustainability can reduce costs, improve their reputation with consumers, and attract quality talent.

MBA programs with a sustainability focus require similar time and cost commitments to other MBA programs. The primary difference is the curriculum.

MBA in sustainability students typically complete courses in corporate environmental management, sustainable investing, and circular value chain management. The curriculum may also cover ethics, law, and advocacy for environmentally focused business practices.

MBA sustainability programs emphasize the connection between corporate leadership and social and environmental responsibility. Learners discover how to create and manage a business's sustainable programs and efforts. These policies could benefit current or future leaders who want to drive eco-conscious innovation and change within their organizations.

Sustainability MBA students can learn the following skills:

Corporate Environmental Management

Professionals with corporate environmental management skills understand how to balance an organization's financial well-being with social responsibility. These leaders look for opportunities to solve environmental problems through analytics and managerial strategy. They also apply their knowledge to an organization's finances, partnerships, and ethics.

Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Some leaders may open a business rather than manage an existing one. Sustainable entrepreneurship courses help business owners understand how their enterprises impact the environment and society. Students in online MBA sustainability programs learn to create and develop new products and services while minimizing organizational carbon footprints.

Sustainable Supply Chain Management

General MBAs often teach supply chain management — the processes and networks necessary for creating and delivering a company's products. Sustainable supply chain management focuses on building a network of socially and environmentally responsible suppliers and processes.

Sustainable Investing and Finances

Sustainable investing creates positive long-term financial outcomes for businesses. Students learn to blend traditional investment opportunities with environmentally and socially conscious investments. They also explore financial risk management, investment monitoring strategies, and cutting-edge investment tools.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

Why You Should Get Your Sustainability MBA Online

Pursuing an online MBA in sustainability may benefit learners with personal obligations that make in-person schedules challenging. Full-time workers can often continue their career while pursuing an online MBA.

An online MBA program connects students with their peers and instructors through discussion forums, video chats, and other digital formats. This virtual format gives distance learners similar educational opportunities as on-campus students.

Some online sustainability programs offer synchronous learning with students and instructors meeting at specific times through web conferencing platforms. Other programs are asynchronous, allowing students to view course materials and lectures on their own time.

What to Expect From Online Sustainability MBA Programs

An online MBA in sustainability shares many similarities with its on-campus counterpart. Online learners usually receive the same curriculum, have access to similar resources, and complete the same assessments and assignments as on-campus students.

However, distance learning provides different forms of communication and instruction than in-person programs. For instance, online degree-seekers usually interact with peers and instructors via discussion boards, web conferencing, and email rather than face-to-face.

Sustainability MBA programs also differ from general MBA programs in their focus. Sustainability degrees include courses for learners pursuing specific careers, such as sustainability managers or compliance directors.

Some sustainability MBAs require in-person internships or practicums. Prospective learners should consider whether they can commit to these components.

Comparing General MBA and Sustainability MBA Degrees

General

Sustainability MBA

Credit Load

Usually 24-36 credits

May require additional credits for concentration electives

Course Topics

General business topics, including financial management, business operations, and marketing

Covers the general MBA core plus sustainability electives, such as sustainable investing and ethical policy

Career Outcomes

Graduates can move forward in various paths, such as IT manager or chief financial officer. The 2020 median salary for top executives was $107,680.

Graduates typically enter roles that blend leadership with sustainability, like a sustainability consultant or policymaker. The 2020 median salary for chief sustainability officers was $185,950.

Source: O-NET, BLS


Curriculum

An MBA in sustainability begins with a core business curriculum covering marketing management, business finance, and other relevant leadership topics.

Learners then move onto concentration-specific courses. These programs typically explore strategies that blend business leadership with sustainability. Students learn how sustainable practices affect business growth, finances, and innovation.

  • Ecological Economics: This course combines success-driven practices with eco-conscious financial management. Students learn to make investments, source materials, and reduce costs in environmentally and socially responsible ways. The course also introduces real-world economic problems and encourages critical thinking strategies to solve them.
  • Ethical Practice and Policy: Learners discover how ethical sustainable practices and policies fit into an organization. This course discusses climate change, global sustainability efforts, and social responsibility. Future leaders learn to create ethical policies within an organization that contribute to its overall sustainability and environmental betterment.
  • Sustainable Business Practices: This course prepares learners to determine the effects of business practices on the environment and global welfare. Students also learn to create effective organizational methods that equally increase sustainability and business success. Programs may also introduce case studies or examples of sustainable business practices.
  • Corporate and Social Responsibility: Students learn to embrace social responsibility from a business perspective. This course may cover environmental, ethical, economic, and philanthropic commitment. Using their combined knowledge of business and environmental ethics, students navigate potential problems that require sustainable methods and innovative decisions to overcome.
  • Strategic Innovation: Organizational sustainability requires forward-thinking leadership. Learners study the tools and strategies to manage projects, create marketing campaigns, and scale organizations. The course teaches these concepts while incorporating socially responsible methods that benefit businesses and the environment.

