The Business Challenges Of A Warming World: Kellogg Hosts 3rd ClimateCAP Summit

Audience members listen during a discussion  of “Climate as Strategy” during the 2022 ClimateCAP Summit at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management on February 26th

In the climate crisis facing the planet, we may be running out of time. Last August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report explaining how the world was on track to exceed 1.5° of warming. According to the IPCC, if the planet moves beyond this temperature increase, our ecosystem will suffer irreversible damage. In February, the IPCC released a follow-up report, urging action and declaring that if we don’t radically change our approach to climate change — in public policy, in business, and in our day-to-day life — there may be irreversible climate change outcomes.

As Oxford University’s Dr. Laurence Wainwright told Poets&Quants in a recent interview: “This is the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. By my estimates, we probably have about 10 years to change our ways. And if we leave it longer than that I, unfortunately, believe it’s probably going to be too late and we are going to find ourselves in a serious mess — one that we probably won’t be able to get out of.

Over the next decade, Wainwright and other experts say, humanity faces a choice: Whether to take measures to reverse climate change, or whether to suffer the consequences as it gets catastrophically worse. Business, prodded and guided by the talent coming out of business schools, has a major role to play — and a lot of clout when it comes to actual, concrete measures to mitigate climate risks.

Klaus Weber and Megan Kashner speak February 26th during the second day of the 2022 ClimateCAP Summit at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management


That’s the view underpinning the ClimateCAP Summit, an event that gathers MBA students and thought leaders from 23 leading business schools who, together with industry leaders, discuss the risks and opportunities of our warming world. This year, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management hosted the third summit, which took place from February 25-26th.

“ClimateCap was invented as an opportunity for MBA students to understand how climate change will affect business in the future, and the types of opportunities it will generate for forward thinking business leaders and entrepreneurs,” says Katie Kross, managing director of the Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and founder of the ClimateCAP summit. “These are all exciting opportunities for MBAs to understand and respond to.”

This year’s event was planned by 15 students, eight faculty staff advisers, and 13 industry advisers; students chose the theme: “The future we must, can, and will build.” They took the feedback from past ClimateCAP events – held at Duke University and University of Virgina – to make this one even better. This was our opportunity to augment the impact and experience,” says Jessica Matthys, Kellogg MBA student and co-chair of the ClimateCAP student planning committee.

Since climate change is rarely included in the MBA core curriculum, ClimateCAP aims to bridge this knowledge gap. Kross says it’s essential that MBA students equip themselves with the necessary skills to address climate change, as it will inevitably be part of their careers moving forward. “Whether students are planning on becoming corporate leaders, investors, or entrepreneurs, being aware of climate risks and opportunities is an essential skill that all MBA students should have.”


It’s a good sign, then, that this year’s ClimateCAP summit had the highest number of MBA attendees yet. Klaus Weber, Thomas G. Ayers Chair in energy resource management and professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, says that the event attracted MBA students with diverse backgrounds and experiences, all of which saw the need for a holistic approach to solving climate change.

“We basically had a full auditorium,” Weber says.

Although our world’s issues are currently dire, Weber says that there was a lot of energy and hope at the event; it brought together people who are motivated to solve the problem. The speakers — including Patagonia’s Andy Fletcher and Ernst & Young’s Bruno Sarda — didn’t pretend that these problems didn’t exist, but instead gave real tools and advice that students need in order to confront these issues head-on.

“This was not a fluffy, feel-good sustainability conference,” says Meghan Busse, Kellogg associate professor of strategy. “It was a conference that addressed a problem that we’ve known about for 30 years, in which our current generation of business leaders haven’t made the progress that they’ve needed to.”

“The energy in the room was palpable,” says Matthys. “People wanted to connect with each other across schools and take advantage of being in-person for the conference.”

Jessica Matthys, Kellogg MBA student and co-chair of the ClimateCAP student planning committee, speaks February 25th, the first day of the 2022 ClimateCAP Summit at Northwestern Kellogg

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