The pledge that is getting future business leaders to commit to climate action

The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, where the founders of the Climate Legacy Commitment met.  (Getty Images)
The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, where the founders of the Climate Legacy Commitment met. (Getty Images)


Two Cambridge students are mobilizing M.B.A. candidates to make a commitment to fight climate change throughout their careers.

At one of the world’s oldest universities, two M.B.A. candidates are trying to do something that has never been done before—get future business leaders to make a careerlong commitment to combat climate change.

Collin Janich and Peter Golding, students at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, are creating a pledge for M.B.A. candidates at the world’s top business schools to commit to championing sustainable initiatives and fighting for a net-zero future for the rest of their careers.

“Nothing exists challenging future business leaders," Janich said. “We’re in a position to impact change so this is a call to action to transform business leadership and put climate change into business leadership."

The duo, who met on the first day of their program in September, launched the Climate Legacy Commitment, or CLC, last month. It was founded on the idea that M.B.A. students hold a level of power when it comes to effecting change in future business practices, and that after graduating they will have more control when it comes to enacting day-to-day business decisions. So, if climate awareness is integrated, then operations as a whole can become more sustainable, they say.

“A core tenet for us is that in every decision we want sustainability principles to be integrated. Something to carry forward as a philosophy for every decision no matter how big or small," Golding said.

So far, the pair have signed on close to 300 candidates from the top seven business schools in the U.S., including Columbia Business School, Harvard Business School and MIT, as well as eight schools in Europe, such as the University of Oxford’s Saïd and HEC Paris. Janich and Golding are taking what they call an early Facebook approach to going after students from top colleges first, though they are hoping to expand thereafter.

The pledge itself isn’t binding, and the current cohort won’t be graduating until the fall of this year, so it is unclear how companies will take the declaration into consideration when hiring. But Janich and Golding both hope that by signing up, it would be a lifetime commitment for those candidates to try to drive climate action. “It’s giving people an opportunity to signal to future employers [their intentions]," Golding said. Signees also gain a badge on LinkedIn showing they have signed up for the pledge.

For example, if a candidate goes on to work for a company in the artificial-intelligence space, then trying to reduce water and energy usage could be one way they enact change, given the huge amounts of power and cooling needed to fulfill the demands of AI data servers. Pushing for a switch to renewable energy could be another. “It’s not a purity test," Janich said. “It’s not a stick approach, it’s more of a carrot approach trying to meet M.B.A. candidates where they are. People who want to make a difference."

Gishan Dissanaike, interim dean of Cambridge Judge Business School which is a sponsor of the project, said there is demand for more teaching and support on climate change from students at the school and from the boards of directors at companies that the school works with, noting its growing importance from a corporate perspective.

“We are seeing a change, not only in relation to sustainability but in doing work which is not socially harmful," Dissanaike said. “People do like earning money but they also want to make a positive social impact too." He added that employers will still likely be hiring candidates based on their subject matter expertise, not climate credentials, but the pledge could act as a bonus.

Schools in the U.S. have seen similar demand. At the Wharton School, 10% of its M.B.A. candidates are now majoring in ESG, with it ranking among the top five majors alongside core subjects like finance, accounting and management.

Before life at Cambridge, Janich who hails from Birmingham, Ala., had worked for the energy giant Exxon-Mobil as a senior adviser on climate policy and ESG.

He said that during his time there, colleagues did want to take ESG and climate change seriously but were unsure about how to engage on the issue in a meaningful way, which was part of the reason he looked to found the pledge. Creating networking opportunities through the CLC should allow people from different sectors to learn how to approach the subject and create change within their respective fields, Janich said.

Janich and Golding are also looking to create an event similar to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as COP, to allow for networking as well as teaching across sectors on climate change.

For potential employers, the pledge is an important signal of what values a potential candidate holds, with climate knowledge increasingly in demand.

“Climate change is potentially the greatest existential challenge our species has faced," said Marc Kahn, chief strategy and sustainability officer at Anglo-South African bank Investec. Kahn said the pledge being voluntary is useful as a hiring manager as it sends a strong signal of a candidate’s values and how they can help the bank move to net zero.

“It’s a commitment from the best brains but it needs to come from intrinsic motivation to address this as it [climate change] is very tricky and complex. If it’s not intrinsically motivated, then you’re not going to apply the full brain power that we need [to fight climate change] and instead just do what you are asked to do which frankly is not enough," Kahn said.

Consulting giant Boston Consulting Group echoed Kahn’s thoughts, saying that 84% of its 30,000 staff signaled that they wanted to work in fields related to sustainability in a recent survey.

“Climate and sustainability and societal impact were our two fastest-growing practice areas last year," said Wendy Woods, vice chair of social impact, climate and sustainability at BCG. “It’s [the pledge] fantastic. It’s what we need, more people from a societal point of view talking about this."

Woods said the company has a long history of hiring M.B.A. students, herself a graduate of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She added that sustainability is slowly being built into much of the company’s consulting practices, with work on supply chains particularly being advised upon currently.

“It sends positive signals both on their perspectives but also on the changes that need to happen to the world. We need to hire people who have that," Woods said.

Write to Yusuf Khan at

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