National Climate Economy Summit Comes to UVM

This post was written by Sam Carey, Sustainable Innovation MBA ’18

Entrepreneurs, policymakers, and folks from around the United States interested in a transformation of the economy gathered at the University of Vermont September 6 – 8 for the Catalysts of the Climate Economy National Innovation Summit.  Students from The Sustainable Innovation MBA Class of 2018 took a break from the classroom to attend the conference, and network with climate economy thinkers, innovators, and business leaders.

The Summit was sponsored by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Presentations and sessions highlighted the work of entrepreneurs, leaders, and visionaries who view climate change as an enormous business and economic development opportunity.  The conference focused on what is currently being done, inherent challenges, and ways to meet ambitious targets.  For example, Vermont has been working towards 90 percent renewable energy by 2050; meanwhile California is pushing for total electrification and complete clean energy by 2030.

The climate economy conference kicked off Wednesday evening with a keynote speech by noted entrepreneur and environmentalist Paul Hawken, who presented a comprehensive new approach to reversing climate change, central to his new book Drawdown.  

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Global Evolution and The Sustainable Innovation MBA Explore Link between Sustainable Investing and Development

Editor’s Note: This post is taken from the text of a news release issued by Global Evolution. Global Evolution serves on our Advisory Board, and hosted a student practicum during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Global Evolution partnered with the University of Vermont Sustainable Innovation MBA program to offer a unique learning experience for students pursuing a career in the growing field of sustainable business and impact investing.

The leading emerging and frontier markets investment manager hosted two students in a practicum project to gain hands on experience with investing in emerging and frontier markets. The students, Mike Rama and Ted Carrick, worked closely with Ole Jørgensen, Global Evolution’s Research Director, at headquarters in Denmark. Together, they developed recommendations to enhance Global Evolution’s ESG model and offering in North America, where the company is currently expanding.

“Sustainable investing is in our DNA, and we are committed to supporting the best talent that is interested in our field,” said Robert Morier, managing director and head of North America for Global Evolution. “Working with the University of Vermont was a great way to do that, and we are excited to see how these students contribute to our industry in the future.”

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From the Web: Sustainable business at a crossroads, again

In 2008, when MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group began their sustainability research program, it was the start of the Great Recession, and pundits were predicting the end of sustainability on the assumption that executives would turn away from corporate social responsibility initiatives in favor of “making money.”

But survey results in that first year held a surprise. Contrary to common wisdom, a large number of companies were doubling down on, rather than abandoning, their sustainability commitments.

Investing in business sustainability turned out to be a good bet. Today, more than a dozen companies, from Walmart to Toyota, have billion-dollar sustainable business lines — making money indeed.

But eight years on, these so-called “green giants” are still in the minority.

MIT SMR’s latest report, “Corporate Sustainability at a Crossroads,” shows that most businesses have yet to crack the sustainability code. And now, after our eight annual surveys of tens of thousands of managers and more than 150 thought-leader interviews, we know why: Sustainability success requires a long-term, strategic-level commitment combined with business model innovation that goes way beyond changing light bulbs or charitable giving. Many managers understandably recoil from this level of sustainability commitment.

This brings us to the crossroads, because the election of Donald Trump seems to offer businesses a way out.

Learn more (via GreenBiz) >>

I Spent 5 Months Thinking About Climate Change In A New Way, And Why Your Company Should Do The Same

This post was written by Bianca Mohn, SEMBA ’16

When we hear the words “climate change,” so often what comes to mind is negative. Images of dry, barren fields, polar bears desperately clinging to melting ice caps, Donald Trump as he fiercely denies its existence – you get the picture. These associations are well ingrained in our conceptualization of climate change as an overwhelming monster of destruction that we would rather not think about. This mindset carries over to the corporate world with businesses not addressing climate change in their strategic planning, preferring instead to focus on other “more pressing” priorities.

Climate change is terrifying in the big picture. But it does us no good to run away in fear of the changes and to avoid addressing it all together. We need a new way of thinking about climate change, a mindset that recognizes the challenges yet is motivated to act. What if, for instance, climate change was viewed as an opportunity rather than as a threat? What if companies included climate change in their strategic planning as a way to increase their performance and not just as a risk assessment?

