Dr Aled Jones explains how Cambridge University's new Climate Leadership Programme aims to help business leaders better understand the risks and opportunities associated with climate change.
BusinessGreen: How did Cambridge University's new Climate Leadership Programme come about?
Dr Aled Jones: We run the Prince of Wales' business and sustainable development programme and we've covered climate change within that, but it has become increasingly clear that we need to do something more specific on the issue, how it is impacting businesses and how they can help tackle the problem.
What will the course entail?
The aim is to get 40 or so senior business people together for a four day residential course. We'll provide information on the science, the policy and how businesses are responding to climate change. The aim is to help facilitate the development of climate change strategies that will suit their business – we don’t want it to be too proscriptive and the majority of the course will involve getting people together in working groups to look at possible strategies for tackling the problem.
When will the first course run?
We have a partnership with Duke University in the US and they are going to run the first course in May, then we'll follow with a course here in October. The aim is to get executives from some of the UK's largest companies to attend this year, then next year we'll expand the programme with two events in the UK, two more in the US and maybe one in Asia.
A lot of business schools are either already running courses in this area or planning to do so. How will this course differ?
There are business schools running these courses, but we're not part of the business school community so we are not really looking at pre-set ideas around business models. Our aim is to bring in top level scientific, economic, policy and business experts and help attendees develop their own solutions. It is arguably a bit less focused than the traditional business school approach, but it is also a bit less proscriptive.
What type of attendee are you aiming for and what do you hope they will get out of the course?
The aim is to have really top level speakers, including politicians and business leaders and to ensure the attendees are amongst the top four or five executives within a business. It will cost £3,950 for the four day course and the aim is to give attendees an overarching understanding of where the science, policy and business challenges lie in tackling climate change; where the business opportunities are; and how best to evaluate and manage climate change initiatives. We'll also form an alumni network that will allow the attendees to work together in developing new initiatives and sharing best practices after the course.
How much interest have you had in the course?
We recently sent out the first wave of marketing material and the response has already been very interesting. We select applicants based on a nomination process, rather than first come first serve basis, but we'd still expect the course to be sold out.
Why do you think such green business courses are proving popular?
It is all about understanding the opportunities and the risks. The academic understanding of the science, policy and economics of climate change is absolutely key to any long term corporate strategy development. For example, if the emissions trading scheme is going to affect your business you need to know what the next stage is going to look like. If you are making long term investments you need to know how climate change is likely to affect demographics and population distribution in the next twenty or thirty years.
Is there a lack of understanding of these issues amongst business leaders at the moment?
There are of course leaders in this field, such as the corporate leaders group on climate change which we have been involved with, but even within those companies understanding levels vary. At the same time all companies are increasingly realising the need to develop strategies in this area, so I would expect to see more demand for these types of courses and the development of more courses to meet that demand.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Cambridge University's Climate Leadership Programme or registering to attend can do so here
About Dr Aled Jones
Dr Aled Jones is a Development Director at the Cambridge Programme for Industry where he works on developing programmes in Climate Change and Energy.
He is also Director of the Climate Leadership Programme (Europe) and is part of the Secretariat for the Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
Prior to this he worked as a senior technology consultant and was a Fellow of Mathematics at King's College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.
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