The launch of The Yale Center for Business & the Environment’s new grant program last week, Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change, could not have been timelier. With the Yale Climate Conference taking place against the backdrop of a record-breaking hurricane season, the week served as a magnifier of both the most hopeful and troubling aspects of our current societal response to climate change: immense leadership, clarity and bravery alongside persisting denial from political leaders, lack of preparation, and the helplessness of ordinary people in the face of devastating crisis. The launch of Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change Grant added one more voice to the side of hope and leadership.
Developed in partnership with The Yale University Office of Sustainability and the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, the new grant program provides support for students or teams of undergraduate, graduate, professional, and doctoral students who have entrepreneurial or innovative ideas to address critical catalysts and solutions for climate change. In addition to funding, students receive mentorship, and incubation space at West Campus to test and explore their idea.
The grant constitutes a tangible step towards actualizing the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025, and kicks off a newly established focus within CBEY on Climate Change Entrepreneurship. This new effort is driven by a belief in the increasingly critical role that businesses and entrepreneurs have to play in addressing climate change, given the current administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change agreement and the urgency of the issue itself.
“This Yale Sustainability Plan is not just about our campus, it is about the role Yale can play in researching innovative, creative solutions to complex global challenges,” says Melissa Goodall, the Associate Director of the Yale Office of Sustainability.
While many of CBEY’s existing funding opportunities address sustainability issues with an implied or voluntary impact on climate change, the explicit focus of the grant ensures that climate-mitigation is addressed as a priority amidst various social and environmental impacts, and signals that innovators have a unique role in that process.
Climate change is the driving factor behind some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges that we now face, impacting human health and security, ecosystems and natural resources, industry and infrastructure, both directly and through a set of reinforcing and interconnected pathways; thus, slowing down or reversing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most powerful leverage points for creating a more just, healthy, prosperous, and safe society.
Moreover, many of the solutions required to address climate change entail massive paradigm shifts or leaps forward in how we go about our lives and livelihoods, making innovation increasingly critical. Innovators can both create these radical alternatives, as well as pressure industry titans to adapt and transform their existing practices, most clearly exemplified by the impact that Tesla has had in pushing electric vehicles into public consciousness and onto the market
Thankfully, the private sector is ripe for entrepreneurs to innovate for climate change. Investors are increasingly aware that climate-smart businesses underlie long-term financial performance, driving operational efficiencies, risk mitigation and brand value. And a new generation of millennial consumers is increasingly driven by sustainability considerations. As such, it is CBEY’s intention that the resources provided by this seed grant merely serve as a catalyst for innovators, encouraging them to get their feet wet and sparking their participation in a rich and rapidly evolving landscape marked by enormous need and opportunity.