It’s lunchtime on a recent Saturday and Melissa Little and a group of fellow Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA students are scooping gluten-free noodles, free-range chicken, and organic salad into large pans after lunch.
“We only have a few minutes to load the last of the bowls before class starts,” said Little, EWMBA 24, an energy consultant who most recently worked as a strategic energy partnerships manager at Google. She and her classmates rush carts of food down the Chou Hall elevators and load up a hatchback whose driver is waiting at the curb.
The group has completed this mad dash since October 2022, when Little kicked off a program to donate hundreds of pounds of the cohort’s uneaten lunch food to the Dorothy Day House in downtown Berkeley, which shelters and services homeless and low-income people in the area.
For Little, the program is a long-awaited feat.
During her first few Saturdays in the EWMBA program, she discovered that most of the leftover lunch food for her Saturday cohort was thrown out— from boxed lunches to trays of turkey meatballs to chocolate chip cookies.
“It drove me crazy for the rest of the school year,” Little said. “I live in Berkeley and ride my bike here past unhoused people who could be eating this.”
Little worked with Kelly McCartney, a coordinator with campus’s Bancroft Catering, to figure out how she could donate the extra food. While McCartney was eager to help, Little didn’t yet have a partner to pick up the food and make her plan work—until she started a class called Design Thinking, taught by Lecturer Dave Rochlin.
In the class, her breakout group focused on the social sector and chose to address the needs of the unhoused. Little, a member of the Haas Sustainability Task Force, was on a mission to figure out how to donate the cohort’s food to a nonprofit in Berkeley.
Rochlin’s class recommends starting with user-centered research, including on-site visits, which led Little to Dorothy Day, where she met with Executive Director Robbi Montoya.
They talked for an hour straight, discussing the complex needs of the unhoused community and, eventually, how to make a food rescue plan work. Montoya agreed to transport the extra lunches to Dorothy Day every week if Little could meet a driver to get the food to the curb, and help load it.
Andrea Carroll, a cook at Dorothy Day, now transports the food from Haas and helps figure out how to best use it to build between 100-200 dinners that night. “The fact that we don’t have to dip into our storeroom to put out delicious meals is a huge boon to our residents and the folks we provide meals to out of our back door,” she said. “It’s such a good variety of lovely, fresh food that’s really healthy.”
Little recruited classmates, including Kevin Cheng, also EWMBA 24, to help her collect and load the food each week. To stay organized, she designed a logistics system to log communication with the Dorothy Day House volunteers and map out routes from Chou Hall to downtown, even on Cal football days.
A year later, Little and Cheng continue to volunteer together every Saturday. Cheng, who had volunteered with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project as a Cal undergraduate, said he enjoys serving hot meals to the community. So when he learned about Little’s project, he wanted to help give back, as well as use what he’s learned about problem-solving at Haas. “It’s a way to create opportunities for reducing waste and redirect food for good,” he said.
Rochlin said he was thrilled to learn about the successful outcome of an enterprise that had launched in his class. “This is what we hope to see,” he said. “Haas is at its best when the students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it outside in the world —and it’s even better when they create impact for populations in need. It’s a perfect example of Beyond Yourself.”
Haas is at its best when the students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it outside in the world. —Lecturer Dave Rochlin
Little is now working with Danner Doud-Martin, director of Haas Campus Sustainability, to make food rescuing a permanent student role within the Haas Sustainability Task Force. Their goal is to ensure that Little’s work with Dorothy Day will continue after she graduates.
Doud-Martin and Little are also looking to grow the program so that food in other Haas programs won’t go to waste. “The work that Melissa has done this past year on behalf of Haas and the EWMBA program with the Dorothy Day House is nothing less than extraordinary,” Doud-Martin said.
“This is a fantastic partnership,” Carroll said. “We’re saving this food by providing it to people.”
The award is given biennially to a scholar who has made a seminal contribution to the development of the field of regulatory studies.
“As an American, it’s a great honor to have my work on regulation, much of which has focused on Europe, be recognized by an association of European scholars,” said Vogel.
Vogel, who holds the Soloman P. Lee Chair Emeritus in Business Ethics, has focused his career on subjects ranging from regulating health, safety, and environmental risks in Europe and the United States to global challenges in responsible business. He has examined the differences between environmental policy in the United States compared to that of the European Union. In his book, “The Politics of Precaution: Regulating, Health, Safety and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States” (Princeton University Press, 2012), he decribed how the U.S. and the E.U. “flip-flopped their position in risk regulation: Whereas before the 1990s the US had often the stricter standards, nowadays EU standards are stricter in many instances,” said Professor Eva Ruffing of Germany’s Osnabrück University, in a speech presenting the award.
Vogel is the author of eight other books, including “California Greenin’: How the Golden State Became an Environmental Leader” (Princeton University Press, 2018). Other books include: ; “Global Challenges in Responsible Business” (Cambridge University Press, 2010); and “The Market for Virtue: The Potential and Limits of Corporate Social Responsibility” (Brookings, 2005).
Vogel has taught both Ethics & Responsibility in Business at Haas and Public and Private Global Business Regulation at UC Berkeley. Since 1982, he has served as editor of Berkeley Haas’ management journal, The California Management Review. He has taught classes and lectured on environment management in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
An MBA student team won first-prize funding for a startup that’s helping to make supply chains more efficient for small Brazilian farmers at last Friday’s Invest for Impact Pitch Competition.
The winning team, pitching on behalf of startup Clicampo-Arado, included Arsal Khanani, EWMBA 24, Byungwoo Han, MBA 23, Gui Klingelfus, MBA 23, Mateus Loesch, MBA 23, and Vivian Hare, EWMBA 23.
Clicampo, now rebranded as Arado, secured a $75,000 investment, awarded by a panel of industry judges, including Michelle Kiang, managing partner and co-founder at Impact Science Ventures; Matt Caspari, managing partner at Alumni Ventures, and Joshua Posamentier, managing partner at Congruent Ventures.
Klingelfus said he was thrilled by the team’s first-place win. “What set our team’s pitch apart was the fact that we highlighted both Arado’s social impact and its financial success, demonstrating that they are ready to scale.”
Loesch said pitching during the competition helped prepare him if he chooses to pursue a career in venture capital or entrepreneurship, as he learned about how industry pros analyze a startup’s potential.
“I don’t believe that I would have had the same experience in other classes in the MBA program,” he said.
Reducing food waste
Five MBA student teams pitched during the competition addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including food waste, financial access, health, and renewable energy. The teams included Team Health & Wellbeing representing startup Shezlong; Team Sustainable Supply Chain representing startup Diferente; Team International Development representing Farm to Feed, and Team Climate Tech representing Oceans-Sway.
Arado’s prize comes on the heels of two other funding rounds over the past year for the startup: a $7.5 million seed round and $12 million series A funding round. Founded in 2021, Arado connects small to midsize farmers in Latin America directly with restaurants and food retailers.
“Food waste is one of the main problems in the world now, and Arado came up with an innovative solution that increases the system’s efficiency and that contributed to the success of our pitch,” Loesch said.
The day also included a report from the Sustainable Investment Fund course, the first and largest student-led SRI fund within a leading business school. It offers MBA students real-world experience in delivering both strong financial returns and positive social impact in public markets. Since 2008, the student principals have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million.
Freada Kapor Klein, the founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, who gave a keynote at the event, noted the importance of investing in impact startups that help close opportunity gaps for communities of color and low-income communities.
In investing, “we look at one’s lived experience,” she said. “What hurdles do they encounter along the way, and how did those hurdles give them an idea for a startup that might solve the problems?”
