The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » News » MBA News » Tuck Students Attend December’s Paris COP21, Bring Climate Talks Back to Campus » Page 2

Tuck Students Attend December’s Paris COP21, Bring Climate Talks Back to Campus

Image for Tuck Students Attend December’s Paris COP21, Bring Climate Talks Back to Campus

Climate Change Issues Present Potential New MBA Career Paths
While not every student clamors to actually attend the climate summits, Sundaram finds there is steady interest in his class each year. “Initially when I taught the class I expected a bunch of tree-hugger types who were going to look at me askance and say, ‘Who the heck is this finance professor talking to us about climate change?’” Instead, he finds that the class draws very mainstream students, which ultimately makes good sense. “At many of the companies these students are targeting for post-MBA jobs, sustainability has become very central to how they operate,” he says. “We approach it in a very hard-nosed way—if you are the CEO of a shareholder-value maximizing company, should you care about climate change and, if so, why?”

Go into any major company and you will now find a chief sustainability officer, Sundaram tells his students. “Not only is this a very senior manager in a policy-making role, but it’s also a new potential career path,” he says. “It’s exciting, and it has all happened in the last decade in a significant way.”

Sundaram’s second epiphany at the climate summits—beyond thinking more business school students should be taking part—is that companies are doing a phenomenal amount under the radar in terms of deploying real talent and research and development toward climate change issues. “This is not because it brings a tear to their eye, but rather because it is a value-creation opportunity,” he stresses. “When you go out there and discover emissions, you are discovering waste and inefficiencies in the supply chain. Cleaning those things up tightens your cost structure.”

Impacts of COP21 on Tuck’s Campus
COP21 made for one of the most exciting climate conferences Tuck students have attended, Sundaram says. As part of the summit, 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement, a global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The agreement becomes legally binding if at least 55 countries—representing 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions—sign it between April 2016 and April 2017 and adopt it within their own legal systems.

Tuck Paris COP21
Nell Achtmeyer, Tuck MBA Class of 2016

Back on the Tuck campus, Achtmeyer and the other student participants held a community-wide panel discussion last month to reflect on their experiences. “We shared stories about the negotiations that we attended, topics of the side events and general impressions about why this is important and relevant for business leaders,” Achtmeyer says. Later this semester, the Center for Business and Society will host a speaker series to reflect on the road from Paris and COP21’s implications for business communities, she adds.

In addition to helping send students to the climate talks, the center also supports student independent studies, as well as elective courses on issues of business and climate change, business and sustainability and generally how to create impact at the intersection of business and society. An annual Business and Society Conference also provides a valuable forum for discussions, Achtmeyer adds.

Prior to Tuck, she worked as a teacher and environmental educator and hopes upon graduation to blend the worlds of sustainability, education and effective management and leadership practices. “When I was applying to Tuck, this center was certainly on my radar, and I have been extremely impressed by the opportunities I’ve had through its programming.”

Sundaram praised the panel the students held on returning to campus from COP21. “It was quite powerful,” he says. Tuck—which welcomed a new dean, Matthew Slaughter, in July—is still refining and thinking about what its new vision and mission statement should be, he says, but he hopes experiences like these can help shape it. “The notion of someone becoming or being a wise global leader today is just very much a part of the MBA imperative here at Tuck.”