There’s a seismic shift underway in the energy sector. It’s driven by a demand for businesses to respond to the growing need for climate conscious business practices to help combat the effects of climate change.
The UK is positioning itself as a leader in this regard—the government recently announced a plan to generate 30% of its electricity through wind power by 2030.
Elsewhere, Norwegian energy company Equinor—formerly Statoil—has finalized investment to build the world’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland, opening new regions to wind power with technology that can reach deeper waters than traditional turbines.
All of this means archaic ways of thinking about energy production are ossifying, and there’s a demand for agile, new-wave business methods to aid the transition away from fossil fuels.
Felix Ritchie knows this too well. He works as a business development manager for Energy Systems Catapult, a technology and innovation center part-funded by Innovate UK, helping navigate the transformation of the nation’s energy system.
He transitioned into the clean energy sector from the Civil Service after completing an MBA at Birmingham Business School. There, he says, he was introduced to the concepts of sustainable business that he hadn’t been able to explore in previous careers.
A sustainability-focused MBA
Felix’s affiliation with Energy Systems Capital began when the company’s CFO came in to work with the MBA students for a day.
“That opened my eyes to the massive transformation that’s happening all around us,” says Felix, “and one thing led to another after that.”
A commitment to responsible management and sustainable business is a key facet of the MBA at Birmingham Business School. In October 2018, the school officially opened the Lloyds Banking Group Responsible Business Centre, a five-year project building the capacity for responsible business transformation.
Felix says that the Centre was in the process of being developed while he was on the MBA. Immediately, he saw its impact, with the number of talks by industry leaders, in addition to networking opportunities with key players in the clean energy sector growing.
“I think without that connection I wouldn’t necessarily have come across [the Energy Systems Capital] opportunity,” he explains. “Being exposed to those kinds of business leaders […] definitely helped to build up a knowledge base of what was going on in the industry.”
Why do MBA students need to know about responsible business?
“In the industry I’m in you see Shell and BP starting to acquire low carbon, innovative businesses, and clearly gearing the structure of their businesses up for the new economy, as it transitions away from the burning of fossil fuels,” Felix continues.
He admits that one of the reasons for pursuing the MBA at Birmingham Business School was a desire to upskill and augment his business acumen. MBA students with a curiosity to learn the skills needed to help companies adapt to new environments will be the ones that thrive. The common denominator across this skill set is a penchant for responsible business.
Felix says an education like the one he received at Birmingham Business School makes candidates look like more well-rounded employees to potential recruiters. They can see the leadership potential you have, he adds, and the innovative thinking you’ve been exposed to.
So, is that what all MBA programs of the future will need?
“I’ll go as far to say I don’t think it’s the future anymore, I think it’s happening right here and now,” Felix asserts.
“If you don’t have that understanding of responsible business practices and what your obligations are to society, shareholders, and employees, then you’re coming out of business school with a gap in your education.”