Working on the climate emergency, changing Nestlé’s food chain, and the return of the green Sahara
Climate Pioneers Issue No8
Dear Climate Pioneer
Do you want to work on solving climate change? In this number we explore how people commit their careers to the opportunity.
Climate careers: How people start to work on climate change
Knowledge snack: 18 million more green jobs by 2030
How they do it: Changing Nestlé will be a nonlinear process (Interview)
Best pick: "Pollution: bad. Removing pollution: good."
Future fantasy: The return of the green Sahara (incl. Illustration)
Climate careers: How people start to work on climate change
The last story was about investing to fight climate change. This time we look at addressing climate change through work. In a nutshell:
Climate change is not a job killer. The innovation needed for a low-carbon economy will likely create millions of new jobs.
There are three prevailing paths for transitioning into a climate career: transforming an existing role, switching to a different position or organization, or starting a new business.
In any case, learning about the matter is a good idea. A selection of virtual classes and communities offering free and paid fellowships further below.
Examples from three individuals and startups reveal that preparation got them into the space and success will hopefully keep them there.
As the economy shifts towards sustainability, it remains open if new job descriptions will effectively solve the climate emergency or more radical career changes are needed.
Everyone can do something to reverse climate change. Unless you have been working in the space for many years, your situation could be one of the following (I’m a bit in all of these):
You’re cheering on the sideline and can’t wait to jump into the game.
You are about to switch the jersey to be on team climate for the second half.
You have been on the team for a couple of seasons but didn't play all the games.
People who went down the rabbit hole have collected useful information in blogposts, audio-articles and threads on where to start. One thing they have in common is learning about the matter. Specialized study programs from Airminers, On Deck or Terra.do can facilitate that process. Universities such as Stanford, Harvard or Cambridge offer online degrees on sustainability. There are also many great free courses on Coursera or edX.
It is also not a bad idea to browse through the growing number of job boards like Climatebase, Tech Jobs for Good, 80000hours, Green Collar, Unjobs or GIIN. Plus, slack channels and newsletter such as Work on Climate, Climate Action.tech, Greentech Alliance, Climate Tech VC or MCJ have rapidly expanding job listings.
Now, what is it like to find a climate job? Here are three stories from individuals that have recently transitioned into their climate roles:
Doreen Wong, Entrepreneurship Lead at the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (refer startups here): “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to attend one of the last in-person professional networking events with the Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy (WISE). There, I met Daniela Fernandez, CEO/Founder of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, and one of SOA’s portfolio companies, Novoloop (formerly, BioCellection). I was captivated by their stories - women leaders in tech, advancing technology solutions in ocean health and circular economy. After what was a difficult 2020 year for many, I had an epiphany that year - it was in my core mission and values to dedicate 100% of my career to climate tech. This position popped up at the end of 2020; I applied, interviewed, and got the role!”
Harsh Dubey, General Manager at Lowercarbon Capital: “I became interested in helping solve climate change after the IPCC 1.5 degree report came out, and decided on Venture Capital as my medium of choice after an internship at Founders Fund. During my third and fourth years at college, I started reaching out to entrepreneurs doing cool things in this space to see how I could help them with fundraising, which is how I got in touch with the team at Lowercarbon. Just as I was about to graduate a role opened up on the team, and thankfully it turned out to be a good fit!”
Ryan Orbuch, Climate at Stripe: “I was always interested in climate, environmental stuff when I was way younger [...]. Joined Stripe because I wanted to see an example of how a well run company works. And then suddenly we had made this climate commitment [...]. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to start working on our negative emissions commitment, kind of as a side sort of 10% thing. And I immediately got just very excited about it. Started reading a lot, started chatting with some scientists, started getting a sense of how we might be able to kind of actually make an impact here. And yeah, just talking to these projects and scientists, I got sufficiently excited about it, that we worked with other folks at Stripe to turn it into a real team [...].”
And what about people who founded a climate company? Here are three critical moments in the creation of startups:
Diego Saez Gil founded Pachama after he visited the rainforest and read about the potential of forests to capture carbon.
18 million more green jobs by 2030
Climate change is not a job killer. Massive modernization towards a low-carbon economy will destroy old foundations and thereby likely accelerate job creation. So called green-collar jobs are said to grow rapidly and the economy will gain a net of 18 million green jobs by 2030. Seems like a small number, given the magnitude of the problem (although some actually believe it will take only 12-15 entrepreneurs to reverse climate change). Anyhow, moving from conservation to regulation and investment, green jobs are expanding throughout the economy. Like software is eating the world, sustainability is snacking job descriptions.
As the economy shifts towards sustainability, the push to replace a white with a green collar is real and deserves an applause. But maybe it's an illusion that we can continue our careers as business managers or software engineers to reverse climate change. Maybe effectively taking care of patient earth will require a massive workforce of oceanographers, soil scientists, meteorologists, hydrologists, farmers, foresters, recyclers and renewable energy engineers.
For now, the debate of the new normal and the future of work is in full swing and we can take into consideration how it will affect our career. Why not to work on climate change is what we should be asking given the magnitude of the problem. In order to find a suitable personal path, good questions to ask are:
What can I do in my existing job to make a difference?
Could I switch to a climate-dedicated role or company?
Should I start a climate-related business or service?
