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It’s been over two decades since Gordon Gekko (played to eerie realism by Michael Douglas) uttered the now famous phrase ‘Greed is good’ in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street. The idiom has since become a cultural tag – one that personifies the material excesses, dog-eat-dog business tactics and wealth mentality of 1980′s America. As the country still reels from the past year’s economic disasters and corporate failings, it may seem like more than a few executives took Gekko’s words to heart. But all is not lost. Given the growing public demand for more socially responsible business practices, it is likely that the next generation of entrepreneurs may be asserting a slightly different ideology – green is good.

With so many factors at play, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint how exactly we’ve changed – from over-consumption to environmentalism, from closed-door dealings to transparency. But while the causes may be ill-defined, there is one thing that has not changed – the American entrepreneurial spirit. Our combined potential for progress has recently gotten a new advocate in graduate business schools. For students pursuing a MBA degree, there are now a growing number of programs designed to teach the essentials of successful business, coupled with courses in sustainability, responsibility, and social justice.

One school to offer this type of program is Bainbridge Graduate Institute, located a short ferry ride across Elliott Bay from downtown Seattle. The school’s aim is to prepare students to create enterprises that adhere to the concept that being profitable and being responsible aren’t mutually exclusive. The program is divided into four distinct categories which cover the typical business school fare of management and leadership, but mixed with courses on the human impact of business and how to affect change from the inside out. By approaching the subject matter from a ‘Gaia’ perspective, students will understand at a fundamental level how the actions taken by any business – for better or worse – will affect the environment, and the world in which we all live.

Bainbridge Graduate Institute

This new methodology couldn’t come at a better time. Growing public awareness of the climate crisis has fueled a sea-change in how we act as consumers. Starbucks now offers fair trade coffee blends, and mega-supermarket chains now sell reusable tote bags to replace their ubiquitous plastic bags. But even as large corporations are realizing the importance of ‘greening’ their practices, there is still a significant void to be filled. And that void will mean big business for sustainable entrepreneurs.

Developing technologies in electric cars, durable material goods, and renewable energies will likely be at the forefront of the next wave of profitable industry. But for these to truly take effect on a mainstream level, customers will have to be convinced – a difficult task for a public leery of ‘business as usual’. By learning these concepts in the classroom, students will be better prepared for the corporate world of tomorrow – and the conscious consumers that will drive the markets.