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On Earth Day 2021, Meet The B-School Sustainability Graduates

·67 min read

Katherine Neebe takes a hands-on approach to saving the planet. So much so that this MBA graduate from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business can say that she once released a polar bear back into the wild while on a trip to near the Arctic.

When she’s not saving endangered wildlife, Neebe heads up the sustainability effort for one of the U.S.’s largest utilities as the Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of National Engagement & Strategy at Duke Energy, and President of the Duke Energy Foundation. Alongside working to “develop solutions to meet customer needs for continued reliable and affordable energy,” Neebe says that much of her time is spent working to achieve Duke Energy’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Since undertaking the Darden MBA, she’s worked with some of the U.S.’s largest companies, such as Walmart, the Coca-Cola Company and now Duke Energy to, as she puts it, “help accelerate positive impact and deliver shared value.” It’s a career that for many MBA students would be a dream come true, being able work with huge companies and make a real difference. Neebe is hopeful about the impact of future MBAs on sustainability and hopes many follow suit after their studies.

“We are at a unique moment in time and, particularly for an MBA student or alum, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to influence business towards sustainability and have an outsized positive impact on the world we collectively share.”

‘THERE IS NO PLANET B’

Alison Alvarez

This confidence in the importance of MBAs as key players in creating change for the better in the business world is well placed if Alison Alvarez is anything to go by.

An MBA from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business Class of 2016, Alvarez has committed much of her time, both professionally and personally, to having a positive impact on the environment.

The co-founder and CEO of Blastpoint, a provider of software that helps businesses to predict consumer behavior in the automotive and energy industries, her company is used by many “to find customers likely to sign up for zero carbon programs or energy efficiency programs,” and helps some of the U.S.’s largest brands to “predict and facilitate adoption of electrical vehicles,” she says.

Outside of work, Alvarez – originally from the Atlanta suburbs, but now Pittsburgh-based – is an outspoken proponent of walking where possible. In Pittsburgh, she and her family are able to get most places by foot.

And, according to the Tepper MBA graduate, she isn’t the only one in her household that has climate action on her agenda: “My daughter has a poster on her wall that she drew. It says ‘There is no Planet B’.” For Alvarez, like many others, climate action isn’t simply about the here and now, it’s about “the future: protecting the planet so that the next generations have a chance to prosper in a healthy, sustainable way.”

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS TO SUSTAINABILITY PROBLEMS

Jean Moreau

Alvarez and Neebe, much like the other alumni featured in this article, have taken the skills and understanding they’ve picked up during their time at business school to make a difference and do their part to tackle climate change. And so, in recognition of Earth Day, April 22, and in celebration of the many business school graduates across the globe that have dedicated their professional lives to being a force for good, we’ve handpicked a few outstanding stories to share with the readers of Poets&Quants.

When Jean Moreau, a graduate of ESSEC Business School, co-founded Phenix, he had a clear goal: to create solutions to bring an end to the waste of unsold products.

Much like Alvarez’s Blastpoint, Moreau’s start-up, a tech-for-good business, utilises digital solutions to find more sustainable ways of doing business. Via Phenix, Moreau currently fights food waste across five countries and has already saved more than 120 million meals from ending up in the trash.

For the ESSEC graduate, the importance of preventing product waste goes beyond simply the environmental benefits: “Fighting food waste involves challenges of two types: ecological – because it represents a significant portion of Co2 emissions in France – but also social because in France 8 million people suffer from food insecurity,” says Moreau, who resides in Paris.

However, while Phenix does a great deal of good, its co-founder is keen to leave no doubt that, first and foremost, it’s a business. “I manage Phenix as it is: a business for good, but a business,” he says. For Moreau, ensuring that the Phenix is succeeding is vital, and so his time spent at ESSEC and the skills he learnt have become invaluable:

“Of course what I have learned from ESSEC Business School is highly useful in my daily job. It provided me with a strong general business education and I gained a core set of skills that help me every day in running my own business, from building business plans to managing more than 200 employees.”

A SMALL BUT GROWING FIRM WITH BIG PLANS

Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina

Moreau isn’t the only one losing sleep over the mountains of food being wasted every day. Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina, alumni from the MIT’s Sloan School of Management MBA Class of 2015 co-founded Spoiler Alert, a technology firm that supports major food and beverage brands to “cut waste from their supply chains”, for that very reason.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be helping industry leaders ranging from Kraft Heinz to Danone reduce food waste while boosting revenue and cutting costs,” they say.

Having worked for three years for the same company, in the same building only three floors apart, it wasn’t until they were admitted to MIT Sloan that Ashenfelter and Malina actually met. And now, only a few years later, they’re revolutionising the way companies approach product waste.

“We do this by helping sales teams digitize their liquidation processes for short-dated and excess inventory, and we feed this data back to supply chain managers and demand planning teams to better inform them which of their products aren’t selling effectively so that they can do a better job managing this volume in the future,” say Ashenfelter and Malina.

Looking back at their time at business school, the co-founders of Spoiler Alert believe that MIT Sloan was instrumental in their success: “It solidified our interest in entrepreneurship, armed us with the confidence to lead, and confirmed our desire to weave impact into our company’s very DNA. We applied just about every action learning course we could to our startup – including Product Development & Marketing, Pricing, and Technology Sales.”

And, turning to the future, the MIT Sloan alumni are confident that, for Spoiler Alert, the only way is up: “We’re a 20-person company at the moment and backed by some great institutional and impact investors, and we have a big vision to power the waste-free economy.”

EARTH DAY ‘AN OPPORTUNITY TO COLLECT ATTENTION ON HUMANS’ ROLE IN THE ECOSYSTEM’

Daniele Pes, a graduate of MIP Politecnico Di Milano’s Executive MBA, Earth Day is about action. He says that it’s “an opportunity to collect attention on humans’ role in the ecosystem and concretely focus on shortening the distance between talking about it and actually doing something effective to make things happen.”

As a serial entrepreneur, Pes is a man that is used to following through on his commitments and ideas. With companies across Italy, the UK and US, and spanning sectors such as renewable energy, special materials and AI-based waste management, the MIP EMBA alumnus has undoubtedly put what he learnt during his time at the Milan-based business school into practice.

“I have learned that I can contribute the most when I can translate the language of problems into that of solutions,” he notes.

Our Celebration of Earth Day 2021

On Earth Day 2021, Meet The B-School Sustainability Graduates

The Rise Of Sustainability Master’s Programs

How B-School Clubs Are Rising To The Sustainability Challenge

The Business Schools Making Their Campuses More Sustainable

Is Hands-On Experience The Best Way To Teach Sustainability?

Rose-May Lucotte and Santiago Lefebvre of emlyon: “We definitely hope that one day we will be able to say that we’ve made it and that by acting collectively for the greater good.”

Someone who knows just what it’s like to have a huge workload with countless individuals relying on them is Alliance Manchester Business School alumna, Wendy Rayner.

