Climate change conference to welcome distinguished researchers on campus

Courtesy / KBEI website

Courtesy / KBEI website

McKenna Peariso

Professionals from a variety of fields will take part in a discussion on climate change, specifically its impact on business and society workings. Climate change refers to the Earth’s weather patterns that last an extended period of time. In the past 35 years, climate change has showed record years of warm weather with 2016 being the warmest year on record.

The Koeze Business Ethics Initiative (KBEI) housed in Grand Valley’s Seidman College of Business will be hosting a climate change conference on Oct. 10 to examine the many different viewpoints on the subject. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. in the William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. It will host a panel of speakers from Grand Rapids and other parts of the world to discuss how climate change impacts different professions and communities. 

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Dutch researcher and author Mandy de Wilde who will present new and innovative ways the Netherlands are transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable society. Wilde’s research with the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University revealed the importance of market-based solutions and social movements to create a more ecological, circular alliance. The two Dutch scholars will also be joined by local state and government officials who will be presenting on the different challenges climate change pose to businesses and other public sectors. 

Some panelists for the conference include Margrethe K. Kearney from Michigan’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, Jeff Myrom from Consumers Energy and Michigan Public Service Commissioner Norman J. Saari. These panelists and more will debate and discuss the effects of climate change in an attempt to work toward possible future solutions. 

“The idea is to have an open forum where people who are seen differently and have different sets of problems can have an open and respectful discussion about climate change,” said KBIE Director and GVSU management professor Michael DeWilde. 

The conference aims to provide a platform for individuals with different agendas and backgrounds to present their perspective of climate change issues that impact their line of work. This way, panelists can take into account business, government, activism and other viewpoints to better understand how climate change can alter an entire community’s quality of life. 

“The last year and a half I’ve been meeting with a lot of businesses, government officials and activists who all see the effects of climate change in terms of government regulations, supply chain in business and how it will impact the overall quality of life,” DeWilde said.

As part of the KBEI, the conference will also fulfill discussion on being ethical in business to better understand its relation to the common good. KBEI was first established as a business ethics center in 1995 by GVSU Management Professor Barry Castro. After several years, a substantial donation from the Koeze family gave the initiative its name. In 2008, DeWilde took over KBEI and has established several projects and strategies to align ethics and business efforts. One of these projects include research into how ethical decisions are made.

“We are partnering with the neuro lab at Texas Tech University and we are looking at the impact of how the brain works on moral decision making to understand why people make ethical decisions,” DeWilde said.

In regards to the conference, DeWilde hopes that potential future projects for KBEI can be inspired by the debate on climate change effects and efforts. Potential project ideas could likely stem from the final conference topic titled ‘Moving Forward Together: What We Can All Do’. 

“We will get a lot of diverse viewpoints,” DeWilde said. “There is a good open discussion and people may learn some new things. The Dutch perspective should also be very useful.”

As climate change continues to impact all walks of life in different ways, discussions like these can offer potential solutions to the problems of those affected. It is KBEI’s mission to inquire and educate on ethical practices in business to create innovative, effective practices. This conference will help facilitate some of this education and inquiry, as other KBEI discussions have managed to do in the past. 

“I hope this event will help people find opportunities to work together to see how they can mitigate these effects,” said DeWilde.