State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Faculty Spotlight: Adam Gordon

Adam Gordon
Adam Gordon an adjunct professor in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management program. He’ll be teaching ‘ESG-Aligned Corporate Governance’ in spring 2023.

Adam Roy Gordon is currently an adjunct professor in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management program. He is a director at United Nations Global Compact Network USA, the U.S. network of the secretary-general’s corporate sustainability initiative, where he was the organization’s founding employee. He is a well-known public speaker on corporate sustainability topics, a contributor to the Atlantic, and was named to the Environment + Energy Leader 100.

Previously, Gordon worked at CDP, supporting the integration of climate change, water, and deforestation disclosure into corporate performance. He was an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow at Colgate-Palmolive Company and has diverse experience in sustainability that ranges from advising the government of Montenegro on green building policy to founding NYC’s first commercial composting waste hauler.

He holds a B.A. from Oberlin College, a M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University, and is currently enrolled in the Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business School.

What initially motivated you to pursue the field of sustainability?

There is nothing more important to preserving the planet and humanity. I began my career working with farmers, as I believe that nothing connects us more to the Earth than the soil. Working with farmers taught me the criticality of effective business models to further sustainability and that has inspired my work to embed sustainability into core business operations.

What drew you to the Columbia Climate School and the School of Professional Studies?

I am proud to be a graduate of the Sustainability Management master’s program. My time as a student at Columbia was pivotal in my career, both for my professional and personal development. The opportunity to now teach in the program is deeply fulfilling.

What course will you be teaching and what excites you most about it?

I will be teaching ESG-Aligned Corporate Governance in Spring 2023. I am excited about the course because it allows me to share my experience working with corporate leadership with the next generation of leaders. Aligning corporate governance with sustainability principles is often overlooked, but it is the key to unlocking the sustainability potential across organizations.

What changes do you hope to see in the field of sustainability in the future?

We are experiencing a very dynamic time for the sustainability field. It is maturing with new regulations, investor interest, and evolving best practices. Ultimately, I hope to see the field become central to corporate strategy. It is not enough for a company to develop a sustainable product or service, or to create a report for stakeholders. While sustainability metrics are important, we need to see a greater focus on integrating sustainability holistically into all companies’ core strategies to achieve the world we want.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in sustainability?

Sustainability is about navigating various corporate silos and disparate fields. The job of a sustainability professional is to be a translator between different communities to highlight and impact the connections between them. Focus on the interconnection and your ability to navigate effectively between departments to forge novel solutions.

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