Having spent the last 25 years living in Scotland, Rayner plays a critical role for NHS Scotland – the country’s publicly-funded healthcare system – as its National Sustainability Manager. The organisation’s technical lead for resource use and sustainable procurement, Rayner says that the role gives her the opportunity to “influence the way the NHS in Scotland buys products and services and then manages them at the end of their life.”

Reflecting on her time at Alliance Manchester, on the school’s Global MBA programme, Rayner, rather surprisingly, notes that her studies didn’t render her a business expert.

“The MBA didn’t make me an expert in business, it provided me with the understanding and ability to have knowledgeable conversations with experts in strategy, finance, investment, marketing etc. It gave me the tools to help businesses reflect and develop their business models to meet sustainability goals.”
She does, however, believe that her time on the GMBA at Alliance Manchester provided her with “the tools and understanding to deal with all aspects of sustainability.”

So, with those tools and that understanding in mind, what would Rayner say is the best way to live a more sustainable life? “Do something, however small or insignificant you think it might be, it will make a difference… change your diet, reduce food waste, buy pre-loved items, walk or cycle rather than drive, turn the heating down, switch the light off…”

LOOKING TO GIVE BACK

Jeff Denby

For Jeff Denby, a graduate of Berkley Haas’ full-time MBA, the answer to living a sustainable life is simple: “Buy nothing new! There are so many great options for buying refurbished or renewed or resale products in almost all consumer categories. Quick searches on google will turn up more options than ever before.”

Co-Founder of The Renewal Workshop – a leading provider of circular solutions for apparel and home textile brands, working with big name brands like The North Face and Tommy Hilfiger – it’s no surprise that Denby wants to encourage others to by previously-owned items.

For Denby, his time at Berkeley Haas has had a significant impact on his career. “My experience at Haas gave me the skills to understand finance, pricing, and venture deals…more than anything though, the Haas network has been the most invaluable take-away. My classmates are lifelong sources of support – they are my connectors, investors, customers, mentors, and advisors.”

“I truly believe that I would not be where I am today if it were not for Haas by my side.”

And, for the co-CEO of The Renewable Workshop, his time at business school taught him one very important lesson: “Take the course on the subject that you are not good at! I hated accounting and I’m still terrible at it but those courses from my MBA allowed me to have intelligent conversations about the topic.”

Having learned so much during his time at Haas, as well as his during his journey as a start-up founder, Denby now know what he wants to do in the future – give something back.

“I’d like to be in a role focused on coaching founders through the mental and emotional challenges of growing their businesses.”

IMPORTANT TO WORK ‘NOT ONLY FROM THE OUTSIDE BUT FROM WITHIN’

Erica Kostense

Rayner isn’t alone in her view that it’s the small things that can and will make the difference. Erica Kostense, an alumna of Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, takes a similar stance. “I believe we are all capable of making a huge impact on sustainability through small choices we make every day and if we all do something this can totally add up,” Kostense says.

Having previously worked at Big Four firm, Deloitte, managing their sustainability projects, Kostense has taken her corporate experience and applied it to her role as a Strategic Account Manager at the Rainforest Alliance. Working with cocoa and coffee traders, she provides expert guidance around meeting sustainability goals.

Kostense traces her interest in climate action all the way back to when she was just a child, opting to become a vegetarian at the age of 12. She notes that you would often find her “reading all I could about meat consumption and the impact it had on our planet.” It was this environmental consciousness that led her to dedicate her career to sustainability, and now she finds that her own daughter is developing that same awareness of climate change having also decided to become a vegetarian.

Kostense believes that business has a significant role to play in climate action as a force for change. It was this belief that inspired her in part to study at Nyenrode.

“Knowing how companies operate, how businesses work is key in understanding how we can change things,” she says. “Not only from the outside but from within.”

‘I HOPE THE WORDS BECOME ACTION’

Angeline Gross

Working for NextEra Energy Resources, “the world’s largest operator of wind and solar projects and a leader in renewable energy”, Angeline Gross lives and breathes sustainability. An alumna of the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business Online MBA Program, Gross works as a Reliability Engineer, working to ensure that NextEra’s wind turbines run both smoothly and efficiently… even if that means actively climbing the turbines at times!

For Angeline, the best way that regular people can contribute to living a more sustainable life is to support the organizations out there working tirelessly to save the planet.

“This answer might surprise a lot of people, but one of the best things you can do to help the planet is donate to trustworthy climate charities,” she says. Beyond that, however, Gross is hopeful that if we can take climate change as seriously as we have taken the pandemic, there may still be a chance for Earth yet.

Looking back at him at her time at UFL, Angeline believes her greatest lesson came from the experience itself, as opposed to any one class or course. She says that her time at business school taught her “how to work together within a diverse team to effectively solve problems.”

“The skills involved – such as listening, negotiating, and building trust, just to name a few – are what sets apart a great team from a good team, and by extension, a great company from a good company.”

With those skills under her belt, and with the future of the renewable energy sector “looking bright” — pun intended — Gross is optimistic about what’s in store for her, and for the planet.

‘I HOPE THE WORDS BECOME ACTION’

Working in procurement at Anheuser-Busch InBev, the multinational brewing company often referred to as AB InBev, University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business MBA Jacob Holloway takes “sustainability into account in everything we do.” That’s because, for Holloway, while sustainability isn’t traditionally a part of business, at his company it really is.

Holloway first joined AB InBev as an intern while studying on the Warrington GMBA. Alongside being instrumental in leading him to his current role, Holloway’s time at UF has been influential on his career in sustainability for another reason. “The University of Florida is lovingly known by our football fans as ‘The Swamp,’ but it also happens to be surrounded by actual swamps, springs, and other important Florida ecosystems,” he says.

“UF takes a very active role in researching and addressing the ecological concerns of the state. Naturally, a lot of those concerns are intertwined with business interests, and so having exposure to such topics provided a great context for future sustainability work.”

Equipped with the skills he picked up during his time at UF Warrington, Holloway is hopeful about the future – for him and the planet.

“I hope that words become action. Sustainability is very trendy right now, and I hope that we can translate that buzz into actionable plans which we follow through on,” he says.

Jessica Iida

SUSTAINABILITY SHOULD BE ‘BAKED INTO MORE COMPANIES’ DNA’

Holloway isn’t alone in his hopes for the future of the planet. Jessica Iida, an MBA candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Canada, says that she has “high hopes that sustainability will continue to become a priority for both businesses and individuals.”

“I hope that in future that sustainability can be baked into more companies’ DNA as it becomes a table stakes precursor for success in the 21st century.”

At work, Iida, a Sustainability Program Manager for an apparel retailer, is always looking for new ways “to keep materials in their highest and best use as long as possible” in order to eliminate waste. For her, it’s about breaking away from the ‘take-make-waste’ approach to retail and instead looking to get as much life out of products as possible.

Living in Vancouver, she says that she’s been “relatively sheltered” from the effects of climate change, but it’s Iida’s work in particular that makes her acutely aware of the damage being done to the planet.

