A sustainable way of learning: Exeter has set up an MBA with the World Wide Fund for Nature

When Simon Ramsay and Professor Jonathan Gosling of the University of Exeter Business School talk of an MBA these days, they intend it to stand for Masters of Business and Action. Which may sound like Mattel's latest addition to the Barbie and Ken range, but, in fact, Ramsay explains, it is what they hope students who take their new One Planet MBA (in this case Master in Business) will become.

The MBA, which will be piloted from October and run for a year, has been set up in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the global conservation organisation.

"Business planning of the future must recognise that we only have one planet's worth of resources , yet currently we, collectively, use over one and a half planets'-worth of resources, and the figure increases daily," Gosling says. "So it is essential that business people be educated in a different way to the past."

The MBA grew out of several years of discussions between the WWF and the business school. The WWF contributed their research and thinking, along with the belief that a strategic approach to sustainability will add to creating value in businesses.

At Exeter, Gosling's role as the director of the Centre for Leadership Studies has been invaluable. The university accredited the course, which has been worked out on a traditional MBA model but with much focus on getting students to address what business leaders can do about sustainability and about the notion that we can adapt to climate change.

"We have to develop a way of working in the classroom that enables students to really grasp the problems," Gosling says. "We aim to bring in world-leading experts and students to hear what they think would work in environments they know well. Rightly, critics ask how British academics in a corner of Devon understand the needs of people in the forests of Cameroon, or [of people] experiencing floods in Bangladesh."

The idea is to have a dynamic interplay between students, so much of the teaching will centre on discussion. Students may be asked to facilitate a session if they have knowledge of a subject, and the focus will be on a round-table exchange of ideas.

Module titles will include relationships in a sustainable society, a business case for sustainability marketing, the business of bio-mimicry, one-planet leadership and ecological literacy.

October's student cohort will work with academics and leading experts and will be instrumental in developing and forming the One Planet MBA, testing its hypothesis that, in Ramsay's words, it can "lay a trail for a new generation of business leaders".

Enthusiasm for this new MBA is illustrated by close on 500 applications, and the 100 inquiries Exeter has had to date. These come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences – professional rugby player, senior communications consultant for the US federal government, marine specialist, and so on. The hope is to have a good spread of age, nationality and experience among the students.

Although the one-year MBA is a new development, its progenitor is the very successful One Planet Leaders programme already running at the business school. This is designed for leaders and managers in strategic positions and is offered in three two-day modules and with 100 days' supported tutoring, explains Ramsay.

Most private-sector organisations are realising that they need to take responsibility for sustainability seriously, believes Gosling, and courses have attracted Nokia, Canon, Coca-Cola and Rip Curl. "All have concerns about dealing with pollution and climate change," he says. "Rip Curl, for instance, want to know how to keep surfing sustainable. Photographic companies use a lot of dangerous chemicals and need to deal with the disposal of these."

The WWF has put resources into the One Planet initiatives and the business school is putting in £250,000 for scholarship for students who cannot afford it. They get some funds from other sources and are looking for sponsors.

Their aims for the One Planet students are ambitious but achievable, Ramsay and Gosling insist. The vision they talk of is developing leaders and managers with a global outlook capable of running organisations in a culturally diverse, resource-constrained world, and influenced by radically different values and concerns from those of the recent past.

'It challenged my thinking'

Frenchman Eric Dargent has a background in business training and sports equipment marketing, and has worked with an advertising agency and in graphic design. He hopes to join the One Planet MBA cohort in October.

"During my time in advertising, I spent a year working for a big chemical group, dealing in pesticides, and I realised I had values that directly conflicted with this work, so I quit with the aim of finding a way to pursue my concerns around sustainability.

I decided to go back into sports marketing and I was taken on by Rip Curl Europe in a new post of environmental officer it was creating. It had an involvement with WWF France. It told us about the One Planet Leaders programme, and I took it in 2008. It was useful, but too short. However, it challenged my thinking on sustainability. I see the One Planet MBA as an opportunity to continue what I began, and I like the idea of being a pioneer helping to shape the course.

I am interested in bio-mimicry because nature has spent millions of years perfecting the needs of life and we have much to take from this. So I would like to help businesses understand how dynamic they can be if they give more attention to this area of sustainability."

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments