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Tackling climate change: MBA alum helps business leaders move in a new direction

Juvarya Veltkamp headshot
Posted 2021-09-21
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As one of the architects of the City of Vancouver’s greenest city action plan, Juvarya Veltkamp has a reputation for bringing stakeholders together and delivering transformational change. Now the UBC Sauder School of Business Master of Business Administration (MBA) alum is advising senior decision makers on how to tackle climate-related risks and opportunities. She credits her journey at UBC Sauder for fostering a spirit of teamwork and partnership.

Juvarya is an environmentalist grounded in economic theory. With an education in economics and sustainable development as well as an MBA from UBC Sauder, where she specialized in Finance and Strategic Management, the traditional career choice would have been the private sector. But having spent much of her life living in different countries and witnessing human impacts on the environment, she chose a different path – that of a sustainability consultant, advisor and advocate. 

Connecting the dots: economy, people, planet

Juvarya during one of her speeches on sustainability
Juvarya speaks with passion and purpose about the need for corporations, governments and individuals to address climate change by embracing sustainability.

 

Guided by Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics – a framework that measures the performance of the economy according to meeting the needs of people without exceeding the Earth’s ecological ceiling – Juvarya has provided strategic counsel and data-backed arguments to hundreds of CEOs, politicians and policymakers over a career spanning two decades. 

"In the past, people would say: 'Here's the economy and there's the environment,'” says Juvarya. But, she argues, that thinking is incorrect and has resulted in mass degradation of the planet. 

“The truth is that businesses are not isolated from, but are in fact, inextricably linked to and dependent on climate and the environment. Climate change is an existential threat and we need strong and capable leadership in every sector of our economy and society to address this threat.” 

As a Director at the Canada Climate Law Initiative, an inter-disciplinary research initiative based at UBC, Juvarya provides climate governance education to corporate board directors, pension trustees and other fiduciaries. 

In addition to explaining climate regulations, the organization equips directors and trustees with the tools to provide effective oversight of climate-related risks and opportunities. This includes goals and targets related to carbon emission mitigation, but also wider climate risk considerations. 

“I believe the work we are doing today is the most important contribution I can make to getting our economy equipped to fight climate change at this critical point in time,” she says. 

Shaping the world’s greenest city

 Juvarya as Manager of Green Economy Initiatives
As Manager of Green Economy Initiatives, Juvarya achieved a 35 percent growth in green jobs in Vancouver between 2010 and 2016.

 

Prior to this role, Juvarya spent ten years with the City of Vancouver, developing the City’s green economy strategy. The work involved addressing market failures by shifting capital flows towards low-carbon, local solutions and helping small and medium-sized businesses develop robust climate action plans.

"Our work went beyond physical transformation—our job was to change the underpinnings of our economy,” she recalls. “This meant rethinking many aspects: How does a certain policy impact local business? What opportunities does it create? What are the jobs we need for Vancouver's present and future generations?"

As a result of her track record of success guiding companies, institutions and governments in more environmentally and socially responsible directions, Juvarya was recently elected to the Board of Directors at Vancity Credit Union, Canada’s largest credit union. Vancity was named as a 2021 Best 50 Corporate Citizen by Corporate Knights for its contributions to climate action, community impact, diversity, governance and supports for employees – priorities that align with Juvarya’s values and beliefs.

Gaining business skills and a professional network 

Juvarya with CBC Television
Juvarya discusses with CBC Television how the City of Vancouver reduced its GHG emissions while growing its economy faster than any other city in Canada (2019).

 

Juvarya credits her time at UBC Sauder for giving her a foundation in business management that continues to serve her well in her work as an advisor to government and industry. She’s also grateful for the diverse professional network that she became a part of upon graduation. 

"I can't understate the value of the network and exposure to people from different backgrounds that was possible because of UBC Sauder," says Juvarya. "I met engineers, people who have a background in Organizational Behaviour and marketing communications, amongst many others. Being able to work with a diverse group around the table, and exchanging ideas with them to make something better — that was really valuable."

Collaborate, don’t compete: a message for future business leaders 

For Juvarya, part of her purpose-driven work includes inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders. She would like to see all young people, regardless of their degree or profession, to start integrating sustainable practices into their lives and work.

"Understand your own values and identify ways to give those values wings, regardless of your job title or position," urges Juvarya. "Environmental sustainability is everywhere—it's in law, it's in accounting. Whether you're a business owner or a consultant, it should be a part of your financial reporting. Sustainability should be a core philosophy that drives your brand and the organization’s culture."

Based on her 20 years of experience as an environmental consultant, Juvarya says young professionals could be the ones that make real progress in tackling the climate crisis, especially if they adopt the partnership model. 

“My advice to our next generation of leaders is to make connections that transcend individual pursuits and foster collective good. Reach across traditional lines, partner with your business competitors. Everybody benefits if the whole pie grows in a sustainable way, or our shared risks can be mitigated. The key to a sustainable future will be whether or not we can we work together.”

Watch Juvarya Veltkamp’s presentation at UBC Sauder’s 2019 PechaKucha: Sustainable Futures event.