Still studying on the Sauder MBA, Iida has already identified “resilient leadership” as a key factor in being impactful. “There is no one formula to driving organizational change, so navigating fast-moving and often ambiguous business environments to shift away from the status quo takes an immense amount of vision, persistence, and the ability to lead and influence people at all levels of an organization,” she says.

“My studies have continued to give me the tools and skills needed to effectively lead change.”

‘DON’T FEEL DISHEARTENED BY THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM’

Liz Lepton-McCombie

One individual who definitely understands the importance of sustainability in the fashion retail sector is Liz Lipton-McCombie. As the Director for Global Sustainability at the world’s most recognisable jeans company, Levi Strauss & Co, finding sustainable solutions for the clothing sector has long been on Lipton-McCombie’s agenda.

Originally from Alamo, California, she travelled all the way to London to study on the Imperial College Business School MBA programme. It was during her studies that, much like Iida, the importance of leadership was confirmed for Liz. “I would say that my studies confirmed my belief in the value of being a good leader, at which ever level you operate, and helped me define what I consider to be a good leader.”

Following her time on the Imperial MBA, Lipton-McCombie has taken the skills she picked up in London and harnessed them to drive sustainability projects at firms such as Li & Fung, The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Elevate Global and of course Levi Strauss & Co.

Reflecting on her years of experience, when asked what advice should would give to anyone wanting to live in a more sustainable manner, she replies: “Don’t feel disheartened by the scale of the problem, it is worth making personal changes and thinking about your ability to positively contribute to a more sustainable future.”

‘WE STILL HAVE MANY THINGS TO ACCOMPLISH’

It’s true, every little contribution, when added up, makes a whole lot of difference. And when those “Heroes of Change”, as Rose-May Lucotte and Santiago Lefebvre – alumni of France’s emlyon Business School’s– call them, come together we can find solutions to some of the planet’s greatest issues.

That’s the rationale behind ChangeNOW, Lucotte and Lefebrve’s initiative which organises an annual event, bringing people who are working to find and create solutions to global issues together under one roof. According to the emlyon MSc Management graduates, the purpose of this event is to enable those working tirelessly to find solutions to global challenges to “connect with the right people to grow their solution at scale, and ultimately solve our most urgent global issues: climate, resources, biodiversity and inclusion.”

What started out in 2017 as an event with around 2000 participants has transformed over the space of two to three years into a global forum, hosting 28,000 people and with around 1000 solutions coming from over 100 countries. As the organisers put it, the event has become “the first World Expo of innovations for the planet.”

For Lucotte and Lefebrve, it was the soft skills they learnt while studying at emlyon that have proved invaluable to their work.

“Beyond the technical aspects of business and management, the school also emphasizes soft skills. Early in the program, we are taught how to connect with alumni, with business people and how to network. Networking is important to build collaboration and ecosystems.”

With such a strong educational background behind each of them, and with ChangeNOW on what looks like an almost vertical trajectory, Lucotte and Lefebvre are optimistic about their future: “ChangeNOW is only at the beginning. We still have many things to accomplish, starting by uniting even more heroes of change.”

But, needless to say, Rose-May and Santiago have their eyes set firmly on a much, much bigger prize: “We definitely hope that one day we will be able to say that we’ve made it and that by acting collectively for the greater good, we managed to reverse the odds. We hope also that the future generations will regain faith in the future and will be proud of the world we’ve created in the next decades.”

This is arguably true of all the business school alumni featured in this piece. When all is said and done, the one collective goal that business has – that the world has – is undoing the damage that has been done to our planet. And so, for these b-school grads, the message is clear – do what you can, don’t be deterred by the odds, and that a little can go a long way.

MEET THE SUSTAINABILITY GRADS: 15 EXTRAORDINARY B-SCHOOL GRADUATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Katherine Neebe, University of Virginias Darden School of Business
Alison Alvarez, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business
Jean Moreau, ESSEC Business School
Ricky Ashenfelter & Emily Malina, MIT’s Sloan School of Management
Daniele Pes, MIP Politecnico Di Milano
Wendy Rayner, Alliance Manchester Business School
Erica Kostense, Nyenrode Business University
Angeline Gross, University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business
Jessica Iida, University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business
Liz Lipton-McCombie, Imperial College Business School
Rose-May Lucotte & Santiago Lefebvre, emlyon business school
Jeff Denby, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business
Surabhi Agrawal, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business

AND CHECK OUT MORE OF P&Q‘S WORLD EARTH DAY COVERAGE:

THE RISE OF SUSTAINABILITY MASTER’S PROGRAMS

THE BUSINESS SCHOOLS MAKING THEIR CAMPUSES MORE SUSTAINABLE

IS HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE THE BEST WAY TO TEACH SUSTAINABILITY?

HOW BUSINESS SCHOOL CLUBS ARE RISING TO THE SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE

Name: Katherine Neebe

Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once released a polar bear back into the wild while I was on a trip near the Arctic with Ryan Seacrest as well as the CEOs of The Coca-Cola Company and World Wildlife Fund.

Business School Degree Program: MBA, Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

I serve as the Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of National Engagement & Strategy at Duke Energy as well as the President of the Duke Energy Foundation. In these capacities, I lead Duke Energy’s stakeholder engagement efforts to develop solutions to meet customer needs for continued reliable and affordable energy – while simultaneously working to achieve the company’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Duke Energy is one of the largest utilities in the United States, so the opportunity to make an impact on climate change as we deliver against our clean energy transformation is significant.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

World Earth Day provides me with an opportunity to pause and reflect on the work to date and the challenges that lie ahead. This year is an incredible year where we should see the global community – government, civil society, business and other institutions – come together to discuss our ambitions with respect to climate change as well as what is necessary to deliver progress. This week, we have the Leaders Summit on Climate and, over the balance of the year, convenings such as Climate Week and COP26 in Glasgow. Hopefully, these should prove to be powerful events that will serve as important touchstones in the years to come.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

I believe that business exists to serve society; business can create extraordinary value for its stakeholders by meaningfully addressing societal challenges, whether those are environmental or social. To that end, I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity over the past 20+ years to work with The Coca-Cola Company, at Walmart and now at Duke Energy to help accelerate positive impact and deliver shared value. Of course, we all can adjust our lives to be more sustainable. However, we are at a unique moment in time and, particularly for an MBA student or alum, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to influence business toward sustainability and have an outsized positive impact on the world we collectively share.

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in this area?

I attended business school roughly 20 years ago at a time when the field of corporate sustainability was in its nascency and I was a relatively young practitioner. To be an effective influencer and changemaker, I knew that I needed to learn the language, structure and rhythm of “traditional” businesses. Business school taught me not only the fundamentals of business but also important soft skills such as organizational behavior. Being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives and navigate across different systems has been invaluable.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

As an undergraduate, I majored in English Literature. I then pursued a non-traditional career – at least it was at the time. And I was a fish out of water in business school, surrounded by fellow students who were well versed in the subjects of finance, accounting, operations and other such fields. The most important lesson I learned was twofold, 1) everyone must learn something new to grow in their respective careers and 2) by applying myself and humbly admitting when I need help, I can – eventually – learn anything.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, Duke Energy will be well on its way toward achieving its net-zero ambition and a few years shy of meeting its interim targets of at least 50% reduction of carbon emissions and net-zero methane emissions by 2030. While I’ve only been at Duke Energy a few months and can’t (yet) take much credit for our achievements, I’m proud to say we’ve already reduced carbon emissions by 40% relative to a 2005 baseline. I hope, in five years, I’ll be able to point to the role I played, working closely with our stakeholders, to drive even greater progress on emissions reductions as well as other critical sustainability issues.

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

The three big issues on my mind are climate change, ecosystem health (or natural capital) and human rights – particularly issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as inequality. We need to solve for all of them, together. My hope is that we deepen our understanding of the interconnectedness of these issues, build on the important progress that has already been made and help create a world that provides for all – people and planet.

Name: Alison Alvarez

Hometown: Jonesboro, GA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have four chickens living in my backyard

Business School Degree Program: MBA, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through this?

I’m the CEO and co-founder of BlastPoint. We build software systems that predict customer behavior in the automotive and energy industries. Our technology is used, among other things, to find customers likely to sign up for zero carbon programs or energy efficiency programs. We’re also used by some of the largest brands in the US and beyond to predict and facilitate adoption of electrical vehicles.

2. What does Earth Day mean to you?

My daughter has a poster on her wall that she drew. It says “There is no Planet B”. Earth Day is about the future: protecting the planet so that the next generations have a chance to prosper in a healthy, sustainable way.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

I grew up in an outer ring suburb of Atlanta. Everything required a car, and if no one was around to drive me somewhere I was stuck at home. My current neighborhood has a denser grid and my house is smaller, but I can walk to the grocery store, my doctor and almost anything else I need. My daughter can walk to the park or to her friend’s house. I get to use my feet and don’t need my car as much.

4. Has climate change affected your life? How?

Two of the top four rainiest years ever recorded in Pittsburgh happened in the last four years (2019 and 2018). When that happens houses in our hilly city are more likely to shift as the earth gets saturated, unstable and won’t stay put. I can see it in my own house through cracks in the ceiling. I have had friends lose their entire back yards and their homes to the land getting less stable. It’s not just global warming. It’s global weirding — our climate is producing more severe extremes.

5. How has your business school experience contributed to your career in this area?

I learned so much from business school. I learned how to communicate effectively, how to build products with customer input, and how to build a financial structure that lasts.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

I really needed to learn how to speak in an organized way, so that my points wouldn’t be lost in word salad. The ceaseless practice really took the edge off of the terror of public speaking and I got really good at crafting my message.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would love to continue on my path to growing this company for as long as I can.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

Near future: a day to sit on a beach and not think about anything. Long term: being the most useful person I can.

Name: Jean Moreau

Hometown: Born and raised in Toulouse, currently living in Paris

Fun Fact About Yourself: I can breastfeed a child as you may see here. Actually this photo was a way to announce our commitment to gender equality by giving extra paternity leave to our employees, beyond what is required by law. A good joke for a true cause.

Business School Degree Program: ESSEC Business School (Master in Finance) and Sciences Po Paris (Public Affairs)

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through is?

I am the co-founder and CEO of Phenix, a Tech for Good start-up that develops solutions to never waste unsold products. You cannot imagine Phenix’s business model outside of the sustainable economy. Our project is to prove that we can build a business model that is profitable for 100% of the stakeholders. We use tech to fight food waste in 5 countries with B2B and B2C digital solutions. We have already saved more than 120 million meals from the bin. Fighting food waste involves challenges of two types: ecological – because it represents a significant portion of Co2 emissions in France – but also social because in France 8 million people suffer from food insecurity.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

The idea of acting to reduce food waste came to my mind when I was looking at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the UN 2030 Agenda. I was seeking social entrepreneurship opportunities and I learnt that a third of the food we grow in the World is simply wasted. So for me, on this special day, preserving the Earth means protecting our food and, through that, our lands, our water, and basically all our natural resources by encouraging responsible consumption and production (SDG number 12).

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

I eat less meat. It’s an easy way to decrease our carbon footprint. It is also a good opportunity to taste new fruits and vegetables. I also try to avoid useless packaging and to fight the plastic craziness. And of course I use the Phenix mobile app to save unsold products in my neighborhood.

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so- how?

Since I don’t live in Bangladesh or another country already highly affected by the flood that is coming due to global warming, I am not as affected by climate change as other citizens around the World. However it has affected me since I changed my life to fight against food waste. Seven years ago I was an investment banker and now I am doing what I do for my children, for their future. So yes climate change changed my life, or at least my career.

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

Phenix is a company, not an NGO. We make money as any other company does. I manage Phenix as it is : a business for good, but a business. Of course what I have learned from ESSEC Business School is highly useful in my daily job. It provided me with a strong general business education and I gained a core set of skills that help me every day in running my own business, from building business plans to managing more than 200 employees. Nonetheless, I wanted to rethink the way we are doing business. This is why Phenix is a social business.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

Good people make good companies. If you want to succeed, you must partner with the right people and for sure avoid the negative and time-consuming ones. You cannot do everything. You need people and you need to trust them. So recruiting the right people for the right tasks is key.

Phenix is a tech company, but investing everything in our tech tools would not be efficient. We invest a lot of money to recruit talented people. It’s way more important than the tech part, even in a tech company.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I have been doing this job for seven years now. But the job of CEO is an evolving one, and actually I have been doing seven different roles over the past seven years. I love my job and my team. I am proud of what we have achieved and I still want to improve our impact. However I am also the dad of two young kids. I may retire one day to have more time for my family. Perhaps I will take on a new challenge in a few years. I also dream of taking over a football club with friends one day. And dreams are made to come true.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

Saving more and more meals with our team, in many more countries! We hope we will keep paving the way to show that another way of doing business is possible. We want to embody a new way of thinking about business and entrepreneurship: creating jobs and making money, yes, but also having a positive impact on our planet, socially and environmentally because both are essential.

Names: Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY

Fun Fact About Yourselves: Prior to business school — and for almost three years — we worked for the same company, in the same building, and only three floors apart — but never met until we crossed paths at an MIT Sloan happy hour for admitted students in Washington, D.C.

Business School Degree Program: MIT Sloan MBA 2015, focus on Sustainability, Entrepreneurship & Innovation

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

We are the cofounders of Spoiler Alert, a mission-driven technology company focused on empowering major food & beverage brands to cut waste from their supply chains. We couldn’t be more excited to be helping industry leaders ranging from Kraft Heinz to Danone reduce food waste while boosting revenue and cutting costs. We do this by helping sales teams digitize their liquidation processes for short-dated and excess inventory, and we feed this data back to supply chain managers and demand planning teams to better inform them which of their products aren’t selling effectively so that they can do a better job managing this volume in the future.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

Earth Day is such an important reminder for us and our team that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves – that the actions we take as individuals and as a business directly impact the trajectory of our planet’s longevity. When we were both much younger, Emily did conservation work for the National Park Service and Ricky started a nonprofit focused on recycling, so it’s also a reminder for us both of the important role the younger generation is playing in our collective futures!

