February 4, 2016Brown University

Training Business Leaders for a Post-Paris Climate Era

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The historic Paris Agreement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference achieved a record number of individual country commitments to decarbonize their economies. Now we need businesses to make these commitments real. By cultivating an environmental consciousness through a required interdisciplinary course called Natural Collections: Perspectives on Science, Art and Nature, IE Brown readies graduates to:

• Innovate to meet new emissions standards
• Capitalize on the growth of a 21st century clean energy economy
• Pursue policies that build brands aligned with growing environmental values
• Create a sustainable society and planet for economic growth

Teaching Accountability
Taught by Visiting Distinguished Professor at the Institute at Brown for Environmental Society Lenore Manderson, the course brings together humanities and social sciences perspectives, and work from the creative arts, to explore questions about biodiversity loss and maintenance. It zooms in to examine how human history, specifically the interplay between Enlightenment scientific reasoning and Imperialism’s economic expansion, shaped today’s indigenous fauna and flora. By highlighting the unintended consequences of these human forces on our natural surroundings the course reminds students of their accountability and to lead with this environmental responsibility in mind.

Students Speak
In emails to Professor Manderson students shared their thoughts about this “beyond business” curriculum. They often refer to their final course project which invited them to work in groups to identify a growing environmental crisis and devise a plan to reduce human impact. We are sharing these thoughts with you to give you a sense of IE Brown’s inspirational and transformative effect on IE Brown students and its lasting imprint on their metrics for success.

We encourage you to read the quotes below to take heart in the rise of a new generation of leaders prepared to assume this responsibility.

Vasily Mozgovoi, Assistant to the General Director (CEO) for Corporate Finance at PJSC Tatneft - one of the largest Russian oil companies: “In Natural Collections, we learned that those businesses that ignore or under-appreciate sustainability put themselves and their stakeholders at risk and miss promising opportunities which could strengthen their competitive advantage and make them leaders of tomorrow. With respect to COP21, the $16.5 trillion aimed at cutting pollution should be viewed not as a cost, but a societal benefit creating value for all.”

Anika Ephraim, UK & Norway Sales Manager, Weatherford - one of the largest multinational oilfield service companies: “My thanks to you for leading the IE Brown Natural Collections module and for opening my eyes more to the wide ranging but not straight-forward issues and conflicts between nature, the environment and business. The topics we discussed are already affecting how I think about my own behaviour, the actions of the oil/gas industry and what we do.”

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Steven Fisher, Advisor and Investor, Singularity University, and Anthony Burn, Senior Technical Consultant, United Nations ESCAP and Research Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security shared this thought on their final project: “Our final project, Climate 2050: Water Wars - The Future Flashpoint of China and India, covers areas from our class including conservation, water security, industrial impact on the ecosystem and of course, climate change…. As individuals who love to do foresight work, this paper was a joy to write. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.”

Brian Norris, Director, DISH Media Sales & Sling TV, General Market, Direct Response, Digital, Addressable & iTV, Dish Network, Samantha McDermott, Advisor, Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, and Matthew Peterson, Vice President, Communications and Employee Development, American Tower also chimed in with their thoughts on their final group project on water reuse: "As business professionals and MBA candidates, we recognize that at some point in the not too distant future, we may be in a position that will require us to make decisions about water reuse. We believe our collective work on this project has better prepared us for those decisions."

Commenting on her course, Professor Manderson said, “As a professor, it’s exciting working with professionals at a senior level who have the potential to take lessons learned and apply them directly into the workplace. This knowledge made their final projects that much more exciting to read. Their projects spanned a wide variety of topics that at times interestingly intersected with each other. For example two projects tackled the oil industry from different ends of production. One proposed an industry governance structure for more environmentally responsible oil production. Another project proposed a recycling plan for plastic (an oil derivative) dumped in the ocean from the growing 3D printing industry. I look forward to following these students as they grow businesses with this environmental awareness in mind.”

About Lenore Manderson, PhD, FASSA, FWAAS, is Visiting Distinguished Professor at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and Visiting Professor of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, and Professor in the School of Public Health, The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. At Brown University, her work includes a five-year program, Earth, Itself, which brings together the natural and social sciences, humanities and arts, in conversations on environmental change and sustainability.

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