Influencing national economic policy is not only about having the expertise, but also about being in the room at the right moment to be heard, two top economists who have served as government advisors told the audience a recent Dean’s Speaker Series event.
“I had this impression that there’s some deep thinking and careful preparation, and ultimately a bunch of guys get into a room, and later there’s a law,” said Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who in August was appointed to a five-year term on Germany’s Council of Economic Experts, which evaluates the government’s economic policies. The reality, she learned, is less concrete.
“I completely misunderstood politics and policy,” said Malmendier, Edward J. and Mollie Arnold Professor of Finance, in response to a student question. “It showed how if you are at the right place—if you can be in the room—you can help.”
Malmendier shared the stage by Professor Catherine Wolfram, who recently completed a term as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate and Energy Economics in the U.S. Department of Treasury. Wolfram and Malmendier were interviewed by Haas Dean Ann Harrison in a discussion titled, “In the Halls of Power: Berkeley Haas Economists on Advising World Leaders.”
Wolfram, an energy economist, and Malmendier, a behavioral economist, are internationally known in their respective fields. Both said they felt the call to step outside academia and use their expertise in the service of public good.
“Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to be relevant to policymakers, and I wanted to have my research influence decisions,” Wolfram said. “But I figured I really should understand what it’s like to be a policy maker and see how the sausage is made.”
Wolfram said that when Janet Yellen, a Berkeley Haas professor emeritus, was named Secretary of the Treasury in the Biden Administration, she reached out to her directly about a treasury position focused on environmental issues
“…Don’t wait for them to come to you. Life in DC is so, so hectic, they’re going a million miles an hour,” Wolfram said. “You need to raise your hand and say, ‘I’m ready. I’d like to be there.’”
“You need to raise your hand and say, ‘I’m ready. I’d like to be there.’” —Catherine Wolfram
Wolfram ended up having a front-row seat to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act—the biggest climate bill in U.S. history—and played a pivotal role in enacting a price cap on Russian oil. Malmendier has been on the front lines of helping her home country navigate a tricky economic period roiled by inflation, the war in Ukraine, and the resulting European energy crisis.
Hear more about their experiences and their leadership advice.
Classified articles spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
It’s week four of the Climate Change and Business Strategy course at Berkeley Haas, and Senior Lecturer Andrew Isaacs kicks off with a slide that compares China’s CO2 emissions to those of the U.S. and other countries.
“What you notice right away is a three-fold increase coming from China,” he said, noting that the country’s blazing economic growth has come with a huge increase in demand for energy. “This is like nothing the world has experienced. China is the elephant in the room right now, even though the US still leads the world in cumulative emissions of planet-warming gasses.”
As class continues, Isaacs covers the different potencies of the main greenhouse gasses, presents a quick tutorial on the First Law of Thermodynamics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another—and posts graphs that show how much countries have warmed over time and track loss of ice and snow around the world. “There will be a September within your lifetime that sees an ice-free Arctic Ocean,” he tells the 51 Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students in the class at Chou Hall.
It’s a lot for students to take in. “I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” said Harry Davies, MBA 23, who interned for Impossible Foods last summer and plans to pursue a career at the intersection of sustainability and food.
“I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” – Harry Davies, MBA 23.
After launching the course two years ago, Isaacs’ worry about the planet’s fate has only escalated. “We’re only starting to grapple with these problems,” he said. “In the coming weeks of class we’ll look at the various solutions available to us. But if we get climate change wrong, it doesn’t matter what else we get right.”
One key to getting it right? Electrification—and moving away from the inefficiency of fossil fuels, particularly gasoline-powered automobiles, Isaacs told students. “If I’m driving to work in a gasoline-powered car, 10% of the energy in each gallon of gas I burn gets me to work, and the other 90% goes to heating up the air around the car. You wanted mobility, but you used something—an automobile —that instead is good at producing heat,” he said. “Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.”
“Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.” – Andrew Isaacs
Response to a wildfire
Isaacs created the Climate Change and Business Strategy course after being forced to evacuate his home in Napa, California, during the 2020 North Bay wildfires. A geochemist by training who started his career as a scientist at NASA, Isaacs didn’t end up losing his house. But the fire did lead him to examine how he could do more to educate students about climate change. Since introducing the course, he also helped Haas launch a summer minor in sustainability open to all UC Berkeley undergraduates.
The class has filled up every semester. It helps immensely that Haas Dean Ann Harrison and Sustainability Director Michele de Nevers have both supported the sustainability course since its inception, Isaacs said.
“Drew’s course is critical to ensuring that our students graduate equipped to take on both the challenges and opportunities that climate change poses to business and our world,” de Nevers said. “A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.”
“A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.” – Michele de Nevers
The class covers a sweeping number of topics, including climate governance, carbon offsets, carbon capture and storage, greenwashing versus informed decision making, and investing in climate solutions. Students also examine corporate strategies, studying Apple’s climate roadmap, Tesla’s impact report, and Unilever’s progress. Guest speakers this semester include Peter Fiske, MBA 02, director of the Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Institute, and Phoebe Wang, an investment partner at the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, who will discuss climate startups.
In April, Graduate Student Instructor Natàlia Costa i Coromina, who has taught the class since fall 2021, will teach a session, exploring a case she co-wrote with Isaacs that questions whether Gen Z’s climate knowledge matches its climate concern.
Costa i Coromina, a second-year student in the Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley, said she wants students who enter the course with “radical passion and a willingness to learn,” and to leave not deflated by climate anxiety, but instead with an action plan and a systems change mindset.
“They learn how hard it is going to be, because climate change will be (and is already) impacting every aspect of our lives” she said. “We equip students with the science, from the Keeling Curve (a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration) and GHG emissions to offsets and resiliency; and then their eyes open to what does this all means for business: that, in fact, every single department—marketing, supply chain, operations, finance, HR—has a role to play.”
Filling in the gaps
Students said they had a wide variety of reasons for enrolling in the class, from a desire to create more effective policies at work to exploring the science of climate change to making more effective changes in their personal and work lives.
Himanshi Arora, MBA 24, came to Haas after working as an operations manager at Procter & Gamble, where she considered how to make packaging more sustainable and delivery more efficient. “I’ve been thinking about getting deeper into climate change and sustainability for a while,” she said. “Climate change is such a huge problem that will impact every corner of the Earth, particularly people who are marginalized. I took this class because I want to know if my thinking (about how to make change) is right and to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.”
Some students, including Rathin Ramesh, EWMBA 23, enrolled in the course as part of earning the Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, which includes nine units of sustainability coursework over the course of the MBA program. Ramesh said the course will help him to make more impactful decisions for his company, a cannabis delivery service. “All of my drivers use cars, and two of them have a Prius. In trying to apply this knowledge one of the first things you’d do is figure out how to electrify your fleet or implement more sustainable growing practices at the farms we work with.”
Joy Wang, MBA 23, who is from China and has lived in the U.S. for a decade, said the world—not just China—shoulders the responsibility for turning the climate crisis around. Wang, who will work at EY Parthenon after graduating, said many projects she worked on while interning at EY required a sustainability strategy. “One day, these projects will be a bigger part of my job, so I want to prepare,” she said.
For more than six years, Danner Doud-Martin helped lead the school’s progress in sustainability—from leading the effort to make Chou Hall the first zero-waste building on campus to planting pollinator gardens around Haas to leading volunteers planting hundreds of trees in the community. Now, Doud-Martin, former assistant director of the International Business Development (IBD) Program at Haas, has been named the first full-time director of campus sustainability.
