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In Sweeping Report, Europe’s Top B-Schools Urge Business To Act On Climate

Climate change isn’t a problem for political leaders to solve alone. Business has a responsibility to help, and to lead, as well.

So says a new coalition of business schools in a report today (November 10) at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, underway in Glasgow, Scotland. As leaders from around the world convened to call for stronger carbon cutting targets and other measures aimed at reversing the rise of global temperatures and stopping the increasingly devastating disasters that result, eight of Europe’s top B-schools released a massive report containing a “toolkit” aimed at spurring action by business.

HEC Paris, INSEAD, London Business School, Switzerland’s IMD, Spain’s IESE and IE, Cambridge Judge, and Oxford Saїd — which altogether train more than 55,000 students and executives per year, and which boast alumni in excess of 400,000 — have united to accelerate the business response to the climate crisis and “highlight the important role academic institutions must play in providing leadership in times of emergency,” deans of the eight B-schools said in a joint statement under the banner of the new coalition, Business Schools for Climate Leadership.

“Now, as we face one of the greatest challenges of our time — global warming — there has never been a more critical moment for collaboration between our institutions,” the deans said.

A LONG-TERM COLLABORATION

Peter Tufano, former dean of Oxford University’s Said Business School and co-author of the seventh chapter of a major new report on climate change

Calling their coalition “an alliance of business academic thought leaders,” the group is urging the global business community to drive and accelerate business activities toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They released their 93-page report at the Sustainable Innovation Forum hosted by Climate Action on the Scottish Event Campus at the UN Climate Change Conference COP 26 in Glasgow.

Their goal: to support climate leaders and organizations through research into best practices, and through collaboration across sectors and generations “to accelerate the business community’s response to climate change.” They intend to raise awareness of the urgency for climate change mitigation and adaptation, “seeking to have an impact through joint outreach to all eight alumni communities.”

The initial collaboration will focus on eight topics, with each school taking the lead on one area of specialty:

  • Climate Change and Inequality (INSEAD)
  • Decarbonizing Business (HEC Paris)
  • Global Strategy in a World Transformed: business strategy and geopolitics (IESE Business School)
  • Technology and Innovation as a Climate Change Solution (IE Business School)
  • Business Transformation and Climate Change (The International Institute for Management Development)
  • Risk management and the green energy transition (Oxford Saïd)
  • Climate change and nature, what business needs to know (Cambridge Judge)
  • Climate Standards and Enterprise Value (London Business School)

But the collaboration will not end with the closing of COP26 later this month.

“We recognize the need to initiate the search for answers, which will galvanize and promote meaningful action,” the deans said. “BC4SL builds on the integrated climate leadership expressed across our individual curricula and faculty research, providing the means to cooperate on a long-term basis. We mean to build the foundations with which businesses can lead global action to collaborate across sectors to limit climate change and to promote meaningful and visible progress. Our Post-COP26 Agenda will bring together our collective faculties to share and develop new insights on the rapidly evolving and urgent agenda.”

Adds business leader Paul Polman, former Procter & Gamble president for Western Europe: “New partnerships are essential for bringing speed and scale to our response to the climate crisis. Siloed thinking and institutional rivalry are our enemies in these urgent times, and I congratulate these academic leaders for setting a collaborative example, and for seeking to work hand-in-glove with business. I urge them to be as ambitious as possible, and to push each other to new limits of innovation and ingenuity.”

LONG-TIME OXFORD DEAN AMONG REPORT’S AUTHORS

Peter Tufano, who stepped down as dean of Oxford Saїd earlier this year, is one of the authors of the new report. Tufano, who still serves as the school’s Peter Moores professor of finance, is the co-author of the seventh chapter on climate change and risk management, which explores why companies should integrate sustainability into their strategy and examine best case practices from DSM, Nestle, and Maersk. The chapter also addresses some of the open questions facing leaders such as how to avoid social costs while still meeting decarbonization commitments and how to work with governments, regulators and NGOs to achieve climate goals.

After spending 10 years as the fourth dean of the Saїd School, Tufano bid farewell to the school in June 2021. Tufano earned all of his Ivy League bona fides from Harvard, from his bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard College, to his MBA and then a PhD in business economics at Harvard Business School. He then spent 22 years as an HBS professor, including several in the top leadership ranks of the school as a senior associate dean.

“The IPCC makes clear the urgency of climate risk, with its consequences affecting every part of society. Accordingly, all of businesses’ stakeholders now demand action,” writes Tufano, along with co-authors Richard Barker, deputy dean and professor of accounting at Oxford Saїd, and Anette Mikes, associate professor of accounting. “Climate has moved from being an externality — a cost that businesses impose on society — to being an internality, a direct cost on businesses themselves.”

Read the entire Business Schools for Climate Leadership report here.

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