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

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. 

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