In her new role, one of her first projects is tapping what she learned in a night course to build a carbon roadmap for Haas that will quantify what sustainability goals Haas has attained so far and what remains to be done. Haas News recently interviewed Doud-Martin about her plans for further reducing waste, making Haas more energy efficient, and working across the UC Berkeley campus to be a part of the overall strategy for achieving net zero by 2025.
Over the past six years, you’ve worn two hats as assistant director of IBD and the school’s zero waste/sustainability lead. How did you turn the sustainability role into a full-time job?
I feel really fortunate that Dean Harrison has made this a priority because it meant that I was able to convince Haas senior leadership that this is a full-time role.
What are your first priorities?
One of the things about having a team and a true strategic plan is that our Office of Sustainability can spend time thinking through not only what zero waste means but understanding the data—and what we’re diverting from landfill. We also want to understand what emissions we produce at Haas and how we can reduce our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Zero waste is a big part of our goal, but so is energy and transportation. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand Haas’ energy, water, and transportation data soon and that we will be able to tell the story of how Haas, within a huge university, is making significant reductions and changes.
What is Haas’s role in helping the UC Berkeley campus reach its zero waste goals?
UC Berkeley has committed to the strongest ban on plastic in the country and has mandated that we need to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030 Haas continues to be the place that the rest of campus watches. Zero waste is not only about Chou Hall but the initiatives that we’ve continued to roll out and/or pilot. The reusables (utensils, mugs, water bottles, etc.) program is one of them. We’re trying to think through how to make reusables work. There is a logistical piece: can they be washed on site or do they need to transported to be washed? What is the footprint? Are we really helping the environment with reusables versus a compostable?
How are you working now to eliminate plastic on campus?
This is about finding solutions to something as simple as eliminating single-use balloons and replacing them with vinyl reusable balloons that can be blown up many times. We’ve told our campus event planners about the vinyl balloons, so demand is up and we’ve expanded our inventory. We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year. We are all brainstorming on what we can provide to guests and graduates to replace plastic. Graduation gowns are another thing that we’re tackling. Haas has taken back graduation gowns for years and offers whatever is collected to next years’ students. We hope to scale this program to be able to eliminate single use gowns—and the UC Berkeley CAL Zero Waste team is trying to get it to happen campus-wide this year. They’re trying to turn it around fast. We’re really starting to put in these policies and find solutions.
We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year.
Haas moved away from plastics to “compostable” utensils years ago, and now your goal is to move away from these PLA single-use compostable utensils and clamshells made of materials like corn starch and sugar cane toward reusables. How compostable are the single-use “compostable” products?
You have to put all of it in a 40-day, high-heat commercial composting system. You cannot put it in your backyard compost.
Where do we send ours?
We send all of our composting to the Richmond Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where we recently planted 150 redwood trees as part of our efforts to offset our paper use through printing. We also planted trees at Verde Elementary School across the street from the MFR in an effort to green their school yard.
How does the reusables program work?
FoodWare, a student startup that we’ve been working with since last spring, helped us replace 4,200 clamshell food containers with reusable containers between spring and winter of 2022. Our goal for the next semester is 6,500. The Dean’s Speaker Series lunches are done completely with reusables. We are having conversations with all the different program offices about expanding reusables at their events. I’m also working with a student team that’s part of a course called Zero Waste Lab. They’re going to put together a lifecycle analysis for us that will show the environmental and financial footprint of a compostable clamshell versus a reusable one. Reusable cutlery is a dream of mine because those are the hardest things to break down.
How has the pandemic impacted support for the reusable strategy?
We’ve seen pushback with reusables, specifically because of fear of COVID. We’ve been slowly working to get both our catering and the cafe back to a place of comfort around health protocols and reusables. This semester, Café Think is taking reusable mugs and filling them with coffee drinks. Guests save 25 cents each time they refill a reusable. Haas also gave all full-time MBA students bamboo utensil sets this year, building on the water bottles and coffee mugs given out a couple of years ago. It’s all about behavior change. I keep my bamboo utensil set in my purse at all times. When you see people pulling out their own forks, you feel more comfortable doing it.
How do you inspire more people to make the changes you need them to make?
Lots of education and incentives. Fill It Forward, a company we have partnered with over the years, makes an app that works with barcodes to track when you refill your water bottle or coffee mug. It sends the information to a central hub and tracks your impact. Fill It Forward also has a mission to donate water to communities in need. As we know, students like to have things gamified and many of these apps offer prizes for engaging. Now that I’m in this role 100%, I can think about how to utilize more incentives and gamification to engage people more and create behavior change.
Can you talk about planned upgrades to systems in other campus buildings, beyond Chou Hall?
We’re trying to figure out how to make energy-saving improvements and whether we can install solar in our Faculty Services, Cheit, and Student Services buildings. But our first priority is the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. As the hub is being renovated, we have to think about what we can do during the construction and operations phases to hit all of the sustainability points. Because this is a renovation rather than new construction, we won’t be able to have the same level of certification on this project that we had with Chou, but I’m looking at what we can do in a smaller building. Regardless, we want to push ourselves to make a significant impact wherever we can from a sustainability standpoint.
While tech employment remains strong, a wave of layoffs is shaking up the industry. According to the tracking site layoffs.fyi, about 137,000 people have lost their jobs since layoffs started ticking up in May.
To find out more about what is driving this shakeup, we spoke with Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program and of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. Chaudhuri, an expert on corporate growth and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, and technological disruption, says the upheaval offers the opportunity for a reset and a chance to pursue growth in emerging areas.
The economy and labor markets are going strong. So why are so many tech companies laying off workers?
Many people are confounding two different things. We should not mix up the events specific to the tech industry with all the other issues that are going on in the broader economy due to the challenges of macroeconomic shocks, like Russia’s war on Ukraine, the aftereffects of the pandemic including supply chain problems, and the general inflationary pressures. The technology industry is also affected by those events, but there are additionally more fundamental factors at play.
“I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.”
What’s happening in the tech industry is really a natural shakeout after over a decade of phenomenal growth. It is not unlike when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. The sector was overheated and it could not continue as it had. The same is true now, as many startup and unicorn valuations skyrocketed over the last years, especially because the pandemic accelerated the growth to record levels as the deployment of technology and digital transformation became necessary everywhere. On the bright side, it’s actually not all bad. While I recognize that layoffs are painful for many people right now, the industry as a whole needs this adjustment to bring us to a path of more sustainable economic growth in tech. Because what was happening, especially with hiring over the last few years, was just completely unrealistic.
How did we get here?
During the pandemic, we went more digital. People worked remotely and they could work from anywhere—Hawaii, the countryside, anywhere. Tech became a big factor as the economy shifted entirely online: online retail, online banking, online instruction, online meetings, online therapy. It brought significant disruption to all industries.
We need to keep in mind that the pandemic was a different kind of economic crisis. Usually in an economic crisis, everybody loses, but that didn’t happen here. Some industries actually gained significantly, especially most of the technology sectors. The growth rate that they experienced, whether hardware, software, e-commerce, healthcare apps, fintech, crypto—you name it—was completely unsustainable. Just take a look at tech hiring last year: Tech job postings hit their peak in March 2022 and have been declining sharply since. We hit the point where the trend reverses. It was going to happen, either now or a year or two from now. It coincides with what’s going on in the overall economy and world politics, leading to a perfect storm.
“Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.”
This situation also poses a great excuse for employers. They say: A recession is coming. I will have to let people go.” Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.
