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Harvard Business School Students Put Forth Sustainability Solutions at Annual Climate Symposium

Klarman Hall at Harvard Business School hosted the annual Climate Symposium on Nov. 18 and 19.
Klarman Hall at Harvard Business School hosted the annual Climate Symposium on Nov. 18 and 19. By Robbie H Edwards
By Adelaide E. Parker, Contributing Writer

The Harvard Business School’s annual student-run Climate Symposium drew more than 500 attendees to Klarman Hall and raised more than $100,000 over Nov. 18 and 19.

Organized by the HBS Energy & Environment, Sustainability, and Food & Agriculture clubs, the Climate Symposium is one of the largest student-run events at the Business School. Over the course of the weekend, attendees participated in networking events, watched panel discussions from professors and industry experts, and participated in a startup pitch competition — all centered around this year’s topic, “Adopting Climate Solutions at Scale.”

Panels included discussions on decarbonizing farming, scaling green energy generation, establishing carbon markets, and developing climate solutions in the Global South. The event also featured “inspiring keynotes from Terrence Keeley, Stephane Hallegatte, Katie Rae, and Eric Toone,” Climate Symposium co-chair Audrey B. Atencio wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

Following the symposium’s discussions and keynote speeches, attendees competed in a startup competition, with more than 50 entrants vying for funding from the symposium and free legal consulting from DLA Piper, a Climate Symposium sponsor.

This year’s competition winner was MacroCycle, a company that upcycles plastic waste into reusable resin. The runner-up was Oxylus Energy, a renewable energy startup, and the symposium’s “Crowd Favorite” was Arbon, a company that uses a “humidity-swing” technology to capture CO2.

Valeria Tiberi, another of the symposium’s co-chairs, said this year’s topic and startup competition reflected a “strong sense of urgency to deploying climate solutions.” Tiberi said the aim of the conference was to understand how business strategies can be used to implement existing climate solutions in a widespread manner.

Tiberi sees this conference as part of a broader effort to “ensure that there is a policy infrastructure that allows these technologies to be adopted and create sustainable development paths for different countries.”

“We felt the solutions are there — there are some very cool new technologies and innovation going on in the space — but we felt there are sometimes policy roadblocks or issues and challenges in terms of capital development,” she said.

Planning for the symposium began in May, when leaders of the HBS Energy & Environment, Sustainability, and Food & Agriculture clubs came together to elect three Climate Symposium co-chairs. Over the next six months, symposium organizers worked to secure donors and select panelists and keynote speakers.

This year’s symposium was sponsored by 24 finance and energy companies, including AES, Chevron, and Boston Consulting Group. Tiberi said this symposium represented an important opportunity for Business School students interested in sustainable energy and climate policy to gain exposure to featured companies ahead of summer recruiting.

Tiberi said she hopes to widely publicize the Climate Symposium to students, recruiters, and companies in 2024.

“Next year, our focus will really be on marketing,” she said.

The Climate Symposium plans to increase startup competition prizes and work to gain more sponsors ahead of next year’s conference, Tiberi added.

“Together, we can make a substantial impact in the fight against climate change,” Atencio wrote on LinkedIn.

As the Climate Symposium grows, Tiberi said she hopes it will expand its focus beyond energy and green finance to engage with all aspects of the business world.

“Everyone can contribute to the climate fight,” Tiberi said. “Every job is a climate job now.”

—Staff writer Adelaide E. Parker can be reached at adelaide.parker@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @adelaide_prkr.

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Harvard Business SchoolEventsSustainability