For this year’s Earth Day, MBA-focused publication Poets & Quants featured B-School sustainability graduates, including Katherine Neebe (MBA ’04) VP National Engagement and Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer at Duke Energy. She also serves as president of the Duke Energy Foundation. In these capacities, she leads Duke Energy’s stakeholder engagement efforts to develop solutions to meet customer needs for continued reliable and affordable energy – while simultaneously working to achieve the company’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Neebe was also recently named to the National Diversity Council’s Power 50. The National Diversity Council is a forerunner of community based, national organizations that champion diversity and inclusion across the country.
Over the past 20 years, Neebe has worked with a wide range of corporate, government and nonprofit organizations. Weaving together her intensive business experience and commitment to social and environmental responsibility, she brings in-depth insight to effective stakeholder engagement and an ability to ground sustainability into actionable terms.
In the full profile published on Poets & Quants, Neebe shared more about how she views the role of business in society.
What does World Earth Day mean to you?
World Earth Day provides me with an opportunity to pause and reflect on the work to date and the challenges that lie ahead. This year is an incredible year where we should see the global community – government, civil society, business and other institutions – come together to discuss our ambitions with respect to climate change as well as what is necessary to deliver progress. This week, we have the Leaders Summit on Climate and, over the balance of the year, convenings such as Climate Week and COP26 in Glasgow. Hopefully, these should prove to be powerful events that will serve as important touchstones in the years to come.
How has your business school experience helped your career in this area?
I attended business school roughly 20 years ago at a time when the field of corporate sustainability was in its nascency and I was a relatively young practitioner. To be an effective influencer and changemaker, I knew that I needed to learn the language, structure and rhythm of “traditional” businesses. Business school taught me not only the fundamentals of business but also important soft skills such as organizational behavior. Being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives and navigate across different systems has been invaluable.
What are your hopes for the future of the planet?
The three big issues on my mind are climate change, ecosystem health (or natural capital) and human rights – particularly issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as inequality. We need to solve for all of them, together. My hope is that we deepen our understanding of the interconnectedness of these issues, build on the important progress that has already been made and help create a world that provides for all – people and planet.
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