The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has announced the launch of the Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative, an ambitious new project spearheaded by Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and aimed at exploring how business innovation can be a source for pragmatic solutions to one of the world’s most urgent issues.
The initiative, which is made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor, launched with a kickoff event last week in Rosslyn.
As part of the event, Darden professor Mike Lenox, author of the forthcoming book, “Will Business Save the Earth: Innovating Our Way to Sustainability,” led a discussion with leaders in the field of corporate sustainability, including UVA alumnus Kevin Fay, an internationally recognized specialist on environmental and energy issues and vice chairman and CEO of Alcalde & Fay; John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer at United Technologies Corp. and chair of the corporate advisory board of the World Green Building Council; and Stephen Harper, global director of environment and energy policy at Intel Corp.
Climate change represents one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century, and Darden’s initiative recognizes that the ability to rise to meet the challenge will require substantive and disruptive innovation across numerous sectors, as well as a concerted resolve from business and government leaders. This Washington, D.C.-based initiative marks a bold commitment to address an issue of vital interest to both business and society, and will include leadership education, stakeholder events, applied research and nonpartisan analysis.
“Darden’s mission is to improve the world by developing responsible leaders and advancing knowledge, and business innovation to tackle climate change offers a great opportunity for business leaders to help improve the world,” Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said. “This initiative is a chance for Darden students, faculty and corporate partners to join with colleagues across the University to lead the way in how business reimagines itself in order to solve one of the most significant and singular challenges facing society.”
The school has already made sustainability a priority, and it aims to be a carbon-neutral enterprise by 2020. In 2016, Darden and UVA entered into a solar power partnership with Dominion Energy in which the school and University will purchase all of the output produced at a new 160-acre solar facility in rural Virginia.
The new initiative’s work will be led by Lenox; Erika Herz, director of research and intellectual capital at Darden’s Batten Institute; and a team of experienced scholars, educators and professionals. It will also leverage Darden’s growing presence in the Washington area to involve policymakers, congressional staffers, regulators and think tanks.
“We believe that Darden is uniquely positioned to actively engage key stakeholders – especially the business community – in order to advance innovative outcomes,” Lenox said. “Over the course of the next two years, we will create actionable insights to positively impact the policy environment and help advance progress around clean energy and climate change.”
Specific outcomes of the Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative will include:
- A biannual Sustainability Innovators’ Roundtable, bringing together a group of senior executives from diverse industries to address issues related to climate change and other environmental challenges. Briefings published following the roundtables will represent key vehicles for engaging corporate stakeholders and bridging the gap between sustainability offices and the government.
- A multi-day innovation summit in Washington that will bring together corporate and nonprofit leaders, policy experts, academics, federal regulators and the media for in-depth dialogue and a workshop that will inform a “policy playbook” that will encourage innovation in the energy industry.
- A leadership academy, modeled on UVA’s successful Emerging Leaders Program, aimed at educating policymakers and influencers, and advancing a meaningful dialogue about business innovation and climate change among a rising generation of policymakers, executives and thought leaders.
- A fellows program, providing the opportunity for UVA students to spend meaningful time in a congressional office and help bridge the human capital gap on clean energy policy.
The Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative will also produce additional research and host events on an ongoing basis.