ClimateCAP: Proving That For The Top B-Schools, Sustainability Is Not Just A Buzzword

Participants at the 2023 ClimateCAP summit, held at UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business. Courtesy photos

In graduate business education, sustainability is more than just a buzzword — it’s a conversation that is shaping the future. Discussions on climate change and sustainability are not only relevant but also imperative, and these discussions have surged to the forefront of business school talk.

“Climate change has impacted where and how we live, and has had significant impacts on international business, politics and society – it’s one of the most pressing issues of our time and I couldn’t imagine a more important and complex problem to solve,” says Duke Fuqua School of Business ClimateCAP fellow Samuel Woo, an MBA student at UCLA Anderson.

The ClimateCAP Initiative – a multi-school partnership hosted by Fuqua within its EDGE (Energy, Development, and the Global Environment) Center has been making waves in the MBA world since its founding in 2016, fostering crucial conversations between industry experts and MBAs.

“With ClimateCAP, we’re trying to help the next generation of business leaders understand not just how to sort through the policy or science implications of climate change, but to understand how they will actually affect business decision-making and investments in the future,” EDGE Managing Director Katie Kross tells Poets&Quants.


Duke’s Katie Kross: “ClimateCAP Fellows want to connect with each other. They want to learn more from companies, they want to hear from these changemakers, and they want to dive into projects.”

Climate is foremost on the minds of young people. Gen Z make up 33% of the world’s population; half in a recent poll say they’re focused on working for environmentally friendly companies.

When it launched in 2016, ClimateCAP’s mission was to fill a gap in climate education. While some of its initiatives might impact a wide range of people, ClimateCAP is geared exclusively toward MBAs. Kross says the staples of the initiative are its annual summit, its fellowship, and its virtual speaker series, MBA Academy.

ClimateCAP’s fellowship launched this year. Kross and EDGE Associate Director and ClimateCAP Program Lead Jessica Wingert agree it is designed for a special type of MBA.

“What excites me the most about the ClimateCAP Fellowship is its vision to connect MBAs with students from different schools who are passionate about climate,” says ClimateCAP fellow Grace Lam. “The application is open to all MBA students across the world, which is an attractive proposition as you don’t often get the chance to network with other MBA students outside of HBS. I feel so privileged to be one of the twelve fellows from 9 different business schools in the inaugural cohort.

“There is a strong emphasis on diversity in terms of our interest areas, prior work experience, backgrounds, and schools, and I am already learning a lot from every one of them. The ClimateCAP Fellowship is a fantastic opportunity to diversify my perspectives and expand my network.”


ClimateCAP’s 12 fellows are each tackling a climate action project of their choice over the course of a year, and as pioneers do, they’re helping to pave the way in a very collaborative way by co-designing their learning landscape. Applications for the 2024 fellowship open in October.

“​​The opportunity to engage with like-minded MBA students as part of the ClimateCAP Fellowship has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring. By working through tough problems together, I have been able to widen my perspective, diversify my skillset, and think creatively about the challenges and solutions that lie ahead,” says ClimateCAP fellow Mackenzie Audino, an MEM/MBA at Duke.

What better way to replicate real-world conversations than to gather an array of MBAs from all over and foster conversation? This is what the summit does. The first ClimateCAP Summit took place at Fuqua in 2018, and it was an absolute hit. In its inaugural year, more than 150 MBAs from 17 B-Schools attended.

“MBAs need to understand the business implications of climate, and a lot of programs either aren’t there already, or are in the process of starting to build that capability – so ClimateCAP is trying to fill the gap in education by bringing together students and business leaders to talk about these business implications – both the opportunities and the risks,” says Wingert.

The first ClimateCAP Summit, held at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2018. Courtesy photo


The summit has since been hosted at different schools annually – including UVA Darden, Texas McCombs, and Kellogg – and attendance has had an upwards trajectory. The next summit will be in February of 2024, hosted by Michigan Ross, and there’s high demand.

Duke’s Jessica Wingert: More students are “recognizing the importance of these conversations even if they aren’t going directly into a climate-specific role”

Since the start of the summit, attendance has grown to 300 MBAs, and amazingly there were another 300 on the waitlist for the event this past year. The summit sold out within an hour of registration opening.

“The ClimateCAP summit was a unique opportunity to meet the full cohort of fellows from across the country in-person. It was energizing to hear everyone’s stories and see examples of how so many different approaches exist to tackling the climate crisis – all necessary and part of a broader solution. The same applies to all the inspiring MBA students I met at the conference beyond the cohort, as well!” says ClimateCAP fellow Genny Silva.

The host schools benefit as well. In planning the summit, the host engages with a wide variety of people from a variety of industries – and their knowledge base only grows.

“The amazing thing that happened at the first summit was this partnership of schools to advance this conversation. As we were beginning to think about climate education at Fuqua, we found many other academic centers, educators, staff, and faculty were also having these conversations,” says Wingert.

ClimateCAP now has 38 partner schools who come together to discuss the ins and outs of what’s going well, how they are integrating climate conversations into core curriculum, what challenges they’re facing, and what resources they’re using.

Of course, not all B-Schools can volunteer to host the summit, but to the joy of Kross, Wingert, and fellow enthusiasts, this event has ignited a flame in others to host their very own summit spin-offs.

“There’s always been pockets of students passionate about sustainability at different schools, but they tend to be somewhat small and mighty. Now, not only are these conversations growing within the schools, but more are also recognizing the importance of these conversations even if they aren’t going directly into a climate-specific role. We’re fostering these relationships across schools in a different way,” says Wingert.


With accessibility in mind, ClimateCAP is also hosting a new virtual learning series, The MBA Academy, which will be a monthly virtual series of keynote speakers during the traditional academic year.

“For me,” Katie Kross says, “maybe the most remarkable piece of the ClimateCAP story is the groundswell of interest from students who recognize that in the course of their leadership careers, climate change is going to be front and center. Almost no matter what career they have, even if they’re not planning to join a sustainability department or clean tech company, they are going to be impacted by some aspects of climate change in the future.

“These students want to connect with each other. They want to learn more from companies, they want to hear from these changemakers, they want to dive into projects. We see more students every year who want to use their business skills and apply them to solving the climate crisis or contribute to new innovations that will address social and environmental issues.”

As urgency increases to fight climate change, so does a passion for finding solutions, and exploring those solutions is well underway.

“I came back to school because I saw the natural environment I grew up in vanishing and I wanted to do something about it,” says ClimateCAP fellow Nick Rojeas, an MBA/MS students at Michigan Ross, and one of the co-chairs planning the next Summit. “It’s the ‘why’ that drives me to do the hard work with others we need in order to save our planet and build a fulfilling career at the same time.”


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