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MSB Students Join Climate CAP conference at Duke

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By Amie Fleming (MBA'19)

This March 23-24, GSEI students attended the inaugural ClimateCAP Conference, hosted by Duke’s Energy, Global Development, and Environment (EDGE) program at the Fuqua School of Business.

The conference brought together 150 MBAs from 16 top tier universities to learn about the business implications of climate change. Industry leaders from a wide variety of sectors, all spoke to urgency with which we should be discussing climate change in the business world, the critical importance of addressing climate change through appropriate pricing of carbon, and to pursuing innovative new business models and technologies to help decrease emissions.

Speakers continuously made the case that by economic standards alone, climate change is one of the most pressing business challenges and opportunities of our generation. Tiiram Sunderland, a consultant from Bain’s London office, argued for requiring sustainability education in business schools, as core business decisions will be fundamentally impacted by a changing environment in our 30+ year careers. Another panelist stated that climate change is as impactful a disruption on global business as automation and deserves more attention.

Given the fervor over artificial intelligence and blockchain, this comparison resonated with the MBA audience.

GSEI students walked away energized by the panel of investors who spoke about the importance of ESG (environment, social, governance factors) in investing. The panel emphasized the necessity of including climate risk and carbon emissions in financial disclosures as tools to provide investors with all the information they need to make the best decisions. Fundamentally, they all supported a price on carbon to help facilitate market based solutions to addressing climate change.

The conference did a great job addressing climate issues across industries-- in the real estate break out, for example, the panel debated the key levers with which the industry can address climate change. Like all sectors, changes in important market signals, such as insurance rates, is required to change the status quo of development. All the panelists agreed that companies are pursuing projects that in the long term view do not make sense- think beach side property in Miami- but that in the short term provide a return so lucrative that there is no incentive to avoid them.

The day concluded with two seasoned leaders, Lord Michael Hastings, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship, KPMG International and Jim Rogers, the Former CEO and Chair of Duke Energy discussing the ways in which climate change realities present leadership opportunities for MBA students. Mr. Rogers told a compelling story of how, as a CEO of a large energy company, he helped write policies aimed at limiting carbon emissions, despite this being a very unpopular decision with his board and industry. His understood that even unpopular decisions that were forward thinking and pragmatic could help him stay ahead if handled correctly. Lord Hastings explained that though it took more than one attempt to convince his company to take sustainability seriously, he won them over because, “you cannot afford to ignore climate change, your ability to do business will be affected.”

With 42% of Fortune 500 companies run by MBAs, ClimateCAP was a comprehensive and fun conference to help ensure this pressing issue is addressed head on by our future leaders. Many thanks to the Fuqua EDGE program, and our hosts at Duke for this inspiring event!