Talking about large-scale problems

3 minute read

Food production contributes around 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This is almost 19 times the amount from the commercial aviation industry, and meat contributes 60 percent of GHG emissions from food production.

Within the first few weeks of the MBA commencing, I had learnt more than I could possibly imagine about topics that I rarely spent time thinking about. During the two-week induction (also known as launch), I met what seemed like at least 150 classmates. We spoke about a wide range of topics: climate change, sustainable fashion, supply chains, clean energy, venture capitalists, health, education and government policy. However, the one fact which shocked me the most was the one at the beginning of this article.

Having spent most of my career in the energy sector and e-commerce, I typically thought about the latest innovations in the tech space and how rapidly things are changing and less so about more urgent issues like climate change and sustainable food systems. In fact, it is rarely called climate change these days: it is more of a climate emergency. I quickly realised that this was an area I needed to familiarise myself with.

Over the course of the term, I had exposure to climate change and other similar areas of concern that the leaders of today and future leaders should have on their minds:

1. We had an assignment on diagnosing why Danone, a company that prioritized ESG (environmental social governance), was having trouble performing well financially and faced the departure of a CEO who was adamant about driving the ESG focus. Many companies are taking steps to take the environment into account when growing their businesses. But how do you achieve that balance of profit and purpose? Are shareholders willing to trade returns for environmental consciousness? These questions barely scratch the surface of the challenges faced by today’s businesses.

2. I attended a debate at the Oxford Union entitled, ‘This house would move beyond meat’, which touched on the contributions of the food industry towards carbon emissions, ethical concerns for animal rights, and the plight of people who depend on all meat diets for health reasons. Another debate I attended was entitled, ‘This house believes that businesses will not adapt in time to address the social and environmental sustainability crises facing our world’. This debate saw discussions on whether businesses are doing enough and whether governments should step in to slow down the impact of climate change.

3. My classmates who lead the Climate OBN (Oxford Business Network) ran a mock COP 27 workshop, which involved a brief presentation on the basics of carbon pricing followed by inter-country negotiations, where groups of students represented a country and were asked to build out their strategy on how to advance their country’s priorities in carbon pricing discussions. They then had to work on coalition building and negotiation with other countries, before submitting their final proposal.

Taking part in these conversations has improved my depth of knowledge of the climate emergency and the innovations happening around us to improve the situation: the rise in plant-based meat and cultured (read: lab-created) meat, carbon taxes, and net-zero goals. The beauty of an Oxford MBA is having access to discussions within and outside the School on virtually any topic. With an MBA class of 355 students, it is relatively difficult to find someone who doesn’t share a similar interest with you. Over the last few months, I have also widened my targeted post-MBA career from the initial consumer tech conglomerates to more niche startups that are using tech to address larger-scale issues.

I truly believe that learning never stops, and being here has given me the opportunity to learn about areas I knew very little about. While there are not enough hours in the day to soak in the overload of information, it is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time to realise how much more goes on in the world than what you initially thought.