UC Berkeley Haas School of Business establishes sustainability initiatives

Photo of Haas campus
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
Not only is the Haas School of Business integrating sustainability into its curriculum, but it is also hoping to create a joint MBA and master's program with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.

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UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is updating its curriculum to integrate environmental sustainability into its courses.

Michele de Nevers, executive director of sustainability programs at the Haas School of Business, has been tasked with making Haas the best business school for sustainability.

“The basic idea is that the dean of the school wants Berkeley Haas to be the No. 1 business school in terms of sustainability,” de Nevers said. “My job is to make that happen.”

De Nevers explained that Haas views sustainability as something concerned with both environmental and social issues. Loosely based on the Brundtland report of 1987, the school’s definition of sustainability advocates for people to live sustainably in order to ensure opportunities and good quality of life for future generations.

Haas will implement major changes to its curriculum, including the integration of environmental sustainability into its 14 core courses, according to de Nevers.

Another major change is the establishment of a graduate certificate in “sustainable business,” de Nevers added. This program has already proven to be popular, with 110 students enrolled in fall 2021. 

By fall 2023, de Nevers said she hopes to partner with UC Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources to allow students to pursue an MBA and a master’s in climate solutions simultaneously.

Haas professor David Levine noted sustainability is a good business practice. Levine said it is common practice for business schools to assume managers focus on maximizing short-term profits with little regard for later consequences.

“I’d like all classes to think more about long-term profitability, and how it differs from the accounting profits this quarter,” Levine said in an email.

Levine said he hopes training business students on sustainability could dissuade them from polluting the environment despite significant potential costs when working in their careers.

Despite the many benefits of sustainability, Haas professor Ernesto Dal Bó acknowledged businesses may be reluctant to place environmentalism above profits.

“While action on fronts like climate change is urgent from a collective perspective, the private incentives of businesses may depart from the collective needs,” Dal Bó said in an email. “It is crucial to understand what policies and industrial trends can bring the private and the social into alignment and produce better outcomes.”

Dal Bó said he hopes this sustainability initiative will foster a generation of leaders who will consider how business practices impact those who are vulnerable to climate change.

Levine added he would like managers to consider public well-being alongside profitability.

“Finally, I want managers to have the tools to speak up,” Levine said in the email. “It is difficult to say, ‘That decision will increase both profits and our bonuses. Nevertheless, I think it is the wrong decision, and here is why…’ But Berkeley grads can do difficult things.”

Lance Roberts is a student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @lance_roberts.