01 Mar 2017

Students Forecast Climate Change’s Impact

Students plot pivots for companies feeling the heat
by Dan Morrell


Professors Mike Toffel and Marco Iansiti presented the more than 900 RC students in their Technology & Operations Management sections this past fall with an open challenge: choose an organization whose operating model will be significantly affected by climate change, and tell us what it should be doing to address it. Students posted responses to the prompt on HBS’s Open Knowledge—a public blogging platform developed by the School’s Digital Initiative to facilitate online and offline conversations around classroom topics. Responses ranged from oil companies to ice-cream makers and almost everything in between. We’ve excerpted a few of them here.

Shake Shack

Data point: “The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 14.5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are a result of livestock, and beef and dairy production account for 65% of livestock emissions.”

Fix: Give Up Beef. “Given Shake Shack’s position as a mission-driven and fast-growing brand, and its commitment to ‘Standing for Something Good’, Shake Shack should lead the charge on developing a non-beef burger.”
—E. Jordan Taylor (MBA 2018)


Data point: “Last December, Forbes reported that the ‘apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second-largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.’”

Fix: More Consumer Education. “While the corporation’s internal practices greatly impact the environment, H&M believes that 26% of the greenhouse gas emissions in a garment’s life cycle [occur] after the product is sold to the end consumer (the disposal and maintenance of the clothes). In order to really move the needle in the reduction of greenhouse gases, customers need to play a more significant role.”
— Piersten Gaines (MBA 2018)

Vail Ski Resort

Data point: “The typical ski resort needs 100–105 days of skiing to secure the average industry profit margin of 6.5%–7%. Fewer visits put pressure on Vail’s profitability, and to illustrate the impact, Vail recorded a $2 million loss in the second quarter of 2008 compared to 2007.”

Fix: Become an All-Weather Destination. “Vail should... become a recreational center that also offers skiing. By making outdoor activities its core business, Vail can build a community where people can spend time irrespective of the time in the year.”
—Wissam Abourizk (MBA 2018)

Read more student solutions to the Climate Change Challenge here.


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