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Be cognizant of the foods you buy and at what volumes. Consider going flexitarian with a plant-rich diet and cutting out a meat dish from time to time. Start a competition with yourself, your partner, your classmates to use everything you buy from the grocery store and get creative in not throwing anything out. Start reading up on where your food is coming from and appreciating how much carbon, energy, and water went into getting it to you, and how much it was all for nothing if you don’t eat it. These little behaviors can go a long way in addressing the food waste situation specifically and climate crisis more broadly.

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

MIT Sloan was instrumental for us in founding Spoiler Alert. It solidified our interest in entrepreneurship, armed us with the confidence to lead, and confirmed our desire to weave impact into our company’s very DNA. We applied just about every action learning course we could to our startup – including Product Development & Marketing, Pricing, and Technology Sales.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

When it comes to entrepreneurship: don’t let a fully buttoned-up academic business plan stand in the way of experimenting and executing swiftly. As MBAs (and former consultants, to make matters worse!), it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to pressure-test a hypothesis from every angle and get everything just right before releasing it to the world (or to a customer). We had to learn how to get comfortable with a minimalist first draft – augmented with continuous feedback and rapid iteration.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully still building an enduring company! We’re a 20-person company at the moment and backed by some great institutional and impact investors, and we have a big vision to power the waste-free economy. There’s so much more work to be done to arm CPG leaders with the tools and intelligence to cut waste from their operations and we’re hopeful we’re building a great platform to amplify and accelerate this work.

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

Longevity. While we’re as excited as the next person to land people on Mars, we’re hopeful we’ve got many, many good years ahead for Earth! Our hope is that the business and policy leaders of today prioritize action over rhetoric, and that a deep sense of purpose and passion for the environment is instilled in all future generations to come.

Name: Daniele Pes

Hometown: Milan, Italy

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve got a thing for prog rock and especially for Pink Floyd and have been involving my children with it since they were born.

Business School Degree Program: Executive MBA at MIP Business School, Milan

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through is?

I’m a serial entrepreneur with companies involved in renewable energy (San Jose, California, US), special materials (London, UK), clever (Artificial Intelligence based) waste management (Milan, Italy). I generate new Intellectual property, co-develop prototypes, collect funds, manage the companies.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

An opportunity to collect attention on humans’ role in the ecocystem and concretely focus on shortening the distance between talking about it and actually doing something effective to make things happen.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Responsibly looking for balance in relationships, with yourself, with other people, with the environment.

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so, how?

In 2016, with my partners and friends, I started to learn about spectrometry and the possibility to use it to automatically recognize materials and radically change the concept of waste management. it all started as a personal interest, then it became a passion, then we created a company named Grycle in 2017. Since then we’ve generated three great patents, realized four prototypes, collected capitals. I left my role as director in a global company. At the beginning of 2021 we won the best global MBA startup of the year prize.

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

It provided me with the possibility to capitalize my twofold competence, that is that of understanding the technicalities and that of managing the financial aspects of projects. With a strong focus on valuing people.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

I have understood that what makes me feel well, as a professional, is to see projects horizontally, managing the aggregated comprexities, instead of vertically. I have learned that I can contribute the most when I can translate the language of problems into that of solutions, through a global sight of oll the nodes in value chains.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Geographically I would prefer to keep the answer as open as possible; so many the opportunities to create new business globally. Probably I will keep on moving between EU, USA and Asia.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

At a high level, I really hope to contribute improving people’s quality of life. On a more local basis, my hope is that I will be capable of responding to my children when they ask me what my job is 🙂

Name: Wendy Rayner

Hometown: Born in England but lived in Scotland for past 25+ years.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love the outdoors and I am usually on my bike or a pair of skis. When doing my undergrad degree I managed to be ‘ill’ for large parts of the ski season and always came back with the typical skiers suntan! My tutors must have guessed but never said anything. Unfortunately, I think if I tried it now work would not be so understanding ….

Business School Degree Program: Global MBA, Alliance Manchester Business School

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through this?

I am the National Sustainability Manager for NHSScotland. I am the technical lead for resource use and sustainable procurement. NHSScotland has 10% of the UK population and 30% of the UK landmass. The NHSScotland annual budget is circa £1.5b. Working in a large organisation across a large and often unique geographic areas (including multiple islands) brings its challenges. The role gives me the opportunity to influence the way the NHS in Scotland buys products and services and then manages them at the end of their life.

Sustainability influences the economic, social and environmental considerations and in addition to considering Scotland’s often picturesque environments, I get to work with local, national and international suppliers, bringing together expertise to develop solutions. Local communities and SMEs are often at the heart of successful solutions and the role gives me the opportunity to support the development of local skills and capabilities.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

Earth Day gives focus to sustainability, or at least the environmental aspects. It’s a day when people often stop and pause and think about their impact. NHS hospitals often run local Earth Day events, following which my role gets even busier with lots of requests and questions about NHSScotland practices

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Do something, however small or insignificant you think it might be, it will make a difference. Change your diet, reduce food waste, buy pre-loved items, walk or cycle rather than drive, turn the heating down, switch the light off … and if nothing else, where possible switch out the disposable to re-usable items. Small changes, add up to making a difference … so not one tip (sorry!). Start one (re-usable) coffee cup at a time.

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so, how?

Climate change impacts everyone, even if you haven’t been directly impacted by floods, fire or extreme or changeable weather events, these events impact our food supply. On a personal level, the change in seasons and impact to the mountain environments and weather is noticeable, glaciers are retreating impacting mountain ecosystems not to mention the impact on the ski fields!

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

My MBA and my experience at Alliance Manchester Business School provided me with the tools and understanding to deal with all aspects of sustainability. The MBA didn’t make me an expert in business, it provided me with the understanding and ability to have knowledgeable conversation with experts in strategy, finance, investment, marketing etc…. It gave me the tools to help businesses reflect and develop their business models to meet sustainability goals.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

Hard work is required and pays off. Do your homework, read around a subject and consider all points of view. The global MBA helped me think outside of my ‘local economy and environment’, the global nature of healthcare and healthcare supply market needs to consider multiple systems, cultures and economies.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Great question, but I have no idea. I know I should have a career plan but life gets in the way. I have just spent the last year managing the NHSScotland response to COVID and dealing with increased clinical waste, vaccine waste and testing wastes. As my MPhil focused on clinical waste, I led the Waste Resilience team and was based on a waste site! I didn’t see that coming and I look forward to new opportunities around the corner. If I could choose, I would move into a role focusing on finance and investment, not just green business but helping companies deliver fantastic products and services with sound sustainability. It would be real bonus if I combine my love skiing or cars in that role!

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

That sustainability becomes mainstream and I think we are starting to see it. We shouldn’t have to choose between sustainable or environmental preferable products and brand leaders. The leaders of the future will be more sustainable they will deliver products and services in new innovative ways.

Name: Erica Kostense

Hometown: Bussum, Netherlands

Fun Fact About Yourself: If you would have told my 18-year old self studying at Wageningen Life Science University and imagining a career in sustainable science that I one day would also study general management at Nyenrode Business University and have worked in a broad variety of companies including a Big-4 and International NGO, I do not think I would have believed you.

Business School Degree Program: Part-time MSc in General Management, Nyenrode Business University

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through is?

I work for Rainforest Alliance as a Strategic Account Manager for global Traders. I mainly work worth with the larger Cocoa & Coffee Traders of this world and help them in their sustainability challenges. We help them in growing their certified supply chain, we work together on innovative projects and we identify challenges, for instance in legislation. Rainforest Alliance has several intervention areas, Reimagined Certification is one of them but we also have advocacy, tailored supply chain services and landscape & communities that we are active is. It is a complex job, working with an NGO in a global setting with global companies in global supply chains that face an array of sustainability challenges that are complex and systemic. And the scale of which can sometimes be overwhelming. But it feels good to make a positive impact through the work we all do on topics like deforestation, child labor & living wage.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

Well, in my job and also my private life, every day is earth day so in all honesty I do not do anything special on this day. However I think it is a great initiative to create awareness with consumers & policymakers throughout the globe and inspire action for more environmental protection. Small changes on an individual level, can make enormous impact for our planet. A small change in meat consumption is a good examples thereof.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Buy more products with a Rainforest Alliance seal on it. But seriously, I believe we are all capable of making a huge impact on sustainability through small choices we make every day and if we all do something this can totally add up.

So pick whatever suits your lifestyle and start consuming more sustainably through things like Rainforest Alliance certified products, less meat, less dairy, less fast fashion & more public transport. Buy less & recycle more. We all know the drill and most likely can name many more examples. You should just do it, don’t think it does not make an impact. Start small and continue from there.

And think about how your company can stimulate a more sustainable world. And remember sustainability should not be “greenwashing”. For instance showcasing your electric cars, marketing for the sake of image building or investing in a few isolated “sustainability” projects is unfortunately still happening. But does a company really make a positive impact on society? What impact does it & its supply chain have on people & nature? And how could they influence a more sustainable world? Through their purchasing practices? Their supply chains? Their employees? Their products? In other words: is a company sustainable to the core? Using the SDG’s (Sustainable development Goals) for that purpose could really help pinpoint that impact. Till date some companies still report on topics like the electricity use of their head office, whilst their actual carbon footprint or Human Rights issues for example lie in their global supply chain and remain hidden or are simply unknown. But companies will only change if stakeholders like shareholders, employees & customers demand that change and improved technology & data provide us with way more possibilities than ever before. So start demanding it!

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so, how?

Climate change is effecting everybody’s live. However the impact of that change depends highly on your circumstances. For me as a European office worker, the current impact on my life is negligible. However for a cocoa or coffee farmer just to name an example the impact is potentially much higher. Their livelihood depends on a good crop year. That is for instance why Rainforest Alliance invests in solutions and training for climate-smart agriculture and will of course continue to combat deforestation as unfortunately deforestation is still linked

I think it is positive that more and more companies have embraced this topic of climate change and really have started taking steps in combating this. Through the use of technology like GIS and big data and through linking climate change to financial parameters we are capable of seeing more and intervening more. It is a fascinating topic and to work for an organization and with companies that really make a tangible impact on climate change and people through their work is very important to me.

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

Yes, absolutely. As I have stated above I believe we as consumers can make a huge impact. But companies can also be a true driver for change. So knowing how companies operate, how business work is key in understanding how we can change things. Not only from the outside but from within. I do not believe in portraying the business world as “evil” or people that only want to work “in the sustainability domain” without having a clear idea what that means or what their role would be. Companies serve a demand and whilst doing so have to make a profit. That is the way it works. Of course you can debate the excessive incentives, profit margins or systemic issues but in the end these companies drive economy. With that being said I of course already had a Master, but that one was way more technical and Nyenrode was a great addition to that arming me with business knowledge and a network as well. I am sure I landed my job at Deloitte partly because I did Nyenrode. So yes, my business school has learned me to better understand what I am good at, how companies work and ultimately how I can use that knowledge to drive sustainable change from within and help organizations incorporate sustainability in their processes.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

Besides all the knowhow of basic business topic like marketing, finance and supply chain I think the biggest lesson I have learned is through all the assignments we have worked on in different teams. Always under time pressure but never boring. Experiencing how other professionals work, how they approach a problem or envision a solution. Learning from their experience. I think on top of the additional knowledge I have more of an open mind now with regards to possible solutions. I can see value in people with other ideas, other approaches and adding people with different backgrounds to the team really helps in getting a different perspective on things.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Truthfully? I have no idea and like to keep an open mind. But I am convinced I still work in the “sustainability” domain in one way or another.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

My hope is really that we start making a shift for a more sustainable future and I mean that in all definitions of sustainability. That we for instance support sustainable agriculture and do not tolerate child labor in our supply chains.

In essence I want us to talk less but act more when it comes to our own role in that.

Name: Angeline Gross

Hometown: Royal Palm Beach, FL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve climbed wind turbines as part of my job!

Business School Degree Program: University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business Online MBA Program

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

I have the privilege of working for NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest operator of wind and solar projects and a leader in renewable energy. As a reliability engineer, I ensure our wind turbines run smoothly and efficiently, bringing us one step closer to a more sustainable future.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

Imagine sitting in a space shuttle, observing Earth from a window. All of the people, plants, animals, fungi, and protozoa you ever knew, didn’t know, and may get to know – are all there, completely filling your view in the form of a singular pale blue dot floating in an endless sea of black space. To me, World Earth Day is about taking the time to recognize the rarity of Earth’s near-perfect habitability and understand our responsibility as humans to maintaining this unique ecosystem by fighting climate change.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

This answer might surprise a lot of people, but one of the best things you can do to help the planet is donate to trustworthy climate charities such as the Clean Air Task Force and Carbon180. Founders Pledge is a charitable initiative that empowers entrepreneurs to donate some of their personal proceeds to charity upon selling their businesses, and their last Climate & Lifestyle report cites research suggesting “that our recommended climate charities have in the past averted a tonne of CO2 for less than $10.” By the numbers: if you donate $1000, you save 100 tons of CO2 which is 25 times more effective than having one fewer child, 42 times more effective than living car-free, and 62 times more effective than avoiding one transatlantic flight!

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

With wholesale power prices going down every year, we’re always coming up with new potential projects to improve reliability and reduce overhead. By applying the project evaluation techniques I learned in business school, I’ve methodically assessed projects for financial viability, growth, and risk so I can be more confident that I’m working on a project with a decent chance of success.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

The most important lesson I learned in B-school didn’t come from a textbook or PowerPoint, but rather from the experience itself: how to work together within a diverse team to effectively solve problems. The skills involved – such as listening, negotiating, and building trust, just to name a few – are what sets apart a great team from a good team, and by extension, a great company from a good company.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

The future of solar energy looks extremely bright (pun intended)! So in five years, I hope to bring some of my reliability expertise to our solar photovoltaic and battery storage teams while growing my own knowledge in the process.

