It’s well-known that the biggest opportunities in business often come from society’s biggest challenges. Taking advantage of that notion, Columbia Business School is planning to make a big bet on climate change.
As global temperatures continue to rise, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities, Dean Costis Maglaras believes that an ecosystem of startups, early-stage companies and established corporations will increasingly create solutions to the threats posed by climate change. In much the same way that technology has transformed the way business has been done in the past quarter of a center, dealing with the effects of global warming will present a vast array of opportunities for business.
On a tour of the school’s new Manhattanville campus, Dean Maglaras concedes that no one yet has all the answers to how companies will transition to a low-carbon state or exactly what opportunities will arise from what is society’s biggest threat. But he pledges that the school intends to stake out an early lead in the field by having its faculty develop more courses on clean tech, breakthrough technologies and climate finance.
‘IF YOU ASK YOURSELF WHAT WILL TRANSFORM BUSINESS, IT WILL BE CLIMATE CHANGE’
It was some 50 years ago that a professor at Columbia University in its center for geophysics corned the term “global warming.” Maglaras now wants to make sure that the business school leads the way in the study of how the corporate sector will be impacted and can impact climate change.
“Technology has transformed the world of business in the past 30 years,” he tells Poets&Quants. “If you ask yourself what will transform business in the future, it will be climate change so we are investing in that. This is an important topic. We’ll explore what is the role business should play in thinking and addressing this issue and what role should business research should play to educate about solutions to the problem and what should CBS do more broadly.”
Maglaras believes that climate concerns will increasingly impact the business school’s students in their career paths, creating new opportunities and challenges in a vast array of MBA fields, including asset management, investment banking, consulting, technology, supply chain management and operations.
A CBS professor since 1998, Maglaras became dean in July of 2019, succeeding Glenn Hubbard who led the school for 15 years. An expert in operations research, data analytics and quantitative finance, Maglaras was instrumental in updating the school’s curriculum to include more instruction in data-driven and technology-based decision-making. He pioneered the school’s technology-and-analytics curriculum and also helped create a new master’s degree in business analytics, offered jointly by the business and engineering schools, which prepares students for jobs as data scientists and analysts.
EFFORTS WILL GET A MAJOR BOOST FROM A NEW COLUMBIA CLIMATE SCHOOL
The school already offers MBA students a “Climate Change and Business Program” focused on using markets and business skills to identify and implement solutions to mitigate, adapt to, or reverse climate change and its impacts on society globally. The program offers courses, experiential learning opportunities, research, conferences and seminars that develop connections to bridge theory and practice.
The school has a series of existing electives in the subject that range from “The Business of Climate Change: Investing and Managing in a Changing Environment” and “Climate Finance” to “New Developments in Energy Markets” and “Energy and Resources Economics.” These are in addition to other existing courses that tackle climate change issues, including “Business in Society: Doing Well by Doing Good?” and “Finance and Sustainability.”
The business school’s efforts in this area will get a major boost when a new Columbia Climate School is built next to Columbia Business School’s new campus. The first new school to be created at the university in more than a quarter of a century, the school’s launch was announced in mid-2020 and welcomed its first class of 97 students in a new MA in Climate & Society this fall. The 12-month interdisciplinary program trains students to understand and address the impacts of climate change and climate variability on society and the environment.
Maglaras believes that the addition of the Climate School and a group of students keenly interested in studying the topic will lead to invaluable collaborations with Columbia’s MBA student population. Among other things, there are plans for a one-year MS in Climate Finance that would be a partnership with the Climate School to launch in the fall of 2023 or 2024. Columbia isn’t the only major university to move in this direction. Georgetown University recently launched a new M.S. in Environment and Sustainability Management, a cross-disciplinary program that combines business and environmental science.
CLIMATE CONCERNS WILL BE EMBEDDED IN CORE COURSES & NEW ELECTIVE OFFERINGS
The new emphasis on climate change will impact both the core curriculum where an increasing number of cases will be embedded in core courses as well as result in far more elective offerings at the school.
“It will be necessary to understand some of these tensions that are introducing so much change and disruption into the economy,” he says. “Ten years ago, we grappled with digital transformation and how we can add courses and technology and data and analytics for our students.”
Now, the focus will be on courses that bring important insights into the role business can play in solving the climate change challenge. “Our priorities moving forward are how to support students and tp invest and expand our coursework in climate and entrepreneurship,” he adds.