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Executives Find New Opportunities in Response to Climate Change

Sustainability Forum Inspires Corporate Environmental Awareness and Response 

Julianne Beck | April 24, 2019
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Business leaders are innovating to respond to climate change and to enable a sustainable future. “The center of gravity when we try to think about how to address climate change has really shifted to the private sector,” said Klaus Weber, professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. “The challenge for many business leaders is to think through how to integrate climate change considerations into the core of their business.” 

Together with the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), Kellogg hosted the inaugural Kellogg on Sustainability program on April 12. The program focused on the business of climate change and the evolving challenges it presents for long term success. Corporate executives, faculty, and additional experts discussed strategies for adaptation and mitigation during the day-long program.

Speakers from BASF, Mondelēz International, Schneider Electric, and Swiss Re Americas, as well as representatives of the financial services industry were among those who shared recent advancements from the stage and encouraged further conversations. Throughout the day, conference participants from diverse industries and perspectives exchanged ideas and shared their experiences with one another.

 "The pace of collaboration required to meet climate change challenges involves multidisciplinary synthesis and novel tactics across all business sectors."
- Demetria Giannisis, ISEN Managing Director

Northwestern University faculty and staff guided the program and supported the need to innovate. “The pace of collaboration required to meet climate change challenges involves multidisciplinary synthesis and novel tactics across all business sectors,” noted Demetria Giannisis, managing director of ISEN.

From academics to policy to business, speakers agreed that economic rewards await those who innovate to address the consequences of climate change such as flooding and other natural disasters, clean energy development, and limited natural resources. In particular, the speakers urged businesses and investors to act decisively to arrive at a position of sustainability and resilience.

Klaus Weber, Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, listens to a presentation during Kellogg on Sustainability: The Business of Climate Change.

Speakers were hopeful that corporations can lead the transition from a carbon-driven economy to one where growth is disconnected from carbon. They also provided action steps for individuals. People can reduce the carbon footprint of their own daily lives, for example, by transitioning to an electric car, and they should act mindfully as consumers and market influencers to help drive needed change. As the consumer mindset shifts, corporations will be pressed to shift their priorities as well.

As a result of the day’s presentations, “we understand climate change to be part of business in many different ways,” summarized Weber. “It really spans many different aspects and all different business disciplines."