Three Ways My Classmates and I Can Act on Climate Change as Business Leaders

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By Micaela Battiste, MBA/MS ‘17

Good news: The number of companies making commitments to take action against climate change has more than doubled since the 2015 United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris.

More good news: I was in Marrakesh for the 2016 edition of this yearly UN conference and saw that the business leaders of tomorrow (like those of us here at Ross), are well positioned to continue and accelerate this momentum.

I attended the conference as an observer along with 10 other Michigan students and faculty. Our delegation was part of the thousands of other participants who bring transparency to the COP process through side-event presentations and networking. The number of organizations present at the conference had an impressive range of interests from financing loss and damage to preserving cultural heritage.

Companies are mainstreaming adaptation, mitigation, and finance solutions in partnership with diverse stakeholders. This is exactly what we need to help achieve the Paris Agreement goal to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C. This is also where my fellow Ross students and other up-and-coming business leaders should pay close attention.

Here are three essential areas emphasized at this year’s conference that can help us become climate action leaders:

  1. Think broadly: Consider why climate change matters and who cares.

    Too often, we focus internally on a specific issue facing our function or industry. For some, climate action is about maximizing profits while doing good. Other top concerns include access to insurance, emerging threats to public health, and food, energy, and water security.

    As business leaders, we need to have a broad understanding of how these issues intersect and impact our organizations and stakeholders. Each area presents clear climate challenges that can be addressed collectively to avoid projects that may be harmful to the development of the others.

    In the case of food, energy, and water, they all have their own pressing global challenges that need to be addressed, and yet, they are all connected to our food system.
     
  2. Set ambitious targets: Google recently announced that its energy sources will be 100 percent renewable starting from 2017.

    The company set this ambitious goal back in 2012, convinced that it was best for business. Google is only one of many active companies of the We Mean Business coalition. To date, the coalition unites 496 companies with more than $8.1 trillion in total revenue to lead climate smart investment opportunities.

    Collectively, they have made more than 1,100 commitments to climate action across every sector and geography globally. This gives us the opportunity to learn what other companies are doing and bring best practices to our own operations.
     
  3. Report emissions and act: Finally, at the foundation of any climate action strategy is establishing an emissions baseline, taking action, and measuring progress. Often, information is channeled externally through a company’s corporate social responsibility report.

    Following these steps, climate action leaders are better prepared to communicate the value of initiatives to stakeholders and set ambitious goals. It also facilitates private sector support of nationwide established climate change plans (referred to as nationally determined contributions or NDCs in the Paris Agreement).

So, what can you do today? Consider joining on-campus organizations, national student groups (e.g. Net Impact), or attending professional conferences (e.g. BSR and Sustainable Brands) that are part of the conversation. Reflect on how climate change may impact the function or industry you plan to work in after Ross.

It appears as if the business community is beginning to take the steps necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement — it’s time for the business leaders of the future to join them in this commitment.


Micaela Battiste is a dual-degree with the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan. She’s studying in the Michigan Ross MBA Program and the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.

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Micaela Battiste
MBA / MS '17

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