The Towards Science Communications with Impact course taught by Paul Lussier at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies culminated in a trip to Paris where we presented our group’s findings to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As part of the course, students were paired with a client to work on a specific project. Three other students from across the university (Yale College, Yale FES and Yale SOM) and myself were excited to work with WBCSD to develop a digital platform that would help businesses use applied science to address their toughest sustainability issues by bringing together leading multidisciplinary scientists and powerful business leaders. This idea became the Science to Business (S2B) platform.
Throughout the semester, we worked with recent Yale FES Alum, Emily Grady, who is now Program Manager at WBCSD, to refine the project scope and deliver the greatest value to WBCSD. We began by interviewing WBCSD member companies, which included Walmart, Monsanto, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Tyson Foods and other large global companies. We also interviewed IPCC scientists to understand their work and how they interact with business leaders. From these interviews, we refined a value for both the business community and the scientific community that would be compelling for both parties.
In early December we had an amazing opportunity to present our findings to the CEO of WBCSD, Peter Bakker, the COO, Peter White, and the Membership Director of the U.S. Office, Chris Walker during WBCSD’s annual meeting in Paris In addition, Rachel Fried, a fellow joint-degree MBA/MEM student, presented the S2B Platform concept during an IPCC panel at COP21. There was a lot of excitement about the potential impact of the platform during the event and Paul Lussier and the student team are continuing to work with IPCC to develop S2B. We received positive feedback from WBCSD and they are interested in continuing to partner with students next semester.
In addition to presenting to WBCSD, it was exciting to be in Paris with over 30 other Yale students.
We spent time enjoying French food, seeing the Eiffel Tour, and touring around Paris. I also took part in a few COP21 side events where there were climate change leaders from all over the world speaking about their work, which was inspiring and energizing. It was an incredible opportunity to bond with fellow classmates, explore Paris, and be part of a once-in-lifetime global event.
During the spring semester, students enrolling in the Science Communications for Impact class will have the opportunity to continue working on the S2B Platform project by pursuing a case study with one of the WBCSD member companies. This presentation was timely given the recent announcement of the official knowledge partnership between Yale University and WBCSD made on December 15th, just a few days after our presentation. Dean Crane noted, “This partnership will provide WBCSD and its members with a unique opportunity to engage our faculty’s science and business knowledge, together with our students’ passion and creativity, to help address the social and environmental challenges being brought about by climate change…” The S2B Platform student project exemplifies how Yale students, faculty, and WBCSD can gain from this knowledge partnership.
As a joint-degree MBA/MEM student interested in social and environmental innovation and entrepreneurship, this project was intellectually rewarding and exciting for me personally. I continued to improve my client engagement, project management, and verbal and written presentation skills. Overall, the semester-long student project yielded much learning about the field of corporate sustainability and provided me with experience in developing an entrepreneurial product based on consumer insights. If you are interested in learning more about the Science Communications course, please read my classmate’s blog post.