Are you saying there was an inflation of the workforce inside the tech industry?
Yes. The reason for this is very simple: You don’t get penalized for growing your workforce while the sector is growing so fast. Everybody knows it will have to stop at some point, but there’s no penalty for riding the wave.
In fact, there’s a loss for your firm if you don’t ride the growth. If you said, “We should be more prudent because some sort of adjustment is going to happen,” there’d be no gain and you’d be losing out on the potential benefits—profits, funding, talent. Because when the correction happens, you can simply lay people off by the thousands. Two years later, the same people who got laid off will come back to the industry (whether at the same kinds of firms or new areas that emerge), and the same VCs will invest. There are no consequences for these actions. That’s just the way of Silicon Valley and the tech world, as they go through cycles.
Is this correction just a tightening of the belt, or is the industry reorganizing itself to make room for a new wave of technologies that require new skills or a reallocation of resources?
There will be some reorganization happening, because some areas are growing faster than others. For example, Amazon decided that not all of its devices are doing so well. Companies have been carrying losses in some areas for a while. But it didn’t matter because there was so much growth overall, and they didn’t want to miss out on that wave. It is not unlike the dotcom bubble, where for instance network equipment companies were investing in an array of optical networking products that never properly worked, because regular routers and switches were minting money.
“A re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role.”
Moreover, re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role. I’ve been puzzled for a while about all the anxiety surrounding the shortage of software developers, and the salaries they were being offered in the mad scramble to secure such talent. So much basic programming work has become well-defined, codified, and routine that those skills can be learned at scale by a wider base of employees. If you think about it, thousands of software developers, even at companies like Microsoft and Google, are engaged to implement enhancements to products such as adjusting fonts or updating visuals or adding simple features—not product design or creation of new functionality. Those jobs don’t require computer science graduates, as IBM realized five years ago, when they began hiring non-college graduates with programming experience, at that time out of necessity.
In fact, there are tools now that can automate basic code writing, which are already being deployed. It won’t stop there, because we now also have algorithms which can do many sophisticated tasks; just look at Open AI’s ChatGPT, which is writing essays, poems, lecture notes, speeches, and other creative pieces at the click of a button!
Why now? Is there anything in particular that started this domino effect this year?
Now, with increased scrutiny from investors and others who look at a firm’s financial viability, this overstaffing approach is getting reined in. There have been excesses in view of rosy projections and seemingly limitless valuations. Now the bubble has popped, as it does in every tech cycle, and it’s been a great opportunity (and excuse) for firms to make adjustments, tighten their belts, and reduce their workforce.
Where do you see opportunities?
The next wave of growth will come from emerging sectors, like cleantech and green tech, new materials, breakthroughs in the life sciences, and novel products and services resulting from the maturation of general purpose technologies like AI. Just like the dotcom era was about the internet and all that it spawned—cloud services, big data, the internet of things, and other advances in information technology—there will be a wave of new technologies that will disrupt a lot of different sectors.
In many industries, the disruption has just begun and exciting new transformations are taking place that’ll unfold over the next decade—whether in education, healthcare, finance, automobiles, or aerospace, just to name a few. I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.
“If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches.”
What does that mean for the students at Haas, and those considering an MBA?
For our own graduates, it would be healthy to see this as an opportunity. The most entrepreneurial people are the ones who look at these situations and say, “Change is good, and uncertainty has two sides. It’s what creates the opportunity for new things.”
Instead of defining your career in terms of a particular job at a particular company, you could think about which problem you want to solve. That is where you will find the opportunity to lead and to make a real impact.
It’s great to aspire to work your way up to an executive job at a large firm, and many of our graduates will do that and be very successful. Others will go against the grain. They will be the ones we hear about, because they actually change how Goldman Sachs works or McKinsey works or Google works for the next era. And of course there will be the entrepreneurs who will pursue startups that will redefine entire industries.
Take Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, former Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who shook up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. A true leader by definition changes things. That’s why we pay attention to them and learn from them.
A lot of our students come in wanting to make an impact early in their careers. What does it take to get there?
If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches. Leaders have confidence, without attitude—confidence in their vision and in their ability to make it happen, and the humility to learn and acknowledge challenges and risks.
The good news is, you don’t have to be born with it. An MBA program like Berkeley’s gives you the opportunity to develop that kind of confidence. You can train yourself to see the opportunity in ambiguity, embrace serendipity, and take intelligent risks.
Along the way you also learn key the business skills—finance, marketing, management, operations, and so forth—that you will need as a leader. All that will help you develop this vision for your path to make an impact, and the confidence and network to make it happen.
What opportunities are there at Haas and Berkeley to get ahead of the next wave?
As part of our strategic priorities, we are building a new entrepreneurship hub at Haas that will be a game changer for our students and students across Berkeley. It will draw people from all over the campus. The great thing about Berkeley is that it has so many top-rated departments, and we will be able to bring them to one place to talk to each other and collaborate. So many of our Haas signature programs are about this kind of cross-pollination. Take Cleantech to Market’s partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator, or the dual degree programs we have with Public Health, Engineering, Law, and that we are developing with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.
The most pressing problems of global society today require interdisciplinary perspectives. The hub we are developing will not only allow diverse people to connect, but it will provide them with the space and resources to create community, build their ventures, and be discovered by investors. What is novel is that we will not only support those who have a good sense of the entrepreneurial path, but also those who simply would like to be exposed to what it’s all about—the “entrepre-curious,” as we call them. And anyone from around the university will be able to drop in to simply ask an expert for guidance on how to navigate the vast innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Berkeley based on what they need.
“While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well.”
What’s your big-picture advice?
Silicon Valley is our backyard. While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well. Beef up your skills, develop your leadership potential, build your network, and embrace your inner entrepreneur.
In a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk, RockCreek founder and CEO Afsaneh Beschloss weighed in on the long-term goals of ESG and impact investing and how her firm allocates capital to diverse asset managers and underrepresented founders.
Global investment firm RockCreek holds $15 billion in assets to invest in a diverse portfolio that integrates sustainability and inclusivity. “I like to call (our investment strategy) air, land, and water, because a lot of what we have all worked on traditionally is energy on land and food and agriculture,” she said during a fireside chat with Dean Ann Harrison. “But there’s also a lot going on with aviation fuels and, as we speak, we’re doing some early investments on alternatives to aviation fuels.”
Before starting RockCreek in 2003, Beschloss worked in economic development at the World Bank, where she rose to become treasurer and Chief Investment Officer. (Along the way, she met Michele de Nevers, the executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. Dean Harrison also worked as an economist at the World Bank.)
During her early career, Beschloss shifted focus from health to the energy sector, leveraging private sector investment as her group worked on projects to move countries away from coal to natural gas. As solar and wind technology started to develop, the World Bank began pioneering investing in these areas. “We got special grants from the Nordic countries to work on this in a number of countries that were well-suited for doing solar and wind,” she said. “And it was really quite spectacular to be investing in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia in these cleaner forms of energy in the early days and doing environmental studies.”
C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate commercialization of cleantech solutions. Over 15 weeks, each C2M team spends nearly 1,000 hours assessing leading-edge technologies and investigating market opportunities.
Last week, teams presented their findings, followed by an audience Q&A. Dean Ann Harrison also took the stage, interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Dave Lee about the school’s work to put sustainability at the core of business education.