The “How they do it” section explores how businesses are tackling climate change
How they do it: “Changing the way we grow food will not be a linear process”
Today, two thirds of Nestlé’s carbon footprint originates from agricultural production. Nestlé’s Public Affairs Senior Manager for Environmental Impact Owen Bethell reflects on the company’s target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Will we all soon be eating and drinking synthetic chocolate and coffee from Nestlé?
Owen Bethell: No – our priority is to help farmers transition to regenerative agricultural methods, that keep more carbon, water and biodiversity in the ground. We believe that agriculture can be part of the solution to many of the challenges we face – but needs to undergo significant changes to get there. As a major buyer of cocoa and coffee, we have an opportunity to drive the transition for these crops.
Organizations talk about aligning economic and environmental targets, have you found the secret and what is it for your company?
Owen Bethell: Nestlé has worked for many years around the principle of creating shared value – value for both our shareholders and wider society. Expectations on companies have evolved and we are now stepping up our game to tackle shared challenges like climate change in a way that ensures long term commercial success. I don’t think we’ve found a secret formula at Nestlé – but we do have a good balance between managing our impact on communities and the environment and meeting the demands of the market. It helps that many of our investors are now pushing us to go faster and further on societal issues – and that consumers are also increasingly looking to choose products and services with a positive impact. Ultimately, we want to be a company that puts back more than it takes from the world in every sense. We don’t have all the answers for how to do this yet and will continue learning as we work towards our ambitions.
How confident are you to reach the sustainability targets of your company?
Owen Bethell: We have a high degree of confidence in our ability to meet our targets because they are realistic and yet stretching at the same time. Nestlé has already identified interventions in agriculture that will deliver most of the carbon savings required up to 2025 and 2030, as set out in our industry leading net zero roadmap. We need to ensure robust data collection to measure our progress – and this is something that will improve over time. It’s also important to remain flexible as we learn about what works and what doesn’t work. Changing the way we grow food is a huge challenge and will not be a linear process of simply phasing out one method and switching to another (as you might see in the power sector). Our aim is to ultimately ensure that our ingredients come from net zero sources. We believe this is possible with the right mix of portfolio changes and interventions in existing supply chains. For example, the significant popularity of plant-based foods coupled with our strong innovation base will allow Nestlé to offer more products with a lower environmental footprint and strong growth prospects.
Achieving our environmental objectives will be done in a way that also delivers successful business outcomes. Changes will need to be phased correctly and will partly reflect the maturity of complementary sectors – such as transport. For example, as the availability of zero emissions options like hydrogen trucks improves, so it will become more feasible for Nestlé and others to switch over. However, this requires system wide transformations that rely on many different types of actors, including governments. We’ll do what we can to help drive the changes required to reach net zero in a cost-sustainable way.
Anything else you would like to share, to inspire others or to get off the chest?
Owen Bethell: It's great to see so many companies making big climate commitments, but the variation in what these commitments cover is a source of some frustration. We need to see companies account for the vast majority of their emissions in their plans. These often occur in ‘Scope 3’ – that is activities sitting outside of the company’s immediate footprint – and which require strong collaborative action with suppliers and other organizations. Around 95% of Nestlé’s emissions lie outside our immediate control, so we strongly encourage other companies to adopt comprehensive net zero plans to help drive collective success.
Would you like to feature the efforts of your organisation? Please answer four questions.
The “Best pick” section present a selected article, podcast, video or other resource
Best pick: "Pollution: bad. Removing pollution: good."
In this interview, professor Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò recommends western governments not to overthink carbon removals.
"They are really just overthinking it. Like, a section of the world that has the lion’s share of economic, political, and interpersonal security, and that has the lion’s share of wealth, has also emitted the lion’s share of pollution. And now there are ways emerging to literally, in direct ways, address that pollution; ways of removing pollutants from the air and putting them someplace else where they can do less damage to the world."
The “Future fantasy” section provides a fictional short story from the future
Future fantasy: The return of the green Sahara
30.03.2044 – Where to transform arid land on scale? Twenty years ago, space agencies from around the world united to answer this question. They launched a competition for greening the Sahara desert. Soon the best ideas and people caravanned around the prize. The winners pitched a plan that would take over two decades to execute. An army of over 50’000 engineers, farmers and scientists stormed the desert, desalinated ocean water, redirected rivers, dug artificial lakes and started hundreds of independent small scale oases. Growers used state of the art breeding technologies, geological and geospatial data, and eco-machines perfectionizied in the terraformation of the Sinai peninsula to accelerate plant growth. They also produced biochar onsite to enhance soils and simultaneously sequester gigatons of CO2. The Great Green Wall expanded from the south and joined into the efforts. Eventually the different ecosystems grew and matched like puzzle pieces into one massive 9 million square kilometer biosphere. After being dry for 5’000 years the Sahara is green again. Forest and farmland blend with surreal cities. From desert to place to live: The Sahara.
In the next issue
A main story, a Knowledge snack, How they do it, a Best pick and another Future fantasy will wait for you. Subscribe now, if you want to receive the next issue. Together we can help reverse climate change.
Climate Pioneers is a monthly magazine. Readers receive findings at the intersection of business, science and sustainability. By the way, the footprint of this publication is removed via soil carbon certificate.
My name is Sam. As a teenager I really wanted to get away from the farm I grew up on. So I worked, studied and travelled to over forty countries. Only to come back and run a startup for meat from organic family farms. In 2019 I started Project Oasis with the idea to promote land restoration and carbon removal. The research and insights from talking to farmers and sustainability professionals emerged into this online magazine about climate solutions.