Kellogg hosts first Climate Conference
By: Carolina Madrid ’23 and Matthew Steggeman ’23, Two-Year MBA Program students and the conference co-chairs
We were grateful to bring the inaugural Climate Conference to fruition alongside a team of 16 first- and second-year students in the Full-Time MBA program. We have grown tremendously as people and thought leaders, and we look forward to future climate conferences, as well as carrying forward winning climate strategies in the workplace.
On February 22, nearly 300 attendees joined us for the inaugural Climate Conference. Students from both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago were in attendance, along with Kellogg alumni and our speakers, sponsors and industry participants. This year’s conference theme was Winning with Climate: Building Stronger Businesses for a Resilient Planet, reflecting the opportunity to leverage climate as a strategy for a competitive edge. The conference had three goals:
Inspire attendees to leverage equitable, policy-aligned climate strategies.
Connect attendees with other like-minded individuals.
Empower attendees to build scalable climate solutions, both as new ventures and part of their day-to-day.
The day began with Professor Meghan Busse outlining the implications, challenges and opportunities brought about by climate change. Professor Busse reminded us that as difficult a problem as climate change is, it also presents the greatest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution. The event’s keynote speaker was CEO Jimmy Samartzis, who outlined issues within transportation — a key industry in need of decarbonization. He also highlighted his work advancing the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuel. We discussed the role of government with Professor David Besanko, who moderated a conversation with Congressman Sean Casten, a Democrat representing Illinois’ sixth district.
The pair discussed recent legislation that provides tailwinds for the energy transition, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Professor Megan Kashner moderated a panel on climate change and equity, reminding us of the opportunity to facilitate the energy transition in a way that does not perpetuate systemic issues that breed inequalities among our communities.
Conference attendees also had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on various topics, including life after business school in the entrepreneurship and investing worlds as well as in corporate and consulting functions. We held discussions on energy, infrastructure, finance, and consumer goods, giving attendees an up close look at their areas of interest.
Our afternoon plenaries consisted of a session on building climate startups, and we closed out our day discussing how to scale climate solutions with LanzaTech COO Carl Wolf, moderated by Professor Dave Chen. When the conference wrapped up, participants were given the chance to network and continue the discussion with speakers and panelists.