Darden Alumna One of ‘15 Extraordinary B-School Graduates’ Making Strides in Sustainability

By Dave Hendrick

For Earth Day, Poets & Quants profiled 15 business school graduates working in environmental and sustainability roles, fields of increased interest for today’s MBA students.

Among those profiled was Katherine Neebe (MBA ’04), chief sustainability officer and vice president of national engagement and strategy for Duke Energy and president of the Duke Energy Foundation. Neebe’s career has also included top sustainability posts at Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund.

A former English literature major, Neebe now works to help one of the country’s largest utilities work toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while providing reliable energy for the company’s customer base. Neebe, who was recently named to the National Diversity Council’s Power 50, spoke about her professional journey and how she views the role of business in society.

What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life? 

I believe that business exists to serve society; business can create extraordinary value for its stakeholders by meaningfully addressing societal challenges, whether those are environmental or social. To that end, I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity over the past 20+ years to work with The Coca-Cola Company, at Walmart and now at Duke Energy to help accelerate positive impact and deliver shared value. Of course, we all can adjust our lives to be more sustainable. However, we are at a unique moment in time and, particularly for an MBA student or alum, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to influence business toward sustainability and have an outsized positive impact on the world we collectively share.

How has your business school experience helped your career in this area?

I attended business school roughly 20 years ago at a time when the field of corporate sustainability was in its nascency and I was a relatively young practitioner. To be an effective influencer and changemaker, I knew that I needed to learn the language, structure and rhythm of “traditional” businesses. Business school taught me not only the fundamentals of business but also important soft skills such as organizational behavior. Being able to see an issue from multiple perspectives and navigate across different systems has been invaluable.

Read the full profile on Poets & Quants.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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