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Climate Change Is a Big Problem. Here's How One College Student Wants to Help Solve It
Millennial idealism is widely recognized. Indeed, 88 percent of all respondents to the PreparedU study agree that businesses have the opportunity to improve society and need recent college grads to help them. Add to that the fact that 86 percent of millennials say it's a priority for them to work for companies that are socially responsible and ethical, and the implications are clear.
There may be no more highly visible industry that fits the bill than environmental sustainability. But how can aspiring "green" workers really understand the state of the art? Bentley University student Julie Delongchamp ‘15 built off of her California roots, dug deep on Bentley’s New England college campus, and was “internationally impressed” in Rouen, France. What she learned and what it suggested in terms of her future career direction could be a model for other millennials who value social impact.
It was sophomore year when Delongchamp took on the role as secretary of the Bentley Green Society, and soon after she began serving as an Eco-Rep for her residence hall through the Office of Sustainability. As a summer intern for the office, she took the lead on the office’s first sustainability tracking and assessment data collection project (STARS). And although her first reason for studying abroad was to practice the French language, sustainability didn’t take a back seat.
“From many of my Earth, Environment, and Global Sustainability Liberal Studies major (LSM) courses, I knew that cultural values, state of economic development, and geography determine many of a region’s social and environmental problems. I was excited to see the types of solutions another developed region had chosen to employ to mitigate issues like climate change and social inequity.”
Cars on the road were rarely larger than a sedan, and there were just as many buses and bikes as there were cars. Gas prices, she says, were almost prohibitively expensive: In mid-2014, the cost in The Netherlands was $9.50 USD per gallon and $7.90 per gallon in France, compared to $3.70 in the U.S.
Energy sources are another strong suit for sustainability in Western Europe, she adds. “For example, Germany is an outright powerhouse in solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation, while Spain is heavily invested in concentrated solar thermal power (CSP).”
She was most impressed by these countries’ commitments to increase renewables’ share of generation over time to 60 percent by 2050 for Germany and by 25 percent by 2020 for France.
“The experience abroad made me realize how vital investment, favorable infrastructure and government policies are to the success of sustainability initiatives,” Delongchamp says. “While government support has helped Western European countries address their challenges strategically from the top down, the U.S. has no such luxury, at least not in the short term.”
And she plans to be part of the solution. Short-term career plans include sustainability analyst or sustainable investment manager. “I’ve turned my attention to a practical approach: Money talks. To me, the best way for sustainable solutions to make meaningful progress is to move the needle through capital markets.”
It is not surprising for the Economics-Finance major to find a clear connection between money and sustainability. By incorporating externalities and risks beyond the scope of traditional financial statements, Delongchamp believes that companies and investors logically turn to renewable energy, efficient consumption and other sound policies that mitigate these risks.
Her forward thinking is getting noticed. In July 2015, she joins the Investment Analytics & Communications team at Wellington Management, a UN Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) signatory. She aims to someday work for Fair Trade International or the United Nations Development Program to promote responsible growth and sustainable development throughout the global supply chain.
But until then, Delongchamp continues to make her mark on the Bentley campus. She is president of Green Society, an intern for the Office of Sustainability, and the ESG (environmental, social, governance) member of the Student Advisory Board for the Hughey Center for Financial Services Trading Room. Her capstone research thesis for the Honors Program focuses on social, economic and political influences on the opportunity for solar energy to alleviate energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.
Can fellow millennials help her pull it off? You bet.
“We’re the generation most likely to be impacted by the adverse effects of climate change in the next 50 years, so we are logically the most concerned about slowing and reversing the trend. We are not overly optimistic, we just understand the simple facts that the status quo just won’t do and that throwing our hands up in futility in the face of these immense challenges is only wasting precious time.”
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