Three things I learned as a Stanford MBA intern at Tomorrow

September 22, 2020 · 4 min read

Serving some of the world’s largest carbon emitters as a management consultant made clear that I want to spend my career working for climate action, not against it. Fast forward a few years and I’m halfway through my joint MBA and MSc in Environmental Studies at Stanford University.

Knowing that I wanted to spend my summer at a climate tech startup, I spent countless hours searching through Crunchbase for interesting companies. Eyeing the search results there was one company that stood out. Tomorrow’s vision of data driven climate action spoke to me, as did their thoughtful approach to building the company’s culture.

I decided to reach out and ended up doing a summer internship working on the go-to-market strategy for Bloom. Here are some of the things I learned.

1. The time for climate action is now

This photo was taken two weeks into my internship. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I worked remotely from Silicon Valley. California has experienced its worst wildfire season in decades, spurred by record-breaking temperatures and drought.

Only a few days later, Google announced an ambitious sustainability agenda including 24/7 carbon-free energy, an initiative that is enabled by Tomorrow’s electricityMap. It’s abundantly clear that the time for climate action is now, and major companies are making moves.

2. Climate neutrality isn’t exactly what it sounds like

Working at Tomorrow has deepened my understanding of corporate climate action. Here’s an example: an increasing number of companies are announcing their ambitions to become climate neutral. The way this often works is that the company calculates its carbon footprint, and then buys the equivalent amount of carbon offsets. In other words, rather than reducing its own emissions, it funds initiatives outside its value chain. In fact, a company could increase its carbon footprint each year and still claim to be “climate neutral” by buying more offsets.

An alternative, more responsible concept is Net Zero. Being Net Zero means that a company’s own carbon sinks equals its emissions. As a consequence, the company will need to take a long, hard look on its own operations and find opportunities for carbon reduction.

As a consumer, be inquisitive when you hear a company claiming to be climate neutral. Ask about their carbon footprint and what they’re doing to reduce it. Be curious about their choice to focus on internal improvements or buying offsets. By having high expectations and pushing for answers, you’ll contribute to corporate climate action.

3. Culture is key

I think people will join Tomorrow for its mission and stay for its culture. As someone working remotely, it became clear to me how effective Tomorrow’s thoughtful cultural choices are in onboarding new employees. Even before joining, its public Slack introduced me to a global community of contributors passionate about supporting Tomorrow’s mission.

The public Slack is complemented by a number of company-internal channels, where employees openly discuss everything from organizational values to growth strategy. I was amazed by the level of participation and the thoughtfulness that went into these conversations.

Finally, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Tomorrow are deep work days. These are uninterrupted, meeting-free days where employees work from their home or favorite coffee shop. I guess it’s not new that removing distractions is key to making great work happen, but building this into a company’s way of working was an eye-opener for me.

Wrapping up

As I head back into the classroom this fall, I’m bringing with me a deeper understanding of climate action and how to build a company around a bold vision, with an inclusive culture and a calendar that gives employees the opportunity to do their best work – uninterrupted.

Written by Johanna Eriksson
Former MBA Intern @ Tomorrow