February 1, 2022

Shades of Green: Assessing Sustainability in Business School Rankings

The Financial Times recently performed comprehensive research on the state of sustainability in business school rankings.  They found anything but structure — different rankings providing varying perspectives on the progress and measurement of sustainability in business schools.  However, the outcome of FT’s study was a comprehensive table summarizing the landscape of sustainability rankings, which provides a nice reference sheet for sustainability-focused applicants exploring business schools.


While the FT comprehensive sustainability table is not a ranking in itself, here are some of the standout schools that were ranked highly across several sustainability components:


  • University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler included in six of the seven FT components including #9 in the FT MBA ESG rank and a Gold Stars rank
  • Edhec business school in France included in five of the seven FT components including #3 in both the FT MBA ESG rank and Positive impact rating
  • Alliance Manchester Business School in the UK ranked #1 in THE Impact rank and #5 in the FT MBA ESG rank
  • Melbourne Business School in Australia ranked #3 in THE Impact rank and #4 in the RSM SDG rank
  • University of Edinburgh Business School in the UK ranked #3 in the RSM SDG rank and #6 in the Corporate Knights rank


Here are the components FT considers valuable in assessing schools’ sustainability resources:


  • FT MBA ESG rank: the first metric in the table is the FT’s own ranking of an MBA program’s ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) rating, one of the factors weighed in FT’s Global MBA school rankings. Important metrics that help determine the ESG rankings are: gender and international diversity among a school’s students, faculty and leadership as well as how ESG is integrated into the MBA curriculum.
  • Carbon neutral target: FT asked business schools whether they had target dates for becoming net carbon-neutral. While some don’t, those that do demonstrate a commitment to tackling climate change.  A standout business school for this metric is University of Virginia Darden, which reached carbon-neutral in 2018.
  • RSM SDG rank: Rotterdam School of Management studied the proportion of academic papers by business school faculty between 2018 and 2021 that addressed topics in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and used that research output to create a sustainability ranking.
  • Corporate Knights rank: created by Corporate Knights, a Canadian publisher, the annual Better World MBA ranking is based on factors such as integration of sustainability into core courses, research institutes, faculty gender and racial diversity. To read more on the Better World MBA ranking, see our recent blog article on the rankings.
  • Positive impact rating: The Positive Impact Rating is based on 8,800 student assessments by a Swiss association of factors including culture, governance, learning methods and public engagement.
  • THE Impact rank: Times Higher Education runs an impact ranking for universities, using data such as research, operations and teaching benchmarked against the UN SDG.
  • Stars rank: published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Stars rank allows universities to self-report against the Stars framework to measure their sustainability performance. The framework includes ratings for academics, campus and public engagement, university operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.


For a view of the complete FT table, click here.  If you’re inspired to start your sustainability focused business school application journey, contact Admitify today!