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Fridays from the Frontline: Building Climate Capable Leaders at the 2024 Kellogg Climate Conference

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In this Fridays from the Frontline, we get an inside look at the 2024 Kellogg Climate Conference from two current Northwestern Kellogg MBA students, Nandita Baloo and Chris Basara, who co-chaired the event. Read on to learn about the robust offerings and networking opportunities during the conference, all with the aim of strategizing for a better future.

Building Climate Capable Leaders at the 2024 Kellogg Climate Conference

By conference co-chairs and Two-Year MBA students Chris Basara ’24 and Nandita Baloo ’24

The Kellogg Climate Conference team hosted the 2nd annual Climate Conference on April 10, 2024 and welcomed over 300 attendees across the Kellogg and Northwestern University communities including current students, alumni, industry groups and faculty. The White Auditorium set the stage for the conference that spanned keynote discussions, networking sessions and breakout discussions.

Conference Team
© 2024 Jason Brown / JB Creative

This year’s theme — Leading the Charge: Redefining business strategy for a changing climate — urged attendees to realize that it is imperative to foster climate-resilient leadership to seamlessly integrate sustainability into business practices for optimal outcomes. The conference revolved around three key themes: educating attendees on how to contextualize climate change in business strategy, engaging attendees with active participation opportunities on climate strategy around how specific industries are tackling decarbonization and the scaling challenges ahead and mobilizing attendees to feel equipped to discuss climate change including asking the right questions about sustainability — no matter their career path. 

Co-Chairs, Nandita Baloo and Chris Basara

To kick off the day, Professor Meghan Busse educated the audience on the science of climate change and illustrated the current landscape of existing solutions and persisting problems. Following this, there was a dialogue featuring Andrew Flanagan ’04 MBA, CEO of RWE Clean Energy LLC and Shashank Sane ’11 MBA, executive vice president transmission at Invenergy, and Mauricio Angulo ‘23 MBA, senior strategy advisor at Exxonmobil. They highlighted key hurdles and incentives that need to be aligned for the successful scaling of the energy transition and how their respective corporations prioritize their energy goals.

Bea Perez, the chief sustainability officer at Coca-Cola, led the following discussion on how corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals need to be linked to existing incentive structures for successful implementation. She walked the audience through how a large conglomerate like Coca-Cola thinks about emissions reductions across their entire value chain from production, to freight and refrigeration. 

Attendees then had the opportunity to strategize during two breakout sessions where they could choose between panels featuring industries across transportation, food & agriculture, carbon, emerging technology, finance and more. The breakout sessions allowed them to dive into their specific passion areas and ask questions in a more intimate environment. The panelists all brought their individual insights and expertise to the table, allowing for fruitful discussions about competing priorities within specific industries, issues with scaling, and more. 

As we were planning the conference with our team, we also wanted to create an opportunity for attendees and industry professionals to connect and continue the dialogue outside of the sessions. We invited recent Kellogg alumni and other young climate professionals to join the rest of the conference attendees during the Lunch and Networking with Climate Professionals. The lively networking session touched on a wide range of topics from the myriad of climate careers available and how their paths have fueled their passion for sustainability. 

Lunch & networking
© 2024 Jason Brown / JB Creative

After lunch, we had panels highlighting the role of government policy and environmental justice to help them understand the levers that are available to align incentives across the many stakeholders in the sustainability world. The panels also encouraged them to think about decarbonization as a holistic problem that can be solved through community resilience and collaboration. 

Government Panel
© 2024 Jason Brown / JB Creative

Leaders from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Energy discussed the Inflation Reduction Act and their work to tackle climate change with equitable policy and government programs. We learned that the demand for such programs is outweighing the supply or speed at which projects can be evaluated. 

Meera Bhat, the global director of equitable conservation at the Nature Conservancy, further reinforced the importance of ensuring climate change solutions are equitable and lift up the quality of life for all communities — asking the right questions when evaluating climate solutions can help achieve this. 

Seeing conference attendees buzzing with more questions and pursuing eager new connections at the networking reception encouraged us to view this as a successful day. Planning the event was a year-long undertaking where we were able to put the leadership skills we have learned at Kellogg to the test. We approached the event as a blank canvas to paint with questions and areas of interest within the energy and sustainability sectors. We believe that building climate literacy is critical in your leadership toolkit and were thrilled to be able to help create an event that people could use as a learning block on their climate leadership journey.

© 2024 Jason Brown / JB Creative

We could not have achieved such a great event without the support of our 17 member MBA student team, and our partnerships with the Kellogg Student Life team, the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Energy and Sustainability, Kellogg faculty including Professor Meghan Busse and Darpan Kapadia ’00 MBA who served as our conference industry advisor. We’d also like to thank the ElevenEleven foundation, all of our other sponsors and everyone who contributed to this grand effort.  As we continue our journeys after Kellogg, we hope to continue coming back to the conference and learning from the speakers, attendees and team in the years to come. 

Nandita Baloo is a 2nd year in the 2Y MBA program graduating in 2024. Prior to Kellogg, Nandita worked in risk management at bp and will be joining the Boston Consulting Group after graduation.

Chris Basara is a 2nd year in the 2Y MBA program graduating in 2024. Prior to Kellogg, Chris worked in various finance roles at NextEra Energy, the world’s largest generator of wind and solar energy. Chris hopes to pivot into a tech strategy role post-Kellogg.

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