Career Opportunities After Graduating

An MBA in sustainability can lead to many career paths. This degree includes core business classes in finance, leadership, and operations. Therefore, graduates may pursue general business careers, such as chief executives, management consultants, or marketing managers.

However, a sustainability concentration can also open doors to careers as sustainability consultants, supply chain managers, or compliance directors.

Many of these jobs offer higher-than-average salaries. For example, as of March 2022, Payscale reports a $75,470 average salary for business development managers and a $103,780 average salary for compliance directors.

These professionals share their knowledge and resources with an organization to improve its sustainability efforts. Depending on employer needs, sustainability consultants can work in areas like infrastructure planning, strategy development, or staff training. Compliance directors ensure that an organization's policies and processes meet legal and ethical standards while also managing risk. Sustainability MBA graduates apply their understanding of social responsibility to create more sustainable operations. Business development managers help organizations make key business decisions to generate revenue. Professionals with a sustainability background may monitor trends in environmental impact and suggest partnerships that reduce an organization's carbon footprint. Organizations may hire supply chain managers to reduce their environmental impact from supply chain processes. These professionals can inform an organization's procurement and logistics strategies to reduce its carbon footprint.

Professional Organizations

Professional organization members can access exclusive resources, including professional development and networking opportunities to propel their careers. Consider the following sustainability-focused professional organizations.

Since 1979, AERE has supported environmental professionals on their journeys to begin or grow their careers. The organization maintains a graduate student committee to assist students in navigating their education and career paths. Serving sustainability engineering professionals, ESW fosters leadership, collaboration, and professional development through workshops, community partnerships, and networking events. Members can download project packets to begin ESW projects in their local communities. Dedicated to advancing leadership and expertise in sustainable professionals, ISSP provides members with self-paced courses and sustainability credentials. Job-seekers may also access opportunities through ISSP's career center. NAEP connects environmental professionals with cutting-edge resources and training through local chapters, national events, and webinars. Several scholarships and awards assist students and professionals with furthering their educational and career goals.

Choosing Between Sustainability MBA Programs

Learning experiences and outcomes vary between sustainability MBA programs. Degree-seekers should explore a few programs and then narrow their options according to the features they prioritize. Consider the following factors when choosing the best MBA in sustainability:

  • Learning Format: Some students prefer in-person learning over an online program. Determine which learning style best suits your academic needs when choosing a program.
  • In-person Requirements: Online programs may require in-person experiences like internships, practicums, or orientations. Research these program components to ensure minimal conflict with other obligations.
  • Curriculum: MBA in sustainability curricula vary between programs, both in content and length. For instance, some programs may offer accelerated options for 12-month completion. Determine if a fast-paced format would suit your needs, especially if you have other commitments.
  • Tuition: Sustainability MBAs can fit an array of budgets. Explore a school's tuition rates and financial aid options to determine whether a program meets your financial needs.

Common Questions About Sustainability MBA's


Do I need a master’s degree in sustainability?

A sustainability MBA offers diverse career outcomes for forward-thinking leaders. This concentration builds sustainable management skills in operations, supply chain logistics, and economics. Degree-seekers interested in careers like compliance officer or business development manager may also benefit from this degree.

How do I get a job in sustainability with no experience?

Entry-level sustainability jobs typically require at least a bachelor's degree. However, businesses may seek leaders with master's degrees in sustainability and some relevant experience.

Is sustainable management a good career?

Many businesses monitor their carbon footprints, making space for sustainable processes and leaders. Some potential careers come with higher-than-average salaries. For example, an environmental manager earns an average salary of $85,400 as of March 2022.

What can I do with a sustainability MBA?

A sustainability MBA can pave the way to management careers incorporating social responsibility, such as environmental managers and sustainability consultants. Graduates can also become procurement managers, project managers, and sustainability directors.

Top Five Online MBA Programs in Sustainability

Use this guide to explore our ranking of the five best online MBA programs in sustainability for 2022. To learn more about how we rank schools, see the link below.

1

Concordia University Ann Arbor

Established in 1962 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Concordia University Ann Arbor is part of a nationwide network of independently run colleges and universities affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

MBA in Sustainability Management and Analytics (STEM Program)

CUAA's Haab School of Business offers one of the best online MBA programs with a concentration in sustainability. Designed for working professionals, the 36-credit degree requires MBA core, concentration, experiential learning, and capstone courses. Based on Christian ethics, the MBA prepares graduates for service-focused business leadership careers.

The flexible MBA in sustainability management and analytics covers fundamental business principles with a focus on using data to create environmental progress and social impact. The curriculum includes classes like applied statistics, ecological economics, sustainable business practices, and environmental law. The program does not require the GRE.