This year’s winners of the MetLife Climate Solutions Awards included:
Niron Magnetics: The team won $20,000 for working on powerful, low cost, and environmentally-sustainable permanent magnets to free electrification from dependence on rare earth elements. The team included Andrew Cahill, EWMBA 23, Ben Brokesh, JD 24, Campbell Scott, MBA 23, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, and Sepideh Karimiziarani, MS 22, Development Engineering.
GenH: The team won $10,000 for working on a rapidly deployable, fully modular hydropower system to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads to generate clean, stable, and cost-competitive renewable energy. Team members included Emily Robinson, EWMBA 23, Hon Leung “Curtis” Wong, MS 23, Development Engineering, Maelym Medina, MBA 23, and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.
Quino Energy: The team won $5,000 for working on scalable, non-flammable energy storage made possible by a proprietary zero-waste process that transforms coal and wood tar into designer flow-battery reactants. Team members included Dongwan Kim, MBA 23, Ingrid Xhafa, MS 23, Development Engineering, James Wang, MBA 23, Kennedy McCone, graduate student researcher, UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, and Noah Carson, EMBA 23.
The Quino Energy team also won the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award as audience favorite based on online polling throughout the day.
MetLife is a corporate sponsor of the C2M Program; The Financial Times served as an event partner.
KathrynHall is the Founder and Co-Chair of one of the largest woman-led investment companies in the world, Hall Capital Partners. In 2021, Hall launched Galvanize Climate Solutions, a climate tech investment platform that will back companies from the seed-stage through private equity and project finance. The new fund will invest in companies and organizations around the world working to curb carbon emissions.
In a fireside chat, Hall discussed her experience as a female leader, the role of the private sector financial institutions in climate solutions, and advice for students who are interested in impact investing.
This is a Sustainable Futures event. Developing a sustainable, climate-resilient economy covers every aspect of business—agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporations. All these aspects of business will need to be reimagined and redesigned to address the current environmental, social and economic crises. This event is co-sponsored by the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative.
As regulators wrestle with disclosure standards for the burgeoning $35 trillion ESG investing industry—named for its focus on corporations’ environmental, social, and governance activities—a group of influential thought leaders is gathering at Berkeley Haas to share their expertise.
“The timing and the content of the conference are unique,” says Panos Patatoukas, associate professor of accounting at Berkeley Haas and faculty director of the Center for Financial Reporting and Management (CFRM), which organized the event. “Our set of panelists and moderators are at the cutting edge of the ESG investing world and represent a wide range of perspectives, including ESG strategies, scoring and indexing, investing, regulation, and sustainability reporting standards.”
The importance of measurement, standardization, and verification is becoming more urgent as ESG investing grows, and the amount of capital allocated in ESG indices and financial products has exploded. For example, the SEC recently fined Bank of New York Mellon over misleading claims about funds that use environmental and social criteria to pick stocks. A transparent standard setting process can play a crucial role in advancing the clarity that investors and businesses are asking for in the area of ESG disclosures, Patatoukas says.
ESG from four angles
The conference will approach ESG accounting from four main angles, Patatoukas says: disclosure, assurance, standardization, and valuation and investing. After an introduction from Dean Ann Harrison, the first panel will focus on measurement and disclosure, and will be moderated by James Webb, executive director of the CFRM.
Next, Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a nonprofit that uses shareholder advocacy to “create lasting change by protecting human rights, reducing toxic waste, and aligning investments with values,” will lead a discussion on ESG advisory and auditing, with partners from PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Moss Adams.
Berkeley Law Professor Stavros Gadinis will moderate two keynote addresses: SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce will speak on ESG reporting regulations, and Janine Guillot, CEO of the Value Reporting Foundation, will speak on reporting standards.
The afternoon discussion of ESG valuation and investing will feature AJ Lindeman, Bloomberg’s head of Index and ESG Research; Wall Street Journal Senior Columnist James Mackintosh, and Karen Wong, head of ESG & Sustainable Investing for State Street Global Advisors. Patatoukas will moderate.
The event, which is the 26th annual Conference on Financial Reporting, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum on the Haas campus.Registration is open to all. Attendees can receive CPA Continuing Education credits.
A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas.
“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”
We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.
How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?
Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.
You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.
What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?
First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.
What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?
Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech.
Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?
I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.
A group of Berkeley Haas MBA students helped build the business plan for an attic-retrofit system based around heat sensing drones and foam-spraying spider robots that took the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 American-Made E-ROBOT competition.
Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, built the business plan for team RoboAttic/Thermadrone, along with Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, and Vincent Chang, MBA 22. The robotics project was led by Dr. Avideh Zakhor.
Dr. Zakhor led the team of about 35 people, including UC Berkeley students, professionals, and consultants, who developed the RoboAttic/Thermadrone technology. The three top winners in the multi-stage competition were announced April 7 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). (Watch the robot in action in the video below)
Homes lose up to 20% of their heat and air conditioning due to poorly insulated roofs. Yet just 1% of building floorspace in the U.S. undergoes a meaningful retrofit each year due to the high cost and invasive nature of construction and renovation, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, a Program Manager in the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.
Thermadrone’s software uses thermal drone camera images to diagnose and identify opportunities for attic insulation retrofits. Once attics in need of insulation are identified, Roboattic robots clean, air seal, and apply spray foam insulation to the building envelope. This enables construction workers to retrofit previously inaccessible attics with a PS4 controller. Finally, Thermadrone software provides quality assurance by measuring and verifying the retrofit was done properly.
An earlier round of the E-ROBOT Competition challenged participants to design and build robot prototypes that could be used to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency. For the second and final phase of the competition, 10 finalists were tasked with building viable business models for their respective startups.
Sergian, Aharon, and Aquino worked on the business plan for RoboAttic/Thermadrone for both the competition andas their capstone project, a required component of the MBA/MEng Program.
Their work included estimating the total market size, sales, marketing, channel partners, and go-to-market strategy. “As MBA/MEng students, we were brought on as folks who were not only technical enough to understand the technology, but also strategic enough to put together a compelling business vision,” Aharon said. “It’s an example of the sort of cross-disciplinary collaboration that we constantly see around UC Berkeley.”
To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.
To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.
“We were presented with an exciting technology,” said Sergian. “It was our challenge to figure out how to commercialize the product and make it a market success.”
The students said they applied lessons from their MBA coursework in research and development and finance to the project. They calculated a total market size for building envelope retrofits in the US at about $1.25 billion, estimating that contractors would be willing to invest about $10,000 per robot. The value of the robot is that it can access places in attics that are hazardous and foul for construction workers to crawl through, Aharon said.
Chen, who also worked on the project while in the evening & weekend MBA program, helped with marketing research, identifying potential user groups and conducting interviews with facility managers, utility companies, and government agencies.
“In the business plan stage, I worked with Avideh to identify critical cost components and revenue sources,” she said. She also developed profit and loss statements, cost performance models, and a manufacturing and scalability analysis.
The other competition winners included a semi-autonomous flying quadcopter air duct inspection drone and a robotic retrofit tool used for caulking, aerosol sealing, and foam insulating buildings.
A crowd of more than 600 people—from engineers and investors to Bay Area startup founders and students passionate about the environment—bundled up in the Berkeley Haas courtyard on a recent chilly evening to network about climate tech.
“We hope the night helped inspire the cross-pollination of ideas beyond the MBA community,” said Adriana Penuela-Useche, EWMBA 22, who helped organize the Feb. 23 Climate Tech Cocktails Happy Hour with classmates Sneha Solanki and David Siap, also EWMBA 22. “Climate tech is a necessity for humanity and seeing so many people completely engaged and alive talking about climate encourages all of us to roll up our sleeves and act fast.”