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought collective trauma to our lives, it’s also showcased the drastic measures that humanity will take to save itself. Just a year ago, seemingly overnight, we started staying 6 feet apart. We wore masks, avoided crowds, and Zoom’ed with our colleagues and friends. And while the measures weren’t an outright success (there have been over 3 million deaths globally), at least one model predicted COVID-19 could have caused 40 million deaths without preventative measures. If we can prioritize climate change as swiftly and seriously as this pandemic, then I remain hopeful for our planet’s – and humanity’s – future.

Name: Jessica Iida

Hometown: Vancouver, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love to travel, and one of my favourite memories is the study abroad term I did in Casablanca, Morocco during my undergrad. Post-COVID I’m excited to get back to exploring some more beautiful spots around the world!

Business School Degree Program: MBA, UBC Sauder School of Business

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through this?

As a Sustainability Program Manager for an apparel retailer, I develop and implement strategies that help the company reach its impact commitments. My work centers on circular economy strategy for products and packaging, so my goal is always to keep materials in their highest and best use as long as possible. Circularity is about shifting from a linear take-make-waste system to closed loop systems that not only minimize waste, but also reduce dependence on virgin materials with high associated environmental impacts.

2. What does Earth Day mean to you?

To me Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on our society’s interconnectedness with our planet, ecosystems, and each other; and the urgency with which we need to address challenges such as climate change. Growing up in Vancouver where we’re lucky to have the outdoors at our fingertips, so our connection to our natural environment is easy to see. I make a special effort on Earth Day to get outside and appreciate the beauty, power & harmony of our natural environment.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

For me it’s about being intentional. To me that means having the clarity you need to make informed decisions (e.g. knowing what I value and brings me joy, but also taking responsibility to educate myself on the social and environmental impact of my decisions), and then making conscious choices in line with your values. This is easier said than done, so it’s also important to view this as a journey rather than a destination, and to be persistent and patient as we make changes in our lives.

4. Has climate change affected your life? How?

Living in Vancouver I’ve been relatively sheltered from the direct impacts of climate change to date, though it’s certainly changed my life in that I’ve spent the last several years of my career working with companies across a variety of industries to help measure and manage their climate impacts.

5. How has your business school experience contributed to your career in this area?

My business education has enabled me to meet my clients and cross-functional partners where they’re at by speaking the language of the business. It’s so critical that sustainability becomes an integrated business priority, so knowing how to align the objectives of each functional unit and frame sustainability as a business opportunity rather than simply ‘the right thing to do’ is key to creating organizational change.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

My biggest takeaway from my studies and experience to date is that creating impact requires strong and resilient leaders. There is no one formula to driving organizational change, so navigating fast-moving and often ambiguous business environments to shift away from status quo takes an immense amount of vision, persistence, and the ability to lead and influence people at all levels of an organization. My studies have continued to give me the tools and skills needed to effectively lead change.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I will be continuing to inspire and embed change across organizations, and will be reflecting on the incredible progress that’s been made in industry, policy, and the consumer landscape to move towards a more sustainable future.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

I have high hopes that sustainability will continue to become a priority for both businesses and individuals. There’s been so much momentum in recent years as consumers become more educated and vocal about sustainability issues, and many leading companies are shifting their view of sustainability from one of compliance and risk management to instead seeing it as an opportunity to innovate and build competitive advantage in the marketplace. I hope that in future that sustainability can be baked into more companies’ DNA as it becomes a table stakes precursor for success in the 21st century.

Name: Liz Lipton-McCombie

Hometown: Alamo, California, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself: During the covid pandemic I have been lucky enough to live in a place where we could walk outside of our homes and make use of our surrounding space, so I started hiking and I’ve covered more than 1,000 miles on my local trails.

Business School Degree program: MBA, Imperial College Business School

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through is?

My role is director, global sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., my work focuses on making products (clothes and accessories) more sustainable, directing the sustainable fiber strategy, the approach to circularity and bringing sustainability to the consumer.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

International Earth Day is an interesting concept. What started out as a single day to reflect or consider the importance of our natural environment and our actions to protect it, has grown so much that many people embrace and exhibit environmentalism all throughout the year. This is how it should be. For me, Earth Day is a moment to consider how much more we need to do and reinvigorate my efforts to support those changes.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

My top tip is to consider which changes in your life can most significantly reduce your carbon footprint (e.g., opting for renewable energy in your home, using more public transportation, eating less meat, etc.), make those changes and then be consistent with your actions. Don’t feel disheartened by the scale of the problem, it is worth making personal changes and thinking about your ability to positively contribute to a more sustainable future.

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so, how?

I am lucky that climate change has only had small impacts on my life, so far. But, I have two children and I think about how climate change will affect their lives; animals they will never see, places they won’t be able to live and stresses on shared resources that will have significant affect on populations. The recognition of this reality is a true motivator to address the challenge of climate change and push for innovation that will deliver a more sustainable future.

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

My business school experience accelerated my understanding of business, enabling me to apply better rationale to Sustainability and develop successful programs. I have always approached Sustainability as a function of business, as a function to understand additional risk and a tool to identify new areas of competitive advantage, but business school gave me the tools to make those cases clearly and gain the trust of leaders.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

It is hard to identify a single most important lesson. But, I would say that my studies confirmed my belief in the value of being a good leader, at which ever level you operate, and helped me define what I consider to be a good leader. For me, good leadership is a combination of many qualities, it is logic and consistency that can also deliver vision and inspiration, it is honesty to gain people’s trust and most importantly, it is recognizing the value of others. You can have great ideas, but if you can’t bring a team along with you, then those ideas will fail.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself driving greater environmental and social sustainability at scale, with measurable impacts on people’s lives and the world around us. The recognition of this field is growing, pan-brand initiatives are increasing, governments are collaborating with the corporate world to address our greatest environmental challenges and more companies are creating roles for chief sustainability officers to address the impact of their operations. There is a lot of opportunity for business to help deliver a more sustainable world and I expect to be an active player in this work.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

My hope for the future is progress and innovation. I hope that we realize the fullest potential of a just transition to a green economy, that the innovation we see now is only the beginning to enable a truly sustainable future.

Names: Rose-May Lucotte and Santiago Lefebvre

Hometown: Vincennes, France, next to Paris

Fun Fact About Yourself: In 2016, we went into a 40-day roadtrip with our 1-month-old baby. During this journey we met a great diversity of people who all had something in common. They have made the bold decision to live their own life with freedom. Those encounters made us realise that we didn’t have to fit in a preconceived box, but that we could create our own different path.

Business School Degree program: Master of Science in Management, emlyon business school

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through is?

We founded ChangeNOW, a startup which organizes every year the world’s largest event for solutions for the planet. Our mission is to help the “heroes of change” around the world to connect with the right people to grow their solution at scale, and ultimately solve our most urgent global issues : climate, resources, biodiversity and inclusion.

Our adventure started in 2017, when we organized our first edition with 2000 participants. Two editions later, in January 2020, we’ve gathered 28 000 participants and 1000 solutions coming from over 100 countries, in what has been the first World Expo of innovations for the planet.

This edition has been an accelerator to many innovations which found investors, clients and media recognition. Among the concrete results of the collaboration at the event : a new law regarding microplastics, the launch of a sustainability charter for the audiovisual industry, new investments …

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

To us, World Earth Day is a double reminder. On the one hand, it is a reminder of how badly we need to care about the planet, the huge challenges we need to address. On the other hand, World Earth Day is also a day to celebrate the beauty of our planet, because living in such an incredible biosphere is a miracle.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

For us, living a more sustainable life started by understanding that happiness is not related to how many things you can buy at the end of the month; or whether you get a better job title in your company. Of course, everyone needs a certain situation to live without worrying too much about the future, but happiness is more about having a positive contribution to your loved ones and to the world. Starting from there, our choices were as a matter of fact more sustainable because we stopped buying useless stuff and started to act with more generosity, spirituality and empathy.

4. Has climate change affected your life? If so, how?

Rose has grown up in the Alpes and witnessed the early effects of climate change. The landscape in her village has less snow year after year. The most impressive impact of climate change can be seen in the Mont-Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, which glacier has dramatically receded during the last 50 years.

5. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

Emlyon is a wonderful school to develop an entrepreneur’s mindset. Climate wasn’t an area of concern at that time, but emlyon teaches you adaptability. You also have plenty of opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities. This is a strong part of the hands-on experience you can get.

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

Beyond the technical aspects of business and management, the school also emphasizes soft skills. Early in the program, we are taught how to connect with alumni, with business people and how to network. Networking is important to build collaboration and ecosystems.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

ChangeNOW is only at the beginning. We still have many things to accomplish, starting by uniting even more heroes of change. We also have a priority for the couple of years to come: the younger generations, by working with universities and helping people access jobs in impact.

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

We definitely hope that one day we will be able to say that we’ve made it and that by acting collectively for the greater good, we managed to reverse the odds. We hope also that the future generations will regain faith in the future and will be proud of the world we’ve created in the next decades.

Name: Jeff Denby

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am undefeated at Scrabble.

Business School Degree Program: Full-time MBA Program, Berkeley Haas

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

I’m the co-founder and co-CEO of The Renewal Workshop (TRW). TRW is the leading provider of circular solutions for apparel and home textile brands. We offer brands white-labeled resale solutions managing the technology and operations behind the scenes for brands like The North Face and Tommy Hilfiger. In our facilities in both Portland, Oregon and Amsterdam, Netherlands, we restore damaged and returned product to a like-new condition, turning a waste stream into a revenue stream, allowing the brand to compete in the resale marketplace. We operate a zero-waste system and measure the positive environmental impact of product life extension for everything we do.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

It’s an opportunity for us to highlight the impact of the work we do. Even as a mission driven company we are most often caught up in operations and margins and revenues, but Earth Day allows us to pause and acknowledge the great impact our team has accomplished over the past year. We also get to support our brands as they highlight how they are transitioning their businesses from linear to circular models.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Buy nothing new! There are so many great options for buying refurbished or renewed or resale products in almost all consumer categories. Quick searches on google will turn up more options than ever before.

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in this area?

I came from the world of design and manufacturing and showed up at Haas never having managed a P&L before. My experience at Haas gave me the skills to understand finance, pricing, and venture deals and these new skills were all put to good use as I became the founder of multiple start-ups. More than anything though, the Haas network has been the most invaluable take-away. My classmates are lifelong sources of support — they are my connectors, investors, customers, mentors, and advisors. I truly believe that I would not be where I am today if it were not for Haas by my side.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

Take the course on the subject that you are not good at! I hated accounting and I’m still terrible at it but those courses from my MBA allowed me to have intelligent conversations about the topic. The MBA is an opportunity to learn about a wide variety of topics that you may face in your career. I went into entrepreneurship pursuing a passion for a field but found myself needing to understand finance, legal, accounting, HR, pricing, and a host of other topics in a way I was not expecting. Use the time to develop a focus for your career but also gather knowledge to manage conversations with stakeholders across many disciplines.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I think I’ve experienced everything you possibly can when it comes to start-ups and most of it has been lessons learned from mistakes. I’ve been deep in the trenches of fundraising, operations, investor relations, team-building, communications, and led an international business through the COVID crisis. I think entrepreneurship is incredibly hard and takes a toll on founders that is rarely well supported. I’d like to be in a role focused on coaching founders through the mental and emotional challenges of growing their businesses. (And in between that, tending to the grapes on my farm in Sonoma County…)

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

We are going through a crisis that has literally changed the course of human history. Not a single person’s life on planet Earth has been unaffected by the COVID crisis. My hope is that investors take this opportunity to assess the most effective use for the enormous amount of capital available for investment. I want investors of all stripes to channel their funding to ideas that actually address the challenges that we face today. There are thousands of entrepreneurs with world-changing ideas that need capital, mentorship, and patience and my hope for the future of the planet is that those entrepreneurs get the resources they need to make it happen.

Name: Surabhi Agrawal

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a certified scuba diver and a yoga instructor.

Business School Degree Program: MBA, Georgetown McDonough School of Business

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

I am a senior manager of coffee sustainability at Starbucks, tackling climate change through carbon-neutral and water reduction goals within the coffee supply chain. This involves understanding the technology support that farmers need to overcome the impacts of climate change. Sustainability is a partnership between people and planet and I am proud that my work spans this.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

My mom is a science teacher, who always celebrated Earth Day. My first memory of Earth Day is when I was nine, and we planted a tree in our neighborhood. While a simple step, it ingrained in me an importance of cultivating the Earth, and knowing that each of us have a part to play.

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

As a consumer, I try my best to do my research and buy from brands that align with values of promoting a better planet (ex: buying foods that promote regenerative agriculture practices). We have power as consumers to change the way businesses think of sustainability. Make your voice count!

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in this area?

When making an impact in sustainability, I have learned it is important to articulate the business case of ‘doing good.’ The evidence is clear, and companies are moving in the direction. My business school experience helped me learn, understand, and speak the language of business, which I apply to my work in sustainability.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

The power of teamwork. To make a true impact, you cannot do it alone. Working in sustainability is about forging partnerships, whether internally or externally, to have the greatest impact.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

The future in sustainability is a growing field, and I hope to continue to lead at the intersection of sustainability with technology to create scalable solutions for impact.

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

I have a 16-month-old daughter, and my hope is that she lives on a planet that has overcome and healed from our current state. I think the pandemic has shown the world how interconnected we are as people, living in a delicate balance with nature. I hope we can take these learnings to understand our implications as an individual, who is part of a collective whole, and make decisions that are better for the Earth.

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