Why & how business schools can lead in answering the Q:
"What will our country do on climate change in 2017?


Two action strategies

U.S. commitment to lead on climate change is at risk. Our top new decision-makers include: Donald Trump, his appointees, Republicans in the 115th Congress, large U.S. corporations and their business associations, and Republican/conservative think tanks.

They’ll tune out grassroots mobilizations and media saying “don’t walk away from climate.” (It's essential these messages keep coming.) But some might be open to approaches from people they respect: MBA students, alumni, faculty, and administrators. Many on the transition team have MBAs; Donald Trump has an economics BA, and Donald, Jr. and Ivanka have MBAs — all from Wharton

Why the MBA community? It's our business to identify risks and opportunities. The climate challenge is urgent. Our institutions and people shape how societies use energy. Our expertise can identify policies and pathways to preserve a livable climate for all of us.

As influencers, we MBAs and our institutions are best positioned to explain why it’s The End of Business As Usual and why the U.S. can lead rather than get left behind by the rest of the world. We can encourage large and small companies to move well beyond internal sustainability goals and join calls like Business Backs Low-Carbon USAWe know it could be catastrophic if we delay or derail current plans to transition the global economy. 

Working together, MBA alumni, students, faculty, and administrators may have the best chance to break through to Donald Trump and people around him to move them to reconsider their assumptions on climate change. Now is our best chance set plans in motion and have an impact.

It’s a different approach; it could energize thousands and get results. People get excited when we say, "MBAs like to compete. Why not a race: Who can be first to form a working group, schedule a Teach-In date; hold an event?” We aim to include schools in every part of the country and to go well beyond the best-known institutions.

1. Emergency Climate Teach-Ins  

We’re starting to get out the word. Liz Maw, Columbia & Haas MBA and CEO of Net Impact, has provided a great jump start. Net Impact has encouraged its 125 MBA chapters and other student, professional and alumni members to organize and host Climate Emergency Teach-Ins.

Entire community: This is for current MBA students, alumni in workplaces, faculty, administrators. They’ll all get involved, reaching out to their colleagues. In each campus, they’ll organize an Emergency Climate Teach-In on a Saturday or Sunday. The theme: What will our country do on climate change in 2017?

They’ll invite community and business  leaders to speak, undergraduates, and families to attend. Events will be streamed to alumni and the public and available for later viewing. Some regions may organize collaborative multi-school teach-ins.

National coordinators will develop an Open Letter on Climate to the Trump Transition Team and Congress to become a petition through the We The People White House system. Again, its focus: “What will our country do on climate change in 2017?” Local Emergency Teach-Ins will discuss and may choose to amplify that petition to reflect regional or business sector issues. Afterwards, working alumni will distribute it within their companies, business groups, and organizations, and national coordinators will help them reach decision-makers

Topics for the local Emergency Climate Teach-Ins to discuss from global, national, and local perspectives, include:

  •     the urgency and impact of climate change;
  •     the economic, equity, and environmental upsides of renewable technologies;
  •     strategies for pricing carbon and allocating revenues;
  •     how fast we can move to 100% renewables;
  •     the U.S.role and leadership in global climate agreements.

Starting points for resources can be the Risky Business national and regional reports, Carbon Tracker on the carbon bubble and stranded assets, the Carbon Tax Center on policy options and The Solutions Project's state and country-specific transition plans.

2. Corporate Climate Profile Projects (version 1.0 description)

Many MBA students may be asking themselves what the new reality means for their studies and futures. Those concerned with sustainability may be increasingly receptive to strategies to strengthen business voices for sustained and accelerating action on climate change. 
We can invite MBA students to start campus projects that call on their research and analytical skills to begin to use the levers of power they will gain in their careers. If this catches on, it could be transformative. Here’s version 1.0 of the idea (not yet endorsed by Net Impact)
  • Corporate Climate Profile: A business school group picks one or several nearby companies with large facilities or workforces to evaluate. 
  • Extra curricular? The project can be informal; it can recruit a faculty sponsor. Or, though unlikely in a short time frame, it could become a project within an existing course.
  • Team roles: The team can begin as researchers, and then their roles can expand. Using the model of the 501c3 ClimateCongress Wikipedia Project (CCWP) that Climate.MBA's Felix Kramer co-founded last summer, teams can organize and collect their research in an independent wiki. A wiki is a public online encyclopedia that is open to crowdsourcing, with tools to track and comment on all contributions and edits. As others are invited to review and add to the information, the MBA team members can evolve to curating and managing the information, and eventually add a summary of the company’s Climate Profile to Wikipedia, the global encyclopedia. (This information is now almost always missing from Wikipedia articles on companies.)
  • Organizational roles: Climate.MBA will provide the wiki platform and coordination and with the students will promote the progress and results.
  • Questions: Initial research can take for its starting points questions that are institutional versions of those CCWP uses for electoral candidates: 1. What is the company’s view on whether climate change is real and caused by human activity? 2. What have the company’s leaders, and the company as a whole, said and done about climate change; how have they participated in national policy discussions on the issue? 3. How has the company responded to local impacts of climate change? Plus two more: 4. What climate risks exist in the company’s assets, investments, and supply chains? 5. How do analysts and outsiders evaluate the adequacy of the company’s response?
  • Findings: The team can present a report at a campus meeting, to which company officials could be invited. 
  • Connections: Organizations we have links to that can provide teams with important starting information on companies, industry sectors, etc., include As You Sow, Ceres, and RiskyBusiness, and companies Four Twenty Seven and Greenbiz. Other possible partners and sponsors including DivestInvestEnvironmental Defense FundEnvironmental Entrepreneurs, and Green For All.  
  • Pressure: The Securities & Exchange Commission has been slow to require that companies disclose their climate risk profiles in 10-K filings. Now with new SEC leaders, further progress is unlikely. Bottom-up attention to climate and companies could advance awareness and changes broadly. And contacts with corporate executives and perhaps board members could lead to new perspectives and actions at the profiled companies.
  • Implications: As attention to the Carbon Bubble grows, journalists and investor media are increasingly seeking specific information about risks not only for fossil fuel companies but for every big company. A wiki with information in one place on companies’ climate positions and risks can become a very useful resource.