Climate Tech Cocktails Happy Hours, founded by climate tech investor Matt Myers, have brought more than 1,200 people from the climate tech innovation community together across the country since its launch in summer 2021. “My hope is that the Climate Tech Cocktails platform can help inspire MBA students to create or work for climate tech startups to save humanity from itself,” said Myers, who produces a podcast of the same name.
The night came together at Haas after Penuela-Useche, Solanki, and Siap reached out to Myers, who was looking for a venue to host his next event.
“Sneha, David, and I had been going to these in the Bay Area,” said Penuela-Useche, who recently left her job to focus on a career in venture capital funding for climate tech. “When Matt’s email went out asking for a venue, we jumped on board.”
Major climate tech investors, including Strawberry Creek Ventures, Fifty Years Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, and Sapphire Ventures, co-sponsored the event.
Matt Caspari, MBA 06, is a managing partner at Strawberry Creek Ventures, a UC Berkeley alumni venture fund that invests in companies led by UC Berkeley alumni. “It was the largest in-person gathering I’ve been to in a couple of years and it was energizing to see so many people passionate about climate and sustainability,” he said.
Holding the event at Berkeley Haas and having so many students, along with 20 startups, attend made the event special, said Caspari, who started climate-focused venture-backed company Aurora Biofuels while he was at Haas.
“Being back at Haas and seeing how much interest has grown in this sector made it significant for me,” he said. In 2006, venture creation was focused heavily around alternative fuels and solar, he said. “Today, every industry is being transformed—and that creates a much broader opportunity for startup creation for entrepreneurs interested in sustainability/climate.”
Penuela-Useche, Siap and Solanki enlisted the help of 15 MBA volunteers to help welcome and register attendees. Avni Kansara, director of student experience with the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program, helped with event logistics and Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, rounded up climate tech startups to attend.
Solanki, who like Penuela-Useche studied chemical engineering as an undergrad and is now interested in early-seed stage venture investing, couldn’t get a visa in time to attend the event, but said she was present “in spirit.” “I think it was amazing to have people standing in the middle of campus speaking from the heart about climate change,” she said.
Siap, a former intern in business and strategy at X, the moonshot factory, where he consulted on climate-related projects including direct air capture, e-fuels, and carbon offsets, said the event came together well. “There was a ton of organic interest from startups, VCs, and, most importantly, students,” he said. “I would love to see Haas use its position in the ecosystem and make this its own annual event.”
It’s no secret that Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas, believes the Nordics hold the key to the future of American capitalism. Strand, who came to Haas in 2014 after earning a PhD and becoming a sustainability professor at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, is finishing a book called “Sustainable Vikings: What the Nordics Can Teach Us about Reimagining American Capitalism.” He has been using drafts of the book to teach in his undergraduate and MBA course, Sustainable Capitalism in the Nordics. Strand is also now the executive director of the new UC Berkeley Nordic Center.
We spoke with Strand about the future of capitalism and his award-winning case Patagonia’s path to carbon neutrality by 2025, along with his Nordic Center role.
The Financial Times recently honored the Berkeley Haas Patagonia case in its special report on Responsible Business Education. (The case was co-written in 2018 with CRB’s former associate director, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, UC Berkeley Professor Daniel Kammen, and Patagonia employees, including Vincent Stanley.) What was your goal with the case?
The goal was to help frame this wicked problem of climate change and provide inspiration for other companies to take action. There’s real strength in acknowledging that a problem exists, that business is part of the problem, and that even a sustainability-leading company like Patagonia does not know exactly what to do. Patagonia is leveraging every resource at its disposal, including the Center for Responsible Business, to help frame the issues at hand. Within that case, we wanted to highlight tensions involved when you talk about running a for-profit business and you also desire to address a great issue like climate change.
There’s real strength in acknowledging that a problem exists, that business is part of the problem, and that even a sustainability-leading company like Patagonia does not know exactly what to do.
What did Patagonia do differently to address these challenges?
Patagonia is engaging in open innovation, drawing from a concept from our Berkeley Haas colleague Henry Chesbrough, to tackle its challenges. Through the authoring of a case and its use in the Patagonia Case Competition that we run through the Center for Responsible Business, Patagonia is opening its challenges up to the world for help. The likelihood that the best ideas and best solutions to tackle climate change exist within the walls of Patagonia are next to none. We can help Patagonia find solutions to its problems and facilitate cooperation with a variety of new stakeholders that Patagonia may have otherwise never encountered.
What can companies and our students learn from Patagonia?
Wicked problems like climate change demand cooperation. They demand us coming together and addressing a problem that affects us all. We must go beyond ourselves to address this. American business students need to get comfortable with cooperation and working beyond the walls of their companies to address our greatest sustainability challenges. This often includes engaging with industry peers. I deliberately use the expression industry peers as opposed to competitors because language matters and a peer is someone with whom you collaborate.
American business students need to get comfortable with cooperation and working beyond the walls of their companies to address our greatest sustainability challenges.
Your views on capitalism were deeply influenced by the time you spent living in Norway. How?
When I came from the Copenhagen Business School to Haas in 2014, my Trojan Horse agenda was the Nordics. My American mind was revolutionized by my experiences living and working in the Nordic countries for the better part of a decade. As a PhD-student-turned-professor in Denmark, I saw first-hand the policies and practices that were working really well there to better ensure the well-being of every member of society. These were policies and practices that I was told in the United States couldn’t work—including access to childcare, paid parental leaves, universal access to health care and education—because they were called socialism and had to be a drag on efficiency. However, I saw that the Nordic countries are market-based economies and exemplars of capitalism, but just a different variety of capitalism than what we know in the U.S. I saw how Nordic societies were more efficiently and equitably handling their challenges. I began to realize maybe the problem lies with us Americans. That set me on the path of questioning the status quo of American capitalism, and what better place to do such a thing than Berkeley Haas.
Let’s shift gears and discuss what you are working on now.
I’m finishing my book “Sustainable Vikings,” which is about what the Nordics can teach us about reimagining American capitalism. I use drafts of it in all the classes that I teach at Berkeley Haas and have just loved the discussions with our bright and wonderful Haas students over these past years. They are now a part of this book. I want to be part of normalizing the approach I saw in the Nordic societies where business leaders saw themselves as stewards of the company and society. I fear too many companies and too many prominent business figures in the United States have adopted an extractive approach. We need to fight this extractive approach head on because it is leading us all to a very bad place. But, I should stress there is nothing that says somebody needs to be from a place like Denmark to be a steward. I am talking about the need for a mindset shift where we discard the old assumptions that do not serve us well.
We need more American business leaders like Rose Marcario, former CEO of Patagonia, and Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi’s, and a partner of the Center for Responsible Business, who is leveraging his platform to elevate the risks to our democratic institutions and the need to strengthen our American democracy.
UC Berkeley recently launched the new Nordic Center and named you director. What has the center been up to?
The Nordic Center is institutionally tied to the Center for Responsible Business, the Scandinavian Department, and the Institute for European Studies, so we straddle the campus to bring the best of Berkeley to the Nordic agenda. Our first big event was the Nordic Sustainable Food Summit this fall, drawing upon our competency in sustainable food with Will Rosenzweig and courses like Edible Education, and the Plant Futures Lab. We showcased our Nordic connections, including Björn Öste,founder of Oatly, an oat milk company out of Sweden. We’ll make it an annual event and next year we will beef up ladder faculty participation, including our great researchers like Professor Paul Gertler, who’s interested in things like sugar taxes that Norway has implemented to compare with efforts here in the U.S. Our students are connecting with these Nordic-based firms and startups and next year we hope to be in- person at Haas, sharing some great Nordic food!
