“When BGI students are faced with a problem, they respond with a creative, innovative approach. They offer refreshing viewpoints, ask good questions, and are eager to learn and participate. Not only are students highly collaborative, but they are genuinely passionate about making a difference, and I love working with them.”

Murat Armbruster, Senior Advisor at Carbon War Room

MBA in Sustainable Systems

BGI’s MBA in Sustainable Systems (hybrid format) program combines residential intensives with distance learning. Students may choose to complete their program in either two or three years, depending on the time frame that best allows them to meet their personal and professional commitments.

In the MBA in Sustainable Systems program, students and faculty meet nine times each year for four-day intensives (mid-day Thursday through mid-day Sunday) at our IslandWood learning site on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Between intensives, faculty use distance learning technologies to hold class sessions and engage students with other instructional materials.

The program’s format offers an immersive learning community with the flexibility of distance learning. Its design allows students from across the United States to participate in the BGI educational experience while continuing to live and work in their current place of residence.

Download the Program Overview PDF

Program Requirements

The MBA program requires a minimum of 60 credits to graduate.

The MBA in Sustainable Systems program features a fully integrated core curriculum in the first year, with many elective options over the second and, in some cases, third year of the program.

The first year of the MBA in Sustainable Systems is a totally integrated curriculum that covers the traditional MBA Core, while addressing social and environmental concerns throughout.

The curriculum is divided into three integrated course sequences:

• Capitalism in Context: Economics for People and Planet (9 credits)
• Values and Values Creation: Business Models for the 21st Century (9 credits)
• Means and Measures: Accounting for Triple Bottom Line Success (9 credits)

This integrated curriculum begins by providing a systemic and historical context for our students’ work together, incorporating concepts of economics, sustainable business, social justice and systems thinking. Next, we look at the traditional business disciplines of strategy, marketing and operations as we seek to develop business concepts that deliver value to the marketplace within the context of a larger set of values. Finally, we look at means and measures for financing a business, accounting for its progress and measuring its success against a triple bottom line.

In addition to these more traditional components of the MBA Core, students begin Leadership and Personal Development, a series of one-credit courses over six quarters of study (LPD 511-516) to allow for personal reflection, curriculum integration and the development of leadership capacity to engage successfully in the complexity of business.

In contrast to the first year’s integrated curriculum, the second year of the program offers students many options for customization and focus. Required courses are:

• A year-long Action Learning Practicum (9 credits) focusing on one of two areas:

- Entrepreneurship, for students who hope to start their own business or social enterprise
- Organizational Leadership, for students who wish to effect change within large established organizations

• Two three-credit courses in Management

- Management I: Managing in a Changing World
- Management II: Engaging Complex Organizational Systems

• Four elective courses (12 credits) which may be used to fulfill the requirements of a functional specialization in Finance or to pursue general student interests, including interests in Industry Concentrations: Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems, Sustainable Built Environment, and/or Sustainable Energy Solutions. Electives are expected to change from year to year, and additional electives will be added to our catalog as we get closer to the beginning of the school year.


BGI uses an advanced system of distance learning tools to ensure that students effectively collaborate and learn between intensives. The following instructional resources contribute to a thriving online learning environment:

The Commons
The Commons is the virtual hub of BGI’s learning community. It provides a place for discourse between class sessions and for informal interaction among students and faculty about community issues, shared interests and opportunities in the wider world. The Commons also includes a virtual library, providing access to both required reading and a range of journal databases.

The Commons includes a number of features that support the administration of BGI’s programs. The Commons runs on Moodle, an open-source Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) used by over 2,000 educational institutions worldwide. Moodle is based on social constructionist pedagogy, the idea that learning is best when students engage in the activity of creating something collaboratively within a community.

Online Virtual Classroom
Our virtual classroom allows groups to hold real-time meetings with audio and web sharing. This includes a shared whiteboard, slide show sharing, application sharing and the ability to work directly on a classmate’s computer. Conversations take place using Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) technology, allowing participants to talk without incurring long distance fees. A computer headset is required to use this technology.

Distance Learning Orientation
Students entering the MBA programs receive training on how to use The Commons, the virtual classroom and the library. Individual assistance is also provided through IT support.

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