Executive Education

7 Executive MBA Programs That Teach Corporate Social Responsibility


For more than half a century, the concept of social responsibility has wound its way through all varieties of companies—private and public, established and startup, local and global. Along the way, new concepts surfaced (divestment in South Africa; sustainability; diversity and inclusion) and new groups (NGOs) were formed. Corporate social responsibility has not only became an acronym (CSR) but an integral part of corporate strategy as well.

In 1984, management expert Peter Drucker offered a seminal new thought: Yes, companies have a role to play in times of real social need, but the role isn’t traditional philanthropy. Rather, Drucker argues, organizations should focus on converting social needs into business opportunities. Companies need to “turn a social problem into economic opportunity and economic benefit, into productive capacity, into human competence, into well-paid jobs, and into wealth,” he says.

Fast forward to today: CSR now is one of the critical components of a sound corporate strategy.

It’s not surprising, then, that social responsibility is a core feature of many leading executive MBA programs in the U.S. Some of the most prestigious are highlighted below.

7 EMBA Programs With a Focus on Social Responsibility

1. Yale School of Management Executive MBA

You need look no further that its homepage to see the Yale School of Management’s commitment to sustainability and the environment:

Our program combines the rigor of our integrated core curriculum and leadership development program with advanced study in a chosen area at the nexus of business and society: asset management, healthcare, or sustainability.

Moreover, Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment offers programs focused on the intersection of environmental science, management, and business innovation.

  • Students can collaborate with industry leaders to assess sustainability challenges and create applied solutions. And students also can connect with extensive networks of sustainability professionals, leading companies, NGOs, and policymakers.
  • The interdisciplinary study program includes the opportunity to work on startups with a team comprising Yale undergraduates, engineers, and/or Master of Environmental Management candidates. 

More than 50 student clubs also form an integral part of the cohort experience. Students can joint he Global Social Enterprise club, Social Impact Consulting club, and a professional organization on Business & The Environment.

2. Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business Executive MBA

The curriculum at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in Chicago demonstrates its commitment to social responsibility. Its five-phase program includes an Ethics course, and the fifth and concluding phase is devoted to the “Sustained Advantage: a focus on how your business decisions affect the greater world around you.”

On campus, the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business seeks to foster dialogue among academic and corporate leaders, as well as facilitate research and publications. The center also helps to coordinate and integrate the teaching of ethics throughout the business curriculum at Notre Dame.

The school puts forward a clear social responsibility message:

Learn from the best in business—knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to building a better world. At Mendoza, our focus on business for the greater good is not a fad based on world events—it is woven into the fabric of who we are and how we teach business.

3. Michigan State University Broad College of Business EMBA

Social responsibility is a fully integrated and visible component of the EMBA program at the Eli Broad College of Business. For example, the 2019 Capital City Dragon Boat Race, a charitable event for breast cancer research and awareness is hosted each year by the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing. The Broad College has participated annually since 2017.

As part of a commitment to creating more inclusive workspaces, the school this past spring also hosted a diversity awareness program called “Building an Inclusive Environment,” which included 200 regional business and community leaders.

Additionally, the Broad Executive MBA gives students opportunities to carry out real-world projects with non-profit organizations addressing social or economic problems. Previous assignments have engaged with issues such as homelessness, hunger, poverty, public health, and sustainability, just to name a few examples.

4. University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business EMBA

executive MBAThe University of Alabama’s EMBA program at The Culverhouse College of Business Executive MBA program conducted a Workplace Inclusion Panel in October 2019 featuring speakers from Amazon, Google, and Southwest Airlines. At the event, business leaders discussed their current practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the workplace.

In the program’s final semester, EMBA students also study abroad, focusing on global economies and businesses. An optional program is available after the trip to allow students more time to further explore the culture and community of their chosen destination. Every class focuses on a social enterprise and community project during the seminar; previous examples have included NGO consulting projects in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Morocco.

Find out what Columbia Business School says about corporate social responsibility and business strategy.

5. Rutgers Executive MBA

In 2018, the school announced its intention to launch the Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation (RICSI), which will embed interdisciplinary coursework into the Rutgers Business School curriculum to prepare students to drive results in sustainable organizations that are financially, environmentally, and socially responsible.

Earlier this year, the RICSI also conducted a sustainability conference on putting the United Nations’s 17 Global Goals into action.

Additionally, faculty and industry experts are featured during late October in a two-day “deep dive” conference on corporate social responsibility and the related fields of philanthropy, sustainability, risk management, and ethics.

6. University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagner Business School Executive MBA

The program includes an ethical management course designed to strengthen ethical awareness, judgment and action. Its structure is as follows:

  1. Learn how to recognize ethical dilemmas in global business environments
  2. Arm students with the tools to resolve those dilemmas in ways that are acceptable to them, their employer, and the range of stakeholders affected by the decision.

Furthermore, the school’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise integrates sustainability into the executive MBA programs, preparing students and executives to be managers and business leaders whose knowledge of sustainability gives them a competitive advantage.

7. Pennsylvania State University Smeal College of Business EMBA

An introduction to the school’s Honor Code is featured on the website and articulates the program’s views on integrity and ethical business practices:

We also aspire to cultivate ethical leadership by challenging each other to strive for greatness while demanding that our successes come only from fair and ethical means.

The program’s “Principled Leadership” curriculum package is designed to develop and communicate a sound strategic vision, lead with integrity, and establish partnerships and alliances to guide teams and entire organizations. Ethical Leadership is one of the five courses in the package.

Two elective opportunities in the spring of the second year also are focused on social responsibility. The Global Immersion Experience is designed to sharpen students’ international focus and gain a unique perspective on a range of critical business topics, from corporate governance in India and management practices in China, to sustainability challenges in South America.

The experience includes a weeklong immersion at an overseas destination. Each residency provides a glimpse into the practices, challenges, and opportunities of living and working globally, as students visit businesses and connect with executives from across disciplines and industries.

Moving Forward

EMBA programs have moved quickly and intelligently to build curricula that address the multiple components that comprise corporate social responsibility. As a result, mid- and senior-level professionals have an opportunity to position themselves for the inevitable further refinement of corporate strategy and the need for CSR to be one of the key elements.

Learn more about which EMBA programs align with your career goals by visiting our ranked profile pages.


About the Author

Michael Geczi is an editor/writer who has worked at The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Dallas Morning News, the Associated Press and The Financial Times of Canada. He also is the author of “Futures: The Anti-Inflation Investment,” published by Avon Books, and has been an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.