A primary driver behind the Nordic Center is Barbro Osher, a good friend to UC Berkeley and a good friend of mine. Without her, none of this would have been possible. Barbro gave me the nickname “Mr. Nordic,” and what a pleasure it has been to get the Nordic Center established in partnership with her and our friends and colleagues across UC Berkeley.
A plan to weave sustainability across the Berkeley Haas curriculum is underway, with faculty adding fresh cases, new class materials, and lectures with industry leaders to their courses.
“We are doubling down on our investment in sustainability and preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison.
Making Haas the number one business school for sustainability is a goal shared by Harrison and Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. “Our goal is that all graduates should have an understanding and awareness of the sustainability challenges, issues, and a framework for thinking about these challenges as they go forth into their careers,” she said.
By the end of 2023, the school plans to retool all 14 core courses at Haas to incorporate concepts that address climate change and other sustainability challenges throughout various business disciplines. (Haas already offers many elective courses focused on sustainability, everything from Energy & Environmental Markets to Business and Sustainable Supply Chains.)
“Accountants need to plan for the effects of climate change on valuation and outcomes; real estate developers and financiers will need to consider climate changes in forecasting risk; so will consultants and investment bankers,” Harrison said.
Becoming a leader
There are many signs that Haas is moving toward its goal as a sustainability leader. More than two-thirds of the full-time MBA Class of 2021 took a course focused on sustainability while they were at Haas. And a total of 109 part- and full-time MBA students are signed up for the new Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, a 9-credit certificate program. The first 10 students earned the certificate last year in one of three tracks: corporate sustainability, sustainable finance, and impact venture capital.
In addition, Haas is also moving its campus further toward carbon neutrality. The Financial Times this week named Haas among the more ambitious schools today in this area, citing its efforts with UC Berkeley to be carbon neutral by 2025, for both direct emissions and indirect emissions arising from electricity consumed. (Chou Hall is already certified as zero-waste — defined as diverting more than 90 per cent of refuse from landfill.)
For the past year, de Nevers has been assessing how sustainability is incorporated within the curriculum. She is working with the faculty to update courses during the 2021/2022 school year to address sustainability, tapping funds from the Holmstrom Sustainability Curriculum Grant.
Faculty members participating include Assistant Professor Omri Even-Tov, who is teaching a carbon emissions case he co-wrote with Professor Xiao-Jun Zhang, in his Financial Accounting course. Taught to first-year MBA students, the case addresses how companies can provide detailed disclosures about their carbon emissions in financial statements and estimates the direct and indirect costs of disclosure. The case also asks why companies might act to mitigate pollution—and evaluates the costs and benefits of those actions.
At the undergraduate level, Professor David Levine includes sustainability issues during most weeks teaching his macroeconomics course, integrating it into topics such as measuring GDP, international trade, recessions, and the analysis of current policies such as the environmental elements of Biden’s “Build Back Better Plan.”
During discussion on global climate change toward semester’s end, students will engage in a simulation, with teams taking on the roles of different nations. “Their job is to see if they can find a climate agreement that they all find acceptable,” Levine said.
Five key areas
Across campus, what makes Haas stand out is the extensive work the school has done is five key areas of sustainability: energy, the food chain, the built environment, sustainable and impact finance, and corporate social responsibility.
In 2020, CRB led a survey of MBA employers across industries, asking them about their sustainability roles and the necessary skills required for success. They then mapped those in-demand skills to content taught in more than 40 Haas courses—that teach everything from impact measurement and management to systems thinking to coalition building.
Separately, CRB curated a database of top corporate sustainability cases and articles for the faculty to use in their courses. “The case compendium is one example where CRB and our wonderful Haas students have curated a suite of sustainability-minded business cases and articles that are primed to be readily integrated into the core MBA curriculum,” said CRB’s executive director Robert Strand.
Professional Faculty member Brandi Pearce is teaching a case tapped from the database about Burt’s Bees in her course Leading for Sustainability. The case examines the challenges the company faced in remaining committed to its mission after its acquisition by Clorox. Pearce said the case “encourages students to explore the challenges of becoming part of a public company—with a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders—while remaining a leader in driving social responsibility and sustainability business practices.”
Student demand for new course material in sustainability in the core and beyond is strong, said Olivia Wasteneys, MBA 22, who worked with de Nevers to assess how the faculty is integrating sustainability and on the distribution of grant funds. “It’s not just ESG reporting or climate change but the bigger question of ‘What is responsible business?’ ” she said. “It’s about how we cultivate a stronger sense of ethics and awareness of systemic issues, what we as a society face, and how business plays a role in perpetuating this and how we disassemble it.”
An AI-powered software that automates visual inspections and provides data analytics for utility lines and energy grids earned the top prize at the 12th annual Cleantech to Market Symposium. The event was held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum last Friday.
Cleantech to Market (C2M) is a 15-week accelerator course that brings together graduate students, industry leaders, and researchers to pitch cleantech innovations from existing startups, government-sponsored programs, and incubators.
Five student teams–including 31 MBA and UC Berkeley graduate students from law, policy, and science–pitched emerging technologies aimed at addressing everything from fossil-fuel reduction to carbon dioxide capture to non-flammable batteries.
Buzz Solutions, the AI-powered company that provides power line and energy grid inspections, earned the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, named after former Berkeley Haas dean William Hasler.
Team members included Chelsea Boyle, EWMBA 21, Dinara Ermakova, PhD 22 (nuclear engineering), Federico Cueva Salas, MBA 22, Han Le, PhD 24 (chemistry), Luis Felipe Gonzalez, MBA/MEng 22, Preston Suan, MBA 22, and Sean Mandell, MBA 22.
Dean Harrison kicked off the symposium with a keynote, emphasizing the need for more cleantech solutions to address climate change.
“This is no longer a problem that our grandchildren will face. This is a crisis that we’re dealing with now,” said Harrison, pointing to recent catastrophic events, including California’s wildfires and extreme heat waves worldwide. “Our planet is out of its comfort zone, which is why this symposium and the development of cleantech solutions is so crucial.”
Other notable guest speakers included James Zahler, associate director for technology-to-market at Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); Liam Berryman, CEO of Nelumbo; Miguel Sierra Aznar, CEO of Noble Thermodynamics; and Kristin Taylor, CEO of Radical Plastics. All three CEOs participated in previous C2M symposiums.
“I’m so proud of our students and what they have accomplished in the last 15 weeks,” said Brian Steel, director of C2M. “They’ve spent nearly 1,000 hours speaking to experts and investigating a wide range of market opportunities for cleantech startups that are tackling the most pressing issues of our time.”
The first thing real estate professor Nancy Wallace asked her students to think about last semester was rain.
“Pick a city like Miami,” said Wallace, chair of the Real Estate Group at Haas. “When it rains in Miami, the sewage treatment plants flood, the water mains back up, and the streets are flooded. The same with Houston. We’re not talking about a hurricane, which would be 10 times worse—just a regular very rainy day. Because the infrastructure in these cities is below sea level, the risk is just huge.”
And with that intro, students in Wallace’s Real Estate Investment and Sustainability classbegan to consider the risks for cities that are fundamentally unequipped and slow to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
From flooding to wildfires to rising temperatures and other extreme weather events, climate impacts have rapidly moved from the theoretical future to the most pressing challenges facing the real estate industry today. Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at Berkeley Haas, has responded by reshaping the real estate curriculum to focus on sustainability.
