Exeter University’s ‘One Planet’ MBA

Exeter University’s ‘One Planet’ MBA

Principles of sustainability form the core of the One Planet MBA at Exeter University’s Business School. The MBA is a clear demonstration of how academia, civil society and business can partner and collaborate to improve our environmental stewardship of the Earth and the sustainable management of its natural resources. Such expertise is of crucial importance to tackling our global challenges and bringing our societies back from irreversible tipping-points through responsible leadership.

At a Glance

  • A successful example of partnership and cooperation between academia, civil society and business.
  • Recognised in several instances as best practice in higher education, both in the UK and worldwide.
  • Aims to produce ‘future-proof’ business leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to implement sustainable business practice.
  • Educating students in practising sustainable business is recognised as a necessity not a preference.

Policy Reference

One Planet MBA (Exeter University Business School, UK)

Combining tradition and heritage with innovation and insight, an MBA at Exeter gives you the business skills, knowledge and experience to address the critical global challenges of the future.

Environmental, financial and social changes are challenging traditional business models. Tomorrow’s business leaders across the globe must recognise and embrace these challenges and be capable of developing more sustainable business practices and processes.

Developed in partnership with WWF International, our One Planet MBA develops a new generation of business leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and understanding required to create, build and develop sustainable, profitable businesses capable of succeeding in a fast changing international business landscape.

With our One Planet MBA you will gain the ability to innovate, to think and act strategically and to lead others through organisational change.

An MBA at Exeter changes the future

Connected Policies

Higher Education Act 2004. [English]

Selection as a Future-Just Policy

Principles of sustainability form the core of the One Planet MBA at Exeter University Business School. Students of the course are taught sustainable management, accounting, design, innovation and leadership.

The MBA is a clear demonstration of how academia, civil society and business can collaborate to improve our environmental stewardship of the Earth and sustainable management of its natural resources. All parties actively participate in the development of the course as well as the conduct of its teaching modules and placements.

Such expertise in MBA graduates is of crucial importance to tackling our global challenges and bringing our societies back from irreversible tipping-points. The business leaders of tomorrow, equipped with a knowledge of how to implement principles of sustainability, will play a crucial role in preventing the far-reaching consequences of ‘business-as-usual’.

Future-Just Policy Scorecard

Our “Best Policies” are those which meet the Future-Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise that interrelated challenges require interconnected solutions. The World Future Council’s unique research and analysis ensures that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are coherently considered by policy-makers.


   Sustainable use of natural resources

  • The teaching of sustainable management and business practice forms the core of the ‘One Planet’ MBA.
  • Staff and students adhere to the University’s Environmental Sustainability Policy (accompanied by a Sustainability Action Plan and several other documents concerning travel, waste management, energy and water consumption as well as procurement).
  • Classes are held in environmentally-friendly classrooms with sufficient day light and recycling corners in the corridors.

   Equity and poverty eradication

  • Lectures cover issues related to how climate change and changing biodiversity affect different socio-economic groups (the vulnerable, poor, disabled, access to health care and other social services).
  • The course takes into account the effect of climate change in different parts of the world, both industrialised and less-industrialised.

   Precautionary approach

  • The MBA teaches a business perspective which fosters the sustainable management of the planet’s natural resources and preserves biodiversity. It recognises that business cannot continue ‘as usual’.
  • Through classes and project assessments, students are trained to develop and implement sustainable solutions. The acquired precautionary skills are applicable to the phases of innovation, design, accounting and finances, project development and management.

   Public participation, access to information and justice

  • The MBA was designed as a joint initiative of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Exeter Business School.
  • In 2009, a co-creation cohort of students enrolled for the purpose of providing in-depth feedback. Their opinions, suggestions and views were taken into account for finalising the course. The MBA One Planet then officially commenced in 2010.
  • The Business School staff can be sent opinions and suggestions online (e-mail, web platforms).
  • Business partners of the MBA keep staff and students up-to-date with innovative ideas during lectures and face-to-face meetings whilst conferences are organised on a regular basis.
  • The Alumni of the Business School also serve as a channel where staff can hear about new ideas and suggestions aimed at the improvement of the MBA.
  • Regular open Days are also held to publicly promote the MBA and attract new students.

    Good governance and human security

  • The Dean of Exeter Business School, Prof. Robin Mason, actively participated in the development and adoption phase of the MBA.
  • The Dean maintains ongoing communication with partners (academic, civil society and business) in order to maintain the quality of the MBA.
  • The MBA is supervised by a director who supervises its implementation.
  • Business Ethics classes study tackling corruption through sustainable practice.

   Integration and interrelationship

  • The MBA links academia, civil society and business. As a result of this, all parties benefit: teaching staff are infused with new ideas and proposals, civil society raise their main concerns, and the companies ensure a good source of graduate recruitment and future business leaders.
  • Environmental issues are an integral part of the operation of companies which hire the ‘One Planet’ graduates. This affects the  public reputation of the company (as more environmental friendly) as well as their operations (decreasing costs and impact on the environment).

   Common but differentiated responsibilities

  • The approach of different cultures, ethnic groups and traditions to environmental management is considered in the MBA.
  • A gender balance is sought in the enrolled students.
  • Staff endeavour to enrol students from different part of the world in order to ensure diversity. This practices has shown to be beneficial especially during debates and workshops where students have a chance to hear different case studies, views, opinions and situations. Two types of scholarship are available:

– Afren Scholarship for candidates from Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Iraq, Kurdistan, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Seychelles and Tanzania.

– Ayudar Colombia Scholarship for candidates from Colombia.

  • Several companies such as Atos, Canon, Coca-Cola, IBM, IKEA, Lloyds Banking Group, Lafarge and Thomson Reuters offer scholarships of up to £5000 for an internship or consultancy assignment.
  • In addition, Syngenta offers a full scholarship for those candidates who have experience and interest in food security.


After several years of successful implementation of the One Planet Leaders program (aimed at executives and run in partnership with the International Institute for Management Development and Professor Jonathan Gosling), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) wanted to design a similar program for the academic environment.

For several years, Exeter University Business School has focussed on research and teaching with a similar ethos. Their intention was to create a unique MBA which focussed on sustainable management and business practice. During  discussions with the WWF, as well as the Business School staff, it was concluded that the corporate world urgently needs business leaders equipped with “sustainable knowledge” and capable of developing and implementing sustainable solutions in a changing world.


The ‘One Planet’ MBA aims:

  • To deliver to students the knowledge, understanding and skills required for sustainable and responsible business in a changing world (from the social, climate and economic perspectives).
  • To encourage future business leaders to operate strategically and influence other organisations to commence a pathway to sustainability.
  • To teach both practical and research skills with regards to business, planning and management as well as sustainable practice in terms of innovation, finance and accounting.
  • To shape sustainable leadership and planet-minded business graduates.
  • To lay the foundations for ongoing collaboration between alumni from their position as employees/managers.

Methods of Implementation

The MBA is officialised by a memorandum of understanding between the World Wildlife Fund and Exeter University Business School.

The means of teaching the course, are as follows:

  • Conventional lectures and exams, as well as interactive teaching with international speakers, group learning and debates.
  • Case study seminars.
  • One week module in another country (Managing around the World) to share experiences, opinions and views with students studying similar MBAs.
  • Presentations and simulated press-conferences for communication skills.
  • Coach-mentor scheme to facilitate the learning/employment process.
  • Final project (which can be developed as a consultancy assignment for an organisation or company looking to solve a problem or as a research dissertation).


At the time of research, three generations of graduates had completed the MBA. Already however, interviewees were positive that graduates had not just gained business skills, but also an in-depth knowledge of sustainability making them assets to the labour market. The Director of the MBA stated that most graduates find employment between 3 and 6 months after the course end.

The MBA does not just improve employment prospects however, but also the research capacity of students. Out of the most recent generation of graduates, three students are continuing with PhD studies.

As a result of its successful implementation, this MBA soon found itself on the academic map:

  • Recognised as ‘good practice’ at the 2011 Principles of Management Education Summit, Brussels.
  • Ranked in the top 50 worldwide for 2012 by the Washington-based Aspen Institute.
  • Winner of the 2012 Association of MBAs Innovation award.
  • Winner of ‘best new program’ at the 2012 Green Gown Awards.
  • Ranked in the top 3 worldwide, and 1st in the UK by the inaugural 2013 Corporate Knights Global Green MBA survey.

Some of the best world companies have recognised the quality of the MBA as well as its numerous benefits. Companies such Coca-Cola, IKEA, IMB and Lloyds Bank offer scholarships of up to £5000 for an internship or consultancy assignment.

However, it is too early to assess a more long-term impact and the diffusion of sustainability knowledge in graduates’ corporate environments.

Potential as a Transferable Model

The founding of the MBA by means of a memorandum of understanding with a civil society partner means the process and form can easily be replicated by other economics and business faculties. Though national legislation in this instance is permitting, it does not mandate the inclusion of sustainability knowledge in higher education teaching. Focus on accreditation and legislation could assist in the concretisation and longevity of such initiatives.

Additional Resources

Coming soon!

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