CUAA's Affordability

Students pay $779 per credit for CUAA's online MBA. The school offers scholarships and grants exclusively for adult learners. MBA candidates may qualify for student loans, graduate assistantships, or veteran's educational assistance.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: HLC; IACBE
  • Tuition: $779/credit
  • Required Credits: 36
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Fill out online application and submit application fee, one-page essay, resume, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts
    • GPA: minimum 2.75 (students with a lower GPA may be considered)
    • Standardized Tests: None
2

Unity College

Unity College in Unity, Maine, focuses on environmental education and emphasizes sustainability practices and principles in its programs and operations. The school divested from fossil fuels a decade ago.

MBA in Sustainable Business

Unity's MBA in sustainable business prepares graduates to apply for jobs like sustainability manager or executive director. The program explores sustainable innovation, business solutions to environmental problems, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders. Students learn to use sustainable business tools like life cycle analysis, sustainability reporting, and environmental accounting.

Designed for working professionals, the fully online experiential degree incorporates fieldwork. The program may accept up to nine transfer credits. Classes include global impact of capital markets, ethical practice and policy, and designing successful teams and organizations.

Program features include one-on-one professional and academic advising, job placement assistance, and opportunities to make professional connections. Students choose from five year-round MBA start dates.

Unity's Affordability

MBA candidates pay $650 per credit. Unity offers a discounted tuition rate of $585 per credit to current service members, veterans, and their families. Unity keeps student fees low, charging only a $100 graduation fee.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: NECHE
  • Tuition: $650/credit
  • Required Credits: 36
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • Admissions
    • Process: Complete an online application
    • Standardized Tests: None
    • Cost: Free
3

Franklin Pierce University

A private institution founded in 1962, in Rindge, New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce University offers professional and liberal arts programs. The school offers small classes with a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

MBA in Energy and Sustainability

Franklin Pierce's IACBE-accredited MBA in energy and sustainability ranks among the best online MBA programs. Designed for working professionals, the fully online program from the College of Business offers part-time or full-time study options.

In addition to an MBA core, the program requires classes like energy economics and building a sustainable enterprise. Students must create a leadership portfolio and develop their own leadership strategy in order to graduate.

The curriculum includes various experiential learning opportunities at the Institute for Climate Action, campus sustainability initiatives, and wildlife studies. Students can complete a field study in Costa Rica exploring indigenous wildlife and forest ecosystems or in Cape Cod, learning about coastal ecosystems.

Franklin Pierce's Affordability

Graduate students pay $665 per credit. Franklin Pierce offers a 4+1 program that lets students earn a bachelor's degree and MBA in just five years, potentially saving time and money.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: NECHE; IACBE
  • Tuition: $665/credit
  • Required Credits: 39
  • Program Length: 21 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
  • Admissions
    • Process: Complete an online graduate application and submit official transcripts, a current resume, and supplemental materials.
4

Concordia University Wisconsin

Part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod-affiliated national Concordia University System, Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wisconsin, started educating students for Christian leadership roles in 1881.

MBA in Sustainability Management and Analytics

CUW's customizable online MBA program offers a concentration in sustainability management and analytics. Designed for full-time working professionals, the 36-credit degree from the Department of Business takes less than two years to complete.

The curriculum includes five core, four concentration, two experiential learning, and one capstone courses. Students take classes like introduction to Six Sigma, readings in environmental science, and management science and analytics.

Industry experts teach the program's eight-week classes. Students get study abroad and internship opportunities and industry-related exam preparation. The program accepts up to six graduate transfer credits and does not require the GRE or GMAT.

CUW's Affordability

Graduate MBA students pay $779 per credit. CUW offers scholarships for adult learners that range from $150-$500 per credit.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: HLC; IACBE
  • Tuition: $779/credit
  • Required Credits: 36
  • Program Length: Less than 2 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
  • Admissions
    • Process: Complete application form and submit application fee, one-page essay, resume, two letters of recommendation, and official college transcripts
    • GPA: 2.75 (students with a GPA below 2.75 may still be considered)
    • Standardized Tests: None
5

Oklahoma State University

Founded as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1890, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, serves more than 33,000 students. The school hosts 500 student organizations and 45 sororities and fraternities.

MBA in Business Sustainability

OSU's Spears School of Business offers one of the best online MBA programs in sustainability for full-time working professionals. Distance learners get access to career placement support including employer connectivity, a mentoring program, resume review, and mock interviews. Online MBA students can participate in study abroad opportunities and networking events.

The AACSB-accredited MBA in business sustainability curriculum includes classes in social entrepreneurship, leadership challenges, social issues in marketing, and corporate and social responsibility. Core courses explore business strategy, business finance, and financial reporting. Students complete multiple experiential learning credits. The part-time program offers two start dates each year.

OSU's Affordability

The Spears School of Business offers various scholarships and financial aid. MBA candidates pay $481 per credit for in-state tuition and $1,443 per credit for out-of-state tuition. OSU offers a 4+1 bachelor's and MBA program that takes five years and can save money.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: HLC; AACSB
  • Tuition: $481/credit (in state); $1,834/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 39
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or on campus
  • Admissions
    • Process: Complete an online application and submit official transcripts, test scores, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation
    • Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE

Featured Image: Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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