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Need new mobilization strategies to help bring carbon pricing to the US? Target business schools to make climate threats req'd learning.



Top business leaders in the U.S. and abroad are among the voices calling for carbon pricing systems, whether emissions trading systems or carbon taxes. Many are acting out of practical necessity as costly climate change and severe weather hazards loom, others in order to politically position themselves at the negotiating table. Some are genuinely seeking to help avert disaster and others may be acting disingenuously, but the reality is that they are all in the game. In fact, numerous companies are already implementing internal or "shadow" carbon pricing systems, participating in voluntary carbon pricing simulations, and even making the case for national and subnational governments to enact new legislation to do the same sector-wide.

Here's another piece of the puzzle they should tackle, in collaboration with universities and other stakeholder groups: target the business schools as well as related undergraduate degree programs to make climate threats and carbon pricing part of the required curriculum in order to graduate. As part of this plan, they should review the required textbooks and work with authors and publishing companies to modernize those texts and ensure they are consistent with 21st century realities.

Business schools, especially the elite universities, are the pipelines to America's boardrooms, C-suites, consultancies, and start-ups. We should follow the adage "get them while they're young" and inculcate in them the knowledge, understanding, and expectation that mitigating industrial carbon pollution will be and should be part of their everyday professional experiences.

What actions do you propose?

This proposal calls for leading voices in the business community — including influential entrepreneurs, company executives, small business owners, scholars, economists, and pundits—to collaborate with business school presidents and faculty to incorporate climate threats into their program curriculums and degree requirements. Deep understanding and expectation of carbon pricing should be required for graduation. They should also work with textbook publishers and authors to modernize required books and ensure they are consistent with the 21st century realities of climate change.

The purpose of this initiative is to start inculcating the expectation and know-how of carbon pricing even before the country's future business leaders arrive at the points in their careers when they're making pertinent decisions. ("Get them while they're young" is a strategy that has long been deployed in the realm of K-12 textbooks, particularly with respect to climate change. The way that Texas, through its purchasing power, determines the textbooks for the rest of the country is illustrative.)  Ideally, as future generations graduate into the work world and rise up through the ranks, those ranks would be increasingly filled with professionals who will advocate for carbon pricing—internally within the company as well as via public policy—or at least not actively oppose it.

The challenges expected in implementing this proposal include the following. Unless business schools are internally considering the same changes outlined in this proposal, their leaders may be resistant to those on the outside pushing them to implement them. The often-political charged nature of the debate may also ward them off, if they are skittish about avoiding accusations of pursuing a political agenda at the expense of academic quality. However, climate change is increasingly an economy-wide and mainstream concern, providing considerable cover to those who would undertake the proposal. Business school graduates who've picked up savvy and training in carbon pricing would have a competitive edge over their peers who did not. Finally, among the other risks and disadvantages of the proposal are the time lag between implementation and results. However, given the enormity and urgency of the task of fighting climate change, it's time to pursue every reasonable avenue available to us—including this one.

Who will take these actions?

Key leaders in the private sector—including influential entrepreneurs, company executives, small business owners, scholars, economists, and pundits— would be called upon to press business school presidents and faculty to deeply incorporate climate threats and carbon pricing into their program curriculums and degree requirements.

Business school textbook publishers would be called upon to work with the broader coalition to update or revamp their books accordingly.

Climate change advocacy groups would be called upon to work with the business community to propose curricula changes, promote and support the initiative in the media and within policymaker circles, and hold those with competing motives accountable to ensure that the curriculum changes are truly helpful to the greater cause.

To the extent that public universities with business programs are targeted, state lawmakers and governors should be called upon to encourage or compel these actions.


What challenges will be faced in implementing this proposal and how will they be overcome?

(As this section allows only 200 characters, likely an error, the question is addressed in the main proposal section.)

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

The short answer is zero. The longer answer is that the direct impact on carbon pollution would not be quantifiable, as with most other initiatives to influence the influentials into taking bolder action on climate change. That said, the impact from this proposal could be far-reaching and lasting, with ramifications throughout the business community.

What are other key benefits?

Even if these future business leaders do not end up running companies of their own or providing counsel to other businesses, they will be part of the public debate on climate change in one way or another—whether they're analyzing the same issues in a different industry or arguing the case at the dinner table. It behooves us to ensure that they will be climate change advocates, as well as increase their numbers so they outmatch those who are resistant to taking action on climate. This is one promising way to shape future generations' thinking around carbon pricing and broader climate change issues, and we should pursue it.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The financial costs borne by the business members of the coalition would likely be minimal, especially if they are already outspoken advocates of carbon pricing. The costs of the outlined changes by business degree programs depend on the scope of their actions and the extent to which they've already incorporated climate change policy into their curriculums. Rather than economic, the potential risks are likely to be more political in nature. This initiative could trigger a counter-effort by corporate interests with clashing goals but deeper pockets.

Time line

5-15 years: Building coalition and developing plans; proposing, revising, and implementing curriculum changes; first wave of new textbook editions comes out; the first wave of students begin to experience the changes.

15-50 years: More students undergo the new curriculums; the alumni network of properly equipped graduates grows; more professionals in the business world embrace carbon pricing and other climate change mitigation policies.

Related proposals



World Bank, "What Is Carbon Pricing?", accessed June 13, 2015,

World Bank, "Testing carbon pricing in Brazil: 20 companies join an innovative simulation," Dec. 10, 2014,

CDP, "Global corporate use of carbon pricing," accessed June 13, 2015,

"CEOs of 43 Companies, Including Allianz, Call for Action on Climate Change," Insurance Journal, Apr. 17, 2015,

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, "Taking action on climate change is good business strategy,: Jan. 30, 2015,

Ceres, "Major U.S. Companies Call for Climate Change Action," Sept. 19, 2013,