A Climate Change Optimist

Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America

This article originally appeared in Harvard Business School, on September 4, 2019

If climate change feels like an impossibly knotty threat to unravel, consider the outlook of Alisa Gravitz (MBA 1980), who sees being carbon negative worldwide by 2050 as entirely possible. As president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Green America, Gravitz leverages the economic power of consumers, investors, and businesses to create systems-level solutions. “On climate, it’s simple,” says Gravitz, “Stop putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and draw what’s there back down.”

For Green America, that’s meant leading consumer campaigns targeting telecom that led to Verizon’s move to shift its energy use to 50 percent renewables by 2025, and supply chain programs to increase carbon sequestration through soil health initiatives with companies like Danone and Cargill: “Through photosynthesis, we can sequester enough carbon in the soil to reverse climate change,” Gravitz says.

Green America’s sustainable supply chain networks provide peer learning, support, and connections to innovations. “I love the market-solution focus of what we do,” says Gravitz, noting that, in recent big utility buys, solar and wind—with battery backup—are less expensive than coal and natural gas. “I love the victories. When everyone else is in a deep depression about climate change, we can say, ‘Hey, guys! Stop despairing and take action! There is a pathway forward.’ ”