John Weiss ’83 Works to Make Companies More Environmentally Conscious

John Weiss ’83 is the Senior Director of the nonprofit Ceres, an organization that partners with investors and companies to work towards a more sustainable future. As part of the Climate Cafe series, Weiss discussed Ceres’ work in building a socio-economic model that encourages environmental consciousness on January 10.

Ceres equips companies with the research needed to become stewards of environmental and social change, according to their website. One of Ceres’ most recent initiatives, Climate Action 100+, aims to engage with over 100 of the largest greenhouse-gas-emitting companies across the world to help reduce their climate footprint. According to Weiss, the initiative has several major objectives when interacting with a company.

“We ask that companies set a target to reduce their emissions not just from the company itself but also from its supply chains and anything connected to their supply system. Companies need to have a governing system that ensures that the company is going to follow through with the work they are doing…Our goal is to point them in the right direction, and get the executive teams to set the strategy and motivate their teams to make the commitments,” said Weiss.

Weiss believes that while technologies such as solar panels and electric cars have the ability to combat climate change, the temperature will continue to rise unless people change their mentality.

“We have every solution we need right now. We don’t have to develop another shred of technology…We know what policies work. We just don’t have the will,” said Weiss.

Derek Curtis, Programming and Digital Content Producer and Adjunct Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, helped organize the Climate Cafe Series. While he enjoyed the talk and listening to Weiss engage with various students in the audience, Curtis pointed out that solutions for the climate crisis are more nuanced than just influencing corporations to make decisions.

Curtis said, “Climate change affects different people in very different ways, different groups in very different ways, and the groups that are most often affected in the harshest ways are the groups that don’t have a great deal of power. I think for us to really solve this issue, we have to speak to the equity issue. We have to speak to how some people who don’t have very much power need to have more voice in the game, and we need to be thinking about them and placing their plight at the center of what this conversation is about.”

According to Eli Newell ’20, the Climate Cafe Series has been very successful in engaging students, faculty, and other members of the Andover community about the importance of sustainability on campus. Newell is particularly excited about the group of students from the Climate Cafe initiative who are advocating for a climate curriculum at Andover.

“Andover’s greatest opportunity for promoting sustainability is not necessarily in the campus’s direct footprint; rather, the greatest opportunity lies in Andover’s graduates. By implementing sustainability, social justice, and climate education in our curriculum, Andover can send its graduates into the world with a relevant understanding of the world’s context and potential for profound influence in large-scale sustainability and resilience,” wrote Newell in an email to The Phillipian.

Enthusiastic about the development of a climate curriculum at Andover, Weiss believes that education will play an important role in combating climate change. Mentioning the recent popularity of metal straws, Weiss points out that if enough people make positive changes in their lives, these changes will influence the actions of larger corporations.

“[Andover students] have the opportunity to exert influence over [their] friends and friends of friends, and it does, and it can, have a greater effect. If you look at some things in the market that have gone from being really obscure to mainstream, for example metal straws, little things like that can actually make enough of a difference,” said Weiss.