Some companies are already embracing this new way of thinking about climate change. For five months I worked as a sustainability strategy consultant for Interface Inc., a global carpet manufacturer headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Interface has a long history of sustainable thinking that began when the founder Ray Anderson had an epiphany on how business can make a positive impact in 1994. He challenged his company to “Be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits – and in doing so, become restorative through the power of influence.” Since then Interface has been working towards its Mission Zero goals to have a net zero impact on the environment by 2020. Interface is poised to meet its 2020 goals, and is now working on the next chapter of its sustainability agenda.

Here is where the new thinking on climate change comes in. Interface has announced a new initiative called Climate Take Back, an ambitious strategy to work towards reversing climate change by 2050. Climate Take Back has four platforms – “Live Zero” to continue operating with a zero net impact on the environment, “Love Carbon” to use carbon as a resource to build and to create, “Let Nature Cool” to let nature do its job without any interference from the company, and “Lead the Industrial Re-revolution” to inspire other companies to create new business models. As the sustainability strategy consultant, I created frameworks to help Interface identify the goals for each platform, articulate what success looks like for Climate Take Back overall and for the four platforms, and delivered recommendations for key strategies, metrics, timelines, stakeholders, external partners, and how to engage employees. In everything, the question was how climate change will provide opportunities for Interface to improve its products, operations, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, profits, and external relationships.

What I learned through this experience is that there are so many opportunities around climate change that other companies are overlooking. Take carbon, for instance. The rhetoric around carbon emissions is usually focused on the increasingly dangerous levels of CO2 and the rising global temperatures. The Scientific American featured an article by Scott Waldman in March 2017 which featured the headline “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Hits Record Levels” followed by “It marks five consecutive years of CO2 increases of at least 2 parts per million, an unprecedented rate of growth.” Fear is a natural reaction to reading this, followed by a sense that the problem is too enormous to even begin to tackle. Intimidating as these facts may be, we need the science and facts, particularly in the post-fact world that we seem to be living in. But we also need hope, creativity, and resourcefulness. We need more companies like Interface who look at rising CO2 levels and resolve to make their products out of carbon neutral and carbon negative materials by 2050. We need business leaders to recognize that social and environmental effects of climate change will inevitably impact their businesses, and that now is the time to innovate around the challenges and opportunities that climate change will bring.

We also need to educate future business leaders to look at climate change through the lens of opportunity. I graduated with a MBA focused in sustainability from the University of Vermont’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) program. The program integrated sustainability into every class, from marketing to finance to operations. This program teaches students how to look at world issues such as climate change, poverty, inequality and ethics, and to see how business can make a positive impact. This mindset should not be exclusive to niche educational experiences, but instead the type of thinking that all business students should be trained in. Companies should then be eager to recruit and hire these types of thinkers to form creative and innovative teams.

At the end of the day, climate change is the future and context of opportunity. What is needed is less of “climate change is not my problem and I can’t do anything to fix it” thinking and more of “what can I do and what can my company do to maximize the opportunities from climate change by making a positive impact?” When individuals and companies redefine a threat as an opportunity, it makes space for innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and connection. If we can work towards this with climate change, then our world will be a healthier and happier place to be.

From the Web: Pesticides are not needed to feed the world, UN says

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts.

new report, being presented to the UN human rights council, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

Learn more (via The Guardian) >>

One Student’s Journey to Address Sustainability through a Vegan Lifestyle

This post was written by Margaret Arzon, SEMBA ’17

“It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness. I think that’s where movements are started.”

– Shawn Heinrichs

Margaret feeding a cow in Haridwar, India

Growing up I would not touch anything that even resembled a vegetable. My Puerto-Rican and Cuban roots offered daily dishes of fried meat or chicken with rice and beans. At 21, I stopped eating meat for health reasons which slowly transformed into ethical concerns. Three years later, I read a book called “Vegan Freak” which revealed to me the atrocities and environmental havoc of not just the meat industry, but dairy and eggs as well. Sometimes once you know something, there is no degree of feigning ignorance that could turn you away from the truth. I immediately eliminated all animal products from my life, including eggs, dairy, wool and leather. People around me told me I was silly, expressed concern for a lack of protein and gave disapproving looks with my lunch plate filled with just veggies. However, I knew the only way to save our dying planet was to stop pillaging that which is not ours to take.

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The “SEMBAllers”: Winter 2017 CoRec B-League Broomball Legends

This post was written by Ted Carrick, SEMBA ’17

Broomball is a game of grace and athleticism removed. Remaining are only uncoordinated attempts to slap a mini soccer ball into a hockey net with a small plastic “broom,” on ice, in sneakers!