“The classes, our research, and everything that we now do will be taught through a lens of sustainability,” said Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate and Capital Markets.“We’re addressing how climate change impacts all parts of the industry—from development and building to mortgages and mortgage-related securities to the insurance markets.”
The Fisher Center’s real estate program provides both academic and interdisciplinary training in real estate investment, real estate law, and the role of real estate development in the built environment. MBA students, along with students in the College of Environmental Design and Berkeley Law, can earn the Center’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate (IGCRE).
Recent curriculum changes impacted two core real estate courses: Real Estate Investment and Sustainability, and Real Estate Finance and Securitization.
Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for 70% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to C40, a network of the world’s megacities addressing climate change. What’s more, most of the world’s urban areas are on coastlines that are at risk from rising sea levels and coastal storms.
Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy.
“It’s so important that Haas is making this shift to help students approach these problems and move to solve them from the sustainability side,” said Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas.
The Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class, which Wallace co-taught with architect Edward McFarlan, examines the challenges and opportunities in creating the next-generation city, including rethinking density, transit, mobility, infrastructure, and equity.
Last spring, students worked on final team projects centered on sustainable redevelopment of two Bay Area sites: the Stonestown Mall in San Francisco, owned by Brookfield Properties; and the Bayfair Mall in San Leandro, owned by Madison Marquette.
Students assumed that both sites could be redeveloped with a “blank slate” approach, and their charge was to convert both sites to a mixed-use development with affordable housing and live-work-shop components.
The Bayfair Project, outlined in a class project book Wallace compiled called “Building the Sustainable City,” included ground floor retail, a solar canopy over the garage, a shared electric vehicle program, and EV charging. Students also recommended installing puzzle lifts, a semi-automatic parking system that moves cars both vertically and horizontally to create more parking space.
Looking back, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, said the project made him understand how ESG and sustainability extend to the community around a project and can help a project thrive in the long term. “Not only will it get good press, but it will help develop land around the project and create momentum,” he said.
What Raines learned in the class also helped him pitch investors when he was starting Crown Point, a real estate private equity fund. “The thing I think that most struck me from the class is how much investors care about ESG and sustainability—how creating that sense of community at that property is not only a competitive advantage, but also the right thing to do,” he said.
Angus Maguire, MBA 21, said the Bayfair Project helped him better understand the real estate industry and apply what he’d learned in class from the many industry speakers.
“I took the course because I knew I would be working with real estate developers or real estate asset owners sometime in the future in my renewable energy career, so wanted to better understand how they think about project economics,” he said.
In the Real Estate Finance and Securitization course,Wallace, who is teaching the class this semester, draws from real-world research and the students explore real estate market data in depth.
Sabin Ray, MBA 22, said one highlight was learning about Berkeley Law’s recent findings on the City of Berkeley’s well-intentioned Property Assessed Clean Energy Program. The program allowed property owners to borrow money for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements, and make payments through a special assessment to their property tax bills. But the research found that the program raised the property taxes of low-income residents, while underdelivering the promised green benefits.
For their final projects, students in the class will be able to access the electronic S&P Global database through a subscription that the Fisher Center subsidized. The database includes balance sheet, performance, and corporate Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies. Students tap the data to analyze current ESG strategies in the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry.
“The purpose of the Fisher Center subsidy is to provide MBA students with very granular firm-level data that connects the dots between performance and sustainability strategies within real estate operating companies,” Wallace said.
Ray said the sustainability focus of the course appealed to her and that the project finance work will help her as she pursues an impact investing career. “A lot of things we are learning in class I can apply to other areas of financing,” she said.
“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
High above campus in Memorial Stadium last Wednesday, George Milanović, MBA 22, is lying on the pavement drawing hopscotch squares. It’s the first sign that this is not the usual business school class.
His project partner, Laila Samimi, MBA 22, stands nearby. She translates what Milanović is doing.
“The shorter path is the point of no return if the earth’s temperature rises two degrees Celsius—the path of corporate greed and individualistic behavior,” Samimi says. “The other is a path of sustainability. It’s a longer path and it’s harder.”
Heavy stuff for a child’s game, but the hopscotch project makes perfect sense as art created in a new course called Sustainability, Art & Business.
The course calls on 25 undergraduate and MBA students to explore the meaning of sustainability—and the human response to global warming—through art.
“My hope is that this art will help people to see things differently–to reframe problems and challenge our comfortable assumptions,” says Clark Kellogg, a continuing lecturer with the Haas Professional Faculty and the Haas artist-in-residence. “We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability,to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.”
“We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability,to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.” — Clark Kellogg
Kellogg’s classroom method combines experiential learning-by-doing coupled with deep collaboration and peer-to-peer-critique, all on display in the new course. This morning, the class is focused on design, which is the second step of the three-step process for making public art that includes research, design, and execution.
Kellogg grabs a large roll of paper and starts cutting.
“Let’s just start to play,” he says, as the class splits into small groups, clutching chalk, recyclable materials, and other supplies.
Preparing for the pop up
The idea is to finish something today that can be transferred to the Haas Courtyard next Wednesday to share during a pop up show.
Casey Dunajick-DeKnight and her team sit outside cutting recycled seltzer cans into shiny, flat metal pieces that will be used to craft sea creatures that are disappearing from oceans. Dunajick-DeKnight says she’s inspired by origami and found that aluminum is a flexible material “that cuts like paper.” Kellogg says he’s pleased that the cans are finding a second life as aluminum squid and crabs. “If it’s single use, and we use it twice, we cut the problem in half.”
Meanwhile, Zarine Kakalia, BS 22, is using chalk to draw a river that’s been diverted so many times that there’s no water left for the salmon. “I thought this was an interesting way to address resource constraints,” says Kakalia.
The class spends an hour working on projects before gathering for storytelling, where one group member describes the project to the class. Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, shares an idea for a game of courtyard twister, with the dots representing vanishing coral reefs. Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, explains a drawing that explores the role of women artisans in developing countries, who are balancing sustainability and business. And Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing should provoke people to think about the future of a sky obscured by greenhouse gases. “It’s rainbow versus anti-rainbow,” he says.
Kellogg offers praise and gentle prompts for students to take their ideas to the next level.
Before class breaks up, the students head outside to check out the hopscotch game. One student asks Kellogg if he remembers how to play hopscotch. Kellogg pauses, but then obliges, skipping through the squares as the group cheers him on.
Making a plan
Afterwards, the students must decide whether to transfer their projects in some form to the Haas courtyard or recreate their projects on site. The group votes to create their art on site. “Drawing time will be critical,” Kellogg warns, and the group agrees to plan more during the week on Slack, and meet at the courtyard by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It will be so great to look at the chalk drawings on the ground and think: ‘We did this,’ ” Rosa Huang, MBA 22, says.
After next Wednesday’s event, a second courtyard pop-up show is planned for December, followed by a final gallery reception of student art.
Throughout the course, the class will read books like “Think Like an Artist” and “In Pursuit of Inspiration” and news articles that detail the links between taking walks and creativity and the importance of taking time to be alone to just think. (One of Kellogg’s personal projects was to document his commitment to making art daily.)
Among the students, many of whom are involved in sustainability-focused student groups and working at environmentally-related internships, the consensus is that the class is fresh and fun, tapping a different part of their brains.
“As business school students we are often comfortable with data and frameworks and this class helps us break away from that and be creative and think of things on the spot,” says Alejandra Arrué, MBA 22. “That’s why we enjoy the class.”