From early in his career, Ron Gonen ’04 felt a growing desire to build a successful business addressing problems related to climate change and sustainability. But when he would share his dream, he sometimes encountered blank stares or more-pointed skepticism. How could a business with a climate mission make money?
Committed to his vision, he pressed on, leaving his role as a consultant at Deloitte in 2002 to enter Columbia Business School and learn the skills necessary to become an entrepreneur. He would eventually found Recyclebank, a company that promotes recycling, and Closed Loop Partners, an investment firm that’s working to scale up the circular economy.
“I’ve never doubted the opportunity,” Gonen says. “If you start from a place where you feel this is your cause, you never waver from what you’re trying to accomplish even as you go through trials and tribulations.”
Like Gonen, the CBS alumni profiled here are among a new generation of climate leaders who have – often against the odds – managed to build businesses and careers on answering the call to solve this global challenge.
Of course, coming to grips with a problem as massive and multifaceted as climate change will require input and solutions from a broader swath of alumni within the CBS community than those we were able to include in this issue, and from a much wider variety of industries and forms of expertise.
These alumni are demonstrating just how that can be done, whether as an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, an investor, or the CEO of a Fortune 200 company.