26 Nov 2018
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New York Alumni Explore Risks and Opportunities in Climate Change

Clubs News: NY alumni delve into climate change; Dallas gets a taste of Forum
by Margie Kelley

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Clubs News

Clubs News

In partnership with the HBS Business and Environment Initiative (BEI), the HBS Club of New York tackled the issue of climate change from a business perspective in a spirited panel discussion moderated by clean energy expert and HBS Professor Emeritus Joe Lassiter.

An Investor’s Guide to Climate Change: Disruption and Opportunity, held in New York City on Nov. 13, drew a crowd of more than 70 alumni and guests, according to the event’s coordinator and club vice president, Chloe Kiernan (MBA 2008)

Lassiter explored the range of investment challenges, opportunities and strategies prompted by a changing climate with the help of a panel of four HBS alumni with expertise in finance and energy, including Hui Wen Chan (MBA 2010), Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Citigroup; Michael Ellis (MBA 2008), Managing Director and COO, Inherent Group; Claire Broido Johnson (MBA 2002), President, CBJ Energy; and Jackson Lehr (MBA 2007), Director, Distributed Energy Ventures, National Grid.

“Climate change is such a controversial topic,” says Kiernan. “So this event was a big deal, especially with Professor Lassiter as our moderator. A lot of our alumni are looking at climate change and its impact on their industries. They want to talk about it.”

Alumni explored investment risks and opportunities in climate change at HBS Club of New York panel discussion.

To get the conversation started, Lassiter sent an article about climate change to attendees in advance. Then, after an introduction from Jennifer Nash, director of the BEI, he opened the discussion by asking the audience if they thought climate change was natural or human-induced, and whether government should take slow or swift action, says Kiernan.

“He compared the result with previous gatherings around the country and found there is currently greater support for government taking swift action to address the problem.”

The panel then explored investment strategies and how business leaders consider climate change in long-term strategic planning. They also looked at how the finance sector is preparing for the global shift away from carbon-based energy, and how to factor climate change into investment strategies that emphasize sustainability.

Kiernan says there were several big messages in the discussion, starting with the fact that the panelists all agreed that the world is warming faster than scientists anticipated even a few years ago.

“For investors, a changing climate offers many opportunities in technologies to mitigate warming, such as batteries, wind, solar, electric vehicles, and plant-based proteins,” she says. “Adaptation technologies for things like flood and asset protection, also offer sound investment opportunities, as do negative emissions technologies that cool the earth.

“Alumni were urged to be the change agent and ask the tough questions,” she adds. “People overestimate the risk of pushing and prodding on climate. Find a way to do more and go faster. Take that extra bit of risk and get that extra return. We are all investors, even if just with our 401Ks. Find out how your money is being used and advocate for climate-smart investments.”

The HBS Club of NY plans to produce more climate-related events in the future. The event was part of a series of alumni events focused on climate change organized by the BEI, leading up to the BEI Alumni Conference at HBS set for the fall of 2019.

Dallas Alumni Get a ‘Taste of Forum’

The HBS Club of Dallas hosted a Taste of Forum event on November 1, where alumni got the chance to see what a forum is like, and to decide if they’re ready to join one.

“The forum is similar to a True North group or a YPO group,” says Van Sheets (MBA 1983), who helped the club launch its first two forums three years ago, following the lead of other clubs with successful forums, including Boston, New York, and Toronto.

A forum is comprised of 8 to 10 people who meet regularly to share both professional and personal challenges and discuss the questions in their lives.

HBS Club of Dallas / Taste of Forum event, held at the home of Club President Phil Migicovsky.

“It’s an intimate group meant to build trust and confidentiality over time,” says Sheets, who has applied his long experience in the YPO to create the forums for Dallas alumni. “It becomes a centering thing, a place to share ideas or concerns, about your professional and personal life. It’s a safe space.”

The event was hosted by club president Phil Migicovsky (MBA 1979), at his Dallas home, where 13 alumni got to try out a practice forum discussion led by Sheets and a professional facilitator.

“If you structure the conversation right, it’s amazing how deep it can go, very quickly,” says Sheets, adding that a typical meeting would start with an exercise to get to know each other. “We start by asking each participant, ‘what’s on your mind?’ The point is to get to those things we’re wrestling with, and get help. It could be about professional life, running a company, writing a book, or family issues.”

For the HBS Club of Dallas, forum members are asked to commit to monthly meetings and expect to remain involved “for the long term.” While that sometimes seems daunting at first to busy professionals, Sheets says it’s critical to the forum’s effectiveness.

“If you’re busy in a career, and busy with family, then two to four hours a month for a forum can seem like too much. But that’s why you need it. It’s so helpful for lots of issues,” he says. “For example, maybe your company is looking at an acquisition, or maybe your CFO is leaving. You can bounce your ideas or concerns off the group confidentially. Or if there’s an issue with your kids, or some other family matter, the group can be totally candid in ways other people in your life may not be. They can define the issue for you and help you move through it.”

Confidentiality is the key to a successful forum and many groups include some form of non-disclosure agreement as a requirement of participation. Once a forum group is up and running, the group can set its own expectations and define how strict they want to be about participation. After a few facilitated meetings, a forum group will choose its own moderator, agree on logistics, and set their own agendas.

At the conclusion of the Taste of Forum event, Sheets says participants were asked to take some time to consider forming a new group.

“We typically ask for an initial six-month commitment of monthly meetings, but we also tell people to assume it’s a much longer commitment,” says Sheets. That can mean that even if participants leave the area, they don’t have to leave the group if they can make it work. “We’ve got some guys who fly in to Dallas for their meetings.”

For more information on joining a Dallas forum, contact Van Sheets at van.sheets@gmail.com.

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Featured Alumni

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