Connecting Purpose to Profit – Colorado State University Impact MBA


The recent call for businesses to tackle the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, and growing consumer demand for companies that embrace a business for good philosophy have prompted many MBAs to adapt their MBAs to focus on sustainability. This is not new territory for the College of Business at Colorado State University. His Award-winning Impact MBA has been channeling the College’s focus on business for a better world for over fifteen years and is a recognized pioneer known for developing business leaders ready to combine purpose and profit.

Leadership in corporate sustainability and social entrepreneurship

The STEM Designated Impact MBA is an evolution of the College’s Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA, founded in 2006. Offering two tracks – corporate sustainability and social entrepreneurship – the Impact MBA gives you the opportunity to learn how to lead sustainability initiatives within an organization or start your own game-changing projects. The 16-month program held in Fort Collins, Colorado was also recently ranked #5 nationally and #20 in the world as a “Better World MBA” by Corporate Knights. This reputation, combined with the Impact MBA’s network of global graduates from over 70 countries, continues to make it one of the best for those looking to truly drive lasting change in any industry.

A university culture of sustainability

When you choose the Impact MBA, you enter a university that shares your commitment to sustainability. Colorado State University is the only institution in the world to earn three Platinum ratings from the STARS (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) system. In addition, nearly half of all tenured and tenure-track faculty on campus conduct sustainability research. Eighty percent of all academic departments on campus have at least one faculty member engaged in sustainability research. Graduate and undergraduate students connect over common interests in student organizations such as Team Zero Waste, Society for Ecological Restoration, Eco Leaders, Net Impact, and Student Sustainability Center Club.

A multidisciplinary approach

The Impact MBA’s interdisciplinary 16-month program builds on CSU’s green culture to connect MBA students with many of the world-class sustainability researchers on campus. MBA students may choose electives from CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SOGES), Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) . Students can choose multidisciplinary courses ranging from greenhouse gas policy and product life cycle analysis to sustainable future energy solutions.

Additional credentials are also available when you complete your MBA. CSU College of Business is one of only three higher education institutions to partner with the Value Reporting Foundation, formerly known as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). The partnership enables the College to offer the Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting Level 1 diploma, teaching students and professionals from all sectors how to track and communicate important financial information about sustainability in all markets. You can also choose to complete a certificate in carbon management and start a career ready to guide companies through upcoming advancements in regulatory emissions reporting requirements.

Graduates make the difference

As Impact MBA students benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration with environmental sustainability experts, they are also taught by leading business minds on topics including strategy, marketing, accounting and finance, who all bring their latest research in their disciplines into the classroom.

Many Impact MBA alumni have already established themselves as transformators, leading change and sustainability initiatives in their fields. Nick McCulloch, a 2014 graduate, is director of sustainability at Rubicon, a software company that develops waste management and recycling solutions. He helped the company develop its carbon reduction strategy and circular economy service plan and led the creation of social and governance goals. He draws on a professional background that includes leading sustainability issues at OtterBox in Colorado and Farmer Brothers in Dallas.

Since 2016, Christie A. Zimmerman (’13) has focused on animal welfare with suppliers as product standards managers at Natural Grocers, while Lindsey Wilson has helped countless B companies develop standards and receive certification as a Business Development Manager at B-Lab. Zubaida Bai (’09) was a sustainable solutions innovator in reproductive health services as the founder of Ayzh, which provided over one million birth kits to mothers in emerging and frontier markets. She is now the Managing Director of the CARE Social Ventures group, helping local philanthropic programs grow into business ventures. These are just a few of the Impact MBA alumni who are harnessing their sustainability perspective in sectors as diverse as global development, finance, public lands, and more.

Innovate for the future

Corporate sustainability is a dynamic and rapidly changing field. Impact MBA staff and faculty continually innovate and evolve the degree by partnering with industry leaders and evaluating new market trends. We attend GreenBiz and other sustainability conferences and engage with industry innovators, disruptors and thought leaders on sustainability topics such as circular economy, net zero business practices and green finance.

When the industry takes its next steps forward, the Impact MBA will be there at the forefront, educating tomorrow’s business leaders and equipping them to shape the next generation to achieve a sustainable future. We have been there for over 15 years.

Learn more


Kathryn Ernst is the Director of the Impact MBA and has been with the program since 2010. A graduate of the program in 2009, Kat’s experience as a Peace Corps volunteer has developed an organic coffee cooperative and co-founded a aquaponics business that has served as base- pyramid families in Peru, guides its commitment to developing the next generation of sustainable businesses. Kat is a connector who believes we can only solve the world’s problems by bringing many voices to the conversation.

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