This article was originally published by MBAGRADSCHOOLS, a leading source of information for prospective MBA students.

Climate change is not a problem for the future generation, it’s here and now. As the clock keeps ticking, HBS MBA students are bringing forward innovative solutions to climate challenges. In this article, we are sharing four of their remarkable stories.

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Tackling climate change through innovation

It’s not news that carbon dioxide emissions are a global concern in the fight against climate change. By achieving net zero emissions, societies can mitigate the impacts of climate change and create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. With support from the Business & Environment Initiative (BEI), these four Harvard Business School (HBS) 2023 MBA students are leading innovative projects driving sustainability forward. Keep reading to discover their inspiring stories.

Chidalu Onyenso: Empowering small business owners’ self-sufficiency

Climate change and the energy crisis have disproportionately impacted underdeveloped countries and the most vulnerable populations with them. These nations often lack the resources and infrastructure to adapt to the effects of climate change. After experiencing numerous energy blackouts when visiting Nigeria, Chidalu Onyenso realized having limited access to reliable energy hampers development efforts. It particularly hinders access to economic opportunities for small and medium businesses.

“How do you run a factory on that? A hospital? Or any business, really?” asks Chidalu. (00:53) Chidalu was determined to empower those being left behind in the push toward a sustainable future. “So I started delving deep into that and researching renewables and finding out how we can build ways for small, medium businesses to access financing for solar,” Chidalu explains. (01:11)

In 2022, Chidalu founded her fintech company Earthbond, with the mission to empower Nigerians and their businesses with affordable financing for clean and reliable energy. In 2023, Earthbond was a finalist in HBS’ New Venture Competition and plans to expand to other African nations.

Karan Khimji: Eliminating carbon dioxide from the air

Karan Khimji felt compelled to play his part in mitigating climate change after seeing the effects first-hand in Oman. Together with a co-founder, he created 44.01, the name is taken from the molecular mass of carbon dioxide.

“We take CO2 that’s been captured by our partners, and inject it into these very special rocks that we find in certain parts of the world. Then we react that CO2 with this host rock, to convert it into another rock: calcium carbonate. With that process, we can take CO2 and eliminate it from existence,” Karan explains. (02:54)

With this chemical and geology-driven approach, Karan can help lead the decarbonization transition anywhere with a source of the rocks, called peridotite. Karan says his experience at Harvard Business School was vital in helping him take his company and its mission forward. “When I came to HBS I think that’s one thing I learned. How to lead an organization, lead a team, build organizational structure, understand organizational culture, and how all those intangible elements of a functioning company actually feed into implementing a longer-term vision.” (04:09)

Angela Noori Son: At the intersection of climate change and workforce development.

Another challenge in fighting climate change is the shortage of labor to support the energy transition. “There’s just simply not enough people to actually help with the decarbonization,” says Angela Noori Son. (01:24)

There is an urgent demand for skilled workers trained in blue-collar jobs like electricians and HVAC technicians. These jobs are essential for the functioning of society and attracting talent to these roles can be challenging as many young people prioritize attending college for career opportunities. Angela Noori Son wants to help address that labor shortage. “We need to make sure that whatever jobs they get in climate, are actually good jobs. I want to launch a venture, this year, that hopefully helps to address some of those issues at the intersection of workforce development and climate,” she tells us. (01:36)

Investments in education and training programs are needed to equip individuals with the skills required for these overlooked roles.

Dylan Small: Exploring green cement to decarbonize real estate development

Dylan Small has a background in engineering and architecture. Still, he wasn’t fully aware of the impact that construction had on climate change before becoming a real estate developer.

“Cities are responsible for three fourths of material consumption, of energy use, of greenhouse gas emissions, 40% allocated to buildings alone. And the way you can decarbonize is by doing it at scale and thinking about the future implications that a solution like green cement would have,” Dylan tells us. (02:10)

The energy-intensive processes involved in construction, including cement production, account for a considerable share of carbon dioxide emissions. “I had no idea that concrete was the second most used material after water, or that cement alone was responsible for 7.5% of carbon emissions” (03:20). To address this challenge, Dylan explored alternatives that could significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to traditional cement.

“I had the opportunity to work with a startup based out of MIT and an amazing team who’s working to fundamentally change the chemistry of cement in a way that is economically sustainable,” he tells us. (03:46)

By adopting green cement in construction and real estate development, the carbon footprint can be substantially reduced, making a positive impact on climate change mitigation efforts.

How HBS MBA students are empowered to fight climate change

Harvard Business School’s Business & Environment Initiative is fostering innovation and action at the intersection of business and environment. Their aim is to educate students in transforming organizations to become more environmentally sustainable. They do this through research support, hosting conferences and alumni events, and supporting student climate clubs, among other activities.

Overall, HBS equips its MBA students to become solution-driven leaders in a rapidly changing world in which natural resources are increasingly scarce and the threat of climate change is ever more urgent. If you’re a social entrepreneur inspired by these stories of innovation, and also have the ambition to mitigate climate change through the transformative power of business, joining HBS’s Business & Environment Initiative can create an ideal support system throughout your journey.