Some SEMBA students and other UVM undergrads formed a squad with the intention of enjoying a weekly moment of respite from their studies, a fun way to get some exercise, and have a few laughs. But the team did more than that. They broomed their way through the regular season 2-0-1!  With a no-loss regular season, the team’s confidence was high heading into the playoffs. The team had their eyes set on the prize: t-shirts branded with “SEMBAllers, 2017 Winter CoRec B-League Broomball Champions” across the chest.

Captain Brett Spusta, SEMBA ’17, sent out this inspirational email the day before their first playoff match:

“Hey team!

Big week! Playoff time! First game is tomorrow at 10pm, I know it is late, but we need to bring our A game. We are playing the Ball Sweepers, who we tied in the regular season. In play-offs, there are no ties; we will run some shoot out drills for warm up. Because it is so late, we have some time to run the tapes and do some strategy planning over a refreshing beverage before.

We need to carry big-mo with us from last week’s win. We are now in single elimination territory, if we lose we are done, if we win we play next Monday (2/27) at 9:15.   

“I know we have a test tomorrow, but broomball should be a priority.”

Remember: the champion team gets an intramural champion t-shirt! It is a coveted prize. I know we have a test tomorrow, but broomball should be a priority. LETS GET THE SHIRT! GET FIRED UP! We have come a long way; I am not ready to end our run now!

Stay hydrated, stay loose, and visualize yourself on the ice. Visualize yourself scoring the game winning shot, the high fives, the SEMBA pride. Wow: what a picture, what a story!  

 -Coach Brett

 P.S. Our name is officially SEMBAllers.”

What do the 2017 Super Bowl Champions New England Patriots, the 2004 World Series Boston Red Sox, and the 2017 SEMBAllers CoRec B-League broomball team have in common? Heart. Heart and grit. No, they were not all supreme champions of their sport, the SEMBAllers having lost in the first round of the playoffs to what proved to be insurmountable opposition. But the team nevertheless reveled in the joy of good natured competition, laughs, and friendship. They never gave up, and when it was over they high fived their opponents and congratulated each other on a game well played.

Hero’s get remembered, but legends never die: 2017 SEMBALLers CoRec B-League broomball team.

 

SEMBA, Women Leaders Gather to Work for Change

This post was written by Karen Barnett, SEMBA ‘17

To enact change, you need to know the actual problem. This statement is far from revolutionary, and perhaps it even sounds a bit boring. Yet not every organization dives deep to fully understand the issues it aims to address. Change the Story VT, however, is not one to fly past the diagnosing stage. Instead, the organization knows that data drives effective goals, without which meaningful change is impossible.

Tiffany Bluemle, Director of Change the Story VT, shared her inspiration last Thursday night at a gathering with SEMBA women and the Vermont Chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), an organization that connects women leaders from all different fields to build better leadership for the future.

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Soft Skills Needed to Support your Sustainability Efforts

This post was written by Aditi Datta, SEMBA ’17, and former student editor of “The SEMBA Review.”

Erin Meezan

Erin Meezan,Vice-President of Sustainability at Interface, Inc. and member of the SEMBA Advisory Board, offered her insights and tips for success with the SEMBA class through the program’s Executive in Residence speaker series, in which leading-edge practitioners share their personal stories and perspectives with students.

Environmentally-friendly carpet manufacturer Interface is a progressive, innovative organization that leads the industry in its full commitment to sustainability. Yet, Erin Meezan still faces resistance and apprehension each day. Meezan’s specific tools, tips and skills are valuable assets to utilize in any career that challenges the status quo, and are especially relevant to SEMBA students.

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Coal: An Unsustainable Future

This post was written by Mike Rama, SEMBA ’17.

On Wednesday, February 1, the Senate passed a resolution to remove the Stream Protection Act, a decision that is certain to be stamped with the seal of approval by President Trump in the coming weeks. As summarized by Coal Age, a pro-coal mining news source:

“The final rule (Stream Protection Act) updated the 33-year-old regulations with stronger requirements for surface coal mining operations. The rule would require companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation, unless that would conflict with the implemented land use. The rule requires the testing and monitoring of the condition of streams that might be affected by mining — before, during and after their operations — to provide baseline data that ensures operators can detect and correct problems that could arise, and restore mined areas to their previous condition.”

54 senators opposed the Stream Protection Act, arguing that the law was too burdensome and would kill jobs in the coal industry.

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