At long last, check out this link to read an awesome interview conducted between Bainbridge Institute Founder, Gifford Pinchot and Sustainability Across America Tour Ambassabor, Laura Jones.
BGI, environmental responsibility, green MBA, social justice, social responsibility, sustainable business
Gifford Pinchot, President of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, sat down with me to talk about academics, BGI, and the dilemma that sustainability faces in the world today. We sat in BGI’s Seattle office on a rainy Thursday afternoon and I set about asking him about their MBA in Sustainable Business and the future of the movement in academia. Our conversation started out by delving into BGI’s roots, the humble beginnings before accreditation, and what it is that makes this institution what it is today: the number one graduate school in socially responsible business.
Just five minutes into our talk, Gifford made a statement that struck a chord about the split state of the sustainability movement today.
He said, “What existing traditional schools can’t do is integrate sustainability into the curriculum.”
In researching BGI, I encountered a number of other schools jumping on the so-called “green MBA” bandwagon, both Ivy League and otherwise. It seems as though our academic institutions would be the best tool for indoctrinating the youth with a new way of life, and if we lacked participation in that crucial realm, how would the movement progress? I pressed on, and he responded with this anecdote, a little story about an investment banker who doubled as a yoga master.
“Back in my consulting days I wanted to move my consulting practice a little bit in the direction of spiritual evolution and the like. I had a friend who was an investment banker and a very advanced yoga teacher and a spiritual type guy. So I hired him, and what I discovered is that I had hired two guys. He could be an investment banker, ruthless, heartless, ripping the heart out of the competition kind of guy, or he could be a yoga master and sweetness and light with no connection to finance or market share or any of those sorts of things. But he had no way to bring those two parts of his personality together because they had been educated separately and so they existed as separate domains of thought and probably in separate parts of his brain.”
And so, the plight of the movement today.
Society, it seems, may be experiencing the same kind of split-personality disorder. Our industrial and socio-environmental minds have evolved separately, and have existed in separate realms so that we sit today in a dilemma: We cannot continue operating as one mind who neglects to acknowledge that the other exists. Further, we cannot simply integrate elements of one mind into tenets of the other. Instead, we must embark on a complete restructuring of the way we think, the way we live in conjunction with our environment, and the way we do business. And that is exactly what BGI endeavors to do, “To change business by changing business education” by essentially wiping the slate clean, and educating with the triple bottom line in mind.
In many ways, BGI is a far cry from your typical academic institution; a place “where the assumption that the faculty know more than the students is neither made nor true,” and Pinchot comments on how the culture they have created lends to the success of the institution. As it turns out, culture and community play the lead role, a neat little theme we’re continuing to see throughout our journey into the movement.
Gifford delves into his story.
“What happens is when [faculty] come to BGI, they are allowed to teach with their full values and expression and obviously we’ve selected them because they have values that fit the movement. And once the genie is out of the bottle, they can’t get it back in. We also give them the opportunity to teach a different kind of student. So, in their home universities, there’s a pretty wide variation as to whether people believe in climate change and whatever. Here you’ve got an entire group of people who have been dealing with at least one of the two issues- sustainability or social justice- rather environmental responsibility and social responsibility- for a very long time with very few exceptions. Occasionally, we get the corporate executive who reads some book on sustainability and has that sort of road to Damascus experience where a lightning bolt comes down and the arrow in their heart, they can’t go on doing what they are doing and they come to our school. But they are rare compared to the folks who have been involved in the movement and the discovery they make when they come to BGI is “Wait a second, you can do this through business? You don’t just have to do it through government or non-profits?” or whatever, when, in fact, business is an essential part of putting sustainability into practice.