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Business opportunities from climate change

Thanks to greenhouse gases, the Earth’s climate is changing. One of the main sources of these gases is business. However, business is also the main source of new products, services, and business models that may save us from wholesale climate calamity. But what are businesses doing to address climate change? What can — and should — they do?

“The untold story is that climate change offers opportunities as well as risks, and business is already changing,” said Michael Toffel, John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School (HBS) and faculty chair of the School’s Business & Environment Initiative. “Climate change is such a broad issue, and it’s affecting business in a wide variety of ways. And businesses are developing technologies, products, and new operating models in response.”

HBS is collaborating with WBUR and Boston University Questrom School of Business to run a five-part series called “Stepping Up: Business in the Era of Climate Change.” The series will launch on March 5 in WBUR’s CitySpace. Each event will focus on business in a particular sector, including real estate, food, transportation, and energy.

Speakers include local and national leaders such as Bryan Koop, executive vice president of Boston Properties; Kevin Butt, sustainability director of Toyota North America; and David Perry, CEO of Indigo Agriculture. Small companies that cater to new consumer preferences like Clover Food Lab, and environmental groups like Union of Concerned Scientists, are also on the program.

According to Toffel, growing awareness of climate change offers a unique opportunity for HBS to embark on new projects and increase its impact. Faculty are addressing climate change in their teaching and research. The first year MBA curriculum includes case discussions and assignments designed to foster climate change awareness in every student. This spring all MBA students will be taught the case, “Climate Change: Paris, and the road ahead.” Faculty have also written more than 20 teaching cases about how businesses are tackling climate change.

In partnership with HBS alumni clubs, the School’s Business & Environment Initiative has been organizing faculty-moderated alumni events to explore how business leaders in regions around the U.S. are confronting climate change. Each event addresses the specific climate-related challenge facing that region. In addition to the WBUR event series, the School will launch a podcast called “Climate Rising” this spring.  

“Not all of the news about climate change is doom and gloom.  Working with faculty from these two schools has allowed us to showcase how this problem is sparking new products and services, from lab-grown meat to offshore wind,” said WBUR’s Barbara Moran, senior producing editor of Earthwhile, a new  team dedicated to reporting on environmental issues. “CitySpace is an ideal venue to reach a broad audience.”  Tickets are available at wbur.org. The full program can be found here.

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