SLEB member, Anita Dutta '20, recounts the top three lessons she learned from the Darden ClimateCAP Summit.

By Anita Dutta '20

Last month, I was fortunate to receive sponsorship from the Bernstein Center and the Leadership Development Grants to attend ClimateCAP, the annual global MBA summit on climate, capital, and business, hosted this year by the Darden School at the University of Virginia. ClimateCAP brought together a mix of environmental and climate change professionals along with people in roles not traditionally associated with climate change. I appreciated the range of perspectives represented as it underscored the point that there are opportunities to consider environmental impact in nearly everything we do.

While I’m still digesting all that I learned during my two days at ClimateCAP, I wanted to share three moments that have stuck with me since the summit concluded.

  1. “Air is free until it isn’t” – On Day 1 of the summit, Mark Kaye, SVP & CFO of Moody’s, made this statement to drive home  an important point: Taking natural resources like air and water  for granted might result in the undervaluation of these resources, which  are critically important to society’s function. He urged us not to be wasteful even if we’re not financially penalized because in reality we may be paying with environmental costs.
  2. “Today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions” – This simple but powerful adage, which kicked off one of the sessions on Day 2, pushes us to consider the long-term effects of present-day innovative ideas. For example, a panel at the summit discussed how advances in technology have greatly cut back on delivery times, resulting in a recalibration of expectations around shipping and a ballooning of consumer purchases made as shipments. While fast, low-cost, and reliable shipping is certainly a boon to consumers and business in many respects, it also has wide-ranging, often adverse environmental impact. Scott Price, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer at UPS, shared that the vast majority of packages selected for next-day delivery aren’t truly needed immediately,  rather, consumers now know that they don’t need to plan ahead or simply choose next-day shipping because the option is available to them. Companies and consumers should consider the long-term impacts of their actions, keeping in mind that the “easiest” option might not always be the best one.
  3. Finally, the afternoon breakout session that I attended on Day 2 addressed an issue of great personal interest to me: Does a lack of formal training or work experience preclude the ability to meaningfully work on climate change initiatives in your career? While education and experience certainly inform the ways in which you can make an impact, I was encouraged to hear from many people who have dedicated their entire careers to climate change that diversity of thought can be sorely lacking in the field. The more people who commit to working on climate change initiatives, the better – regardless of prior experience.

An overarching takeaway from the conference is that businesses must collectively do more to incentivize environmentally minded behavior among consumers to truly enact change. Fortunately, the consensus at the summit seemed to be that we are at a critical juncture where climate change concerns are increasingly at the forefront of business priorities. In the meantime, we can all be more mindful of how our actions affect the environment in both business and personal settings.

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