Study: Future Business Leaders Demand Bold Action on Climate Change

Rising leaders on environmental sustainability and climate change: A global survey of students from top-ranking business schools finds widespread consensus that business must lead on solutions to climate change and sustainability to attract and retain talent.

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

Stuart DeCew on MSNBC

A new global study of more than 3,700 students at 29 top business schools found that corporations unwilling to act on environmental issues are increasingly punished by the men and women they would like to recruit.

The study, conducted by Yale University in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), shows that 44 percent of students are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a company with better environmental practices. Conversely, about one-fifth of respondents expressed an unwillingness to work for companies with bad environmental practices regardless of salary considerations. Students also overwhelmingly consider environmental action a profitable stance, noting that environmental protection will improve economic growth and provide new jobs.

The survey was coordinated by GNAM, WBCSD, and the Yale Center for Business and the Environment — a program based at the Yale School of Foresry & Environmental Studies and the Yale School of Management — with the support of the F&ES-based Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

“We often talk about a transformational change of our society, when we speak about climate action. And that transformation will affect both business as well as the institutions that educate the leaders in business” said Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the WBCSD. “The role of business in society is changing. Business leaders need to understand the complex nature of sustainability issues and integrate solutions for social and environmental challenges, with the need for good financial results. Today’s summary of survey results brings a clear call for change, demanding action on environmental sustainability. If business schools and business can deliver against this call for change, the necessary transformation toward a sustainable future will clearly be much more impactful.”
These next generation leaders expect business leaders, and in particular the C-Suite, to prioritize and responsibly lead in the search for environmental sustainability solutions, and they are willing to assume leadership roles themselves. More than two-thirds of participants said that they want to incorporate environmental sustainability into their careers, regardless of their role or industry. All else being equal, 84 percent of students would choose to work for a company with good environmental practices.
While voicing a need for future employers to act on the environment, business students also demanded action from the schools they attend; students want a more thorough integration of environmental issues into the core operations and curricula of business schools. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents thought that business schools need to hire more faculty and staff with expertise in sustainability; 64 percent also wanted more career services and counseling on sustainability-related jobs.

"These results affirm what we already know here at Yale — that today's students are acutely aware of the indelible link between economic prosperity and the health of our planet,” said Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “For those of us training the leaders of tomorrow, this fusion of environmental and economic thinking will only become more critical.”
“Worldwide, today’s business schools are being called to act from the very people we’re training as leaders,” according to Edward Snyder, Dean of the Yale School of Management. “It’s incumbent upon us to prepare our students for the world not of last generation, but the next.”
As the climate change negotiations at COP21 in Paris build steam, these results highlight the rising priority of solving climate change among future leaders. For a full copy of the report visit.