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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Overcoming Organizational Barriers to Carbon Neutrality: Lessons from the UC Experience


In 2013, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced one of the most ambitious environmental programs in the country, the Carbon Neutrality Initiative. The CNI sets a goal to reach net zero carbon emissions from the system’s 10 campuses by 2025.

Though we often think of the need for scientific and technological breakthroughs to achieve carbon neutrality, UC is finding that at least as important are insights into organizational behavior, communications strategy, and operations management.Our focus in this Pritzker brief is on lessons the UC system is learning as it implements its carbon neutrality goal. We believe that these lessons will be invaluable for other organizations as they work to reduce or eliminate their emissions.

Organizations seeking to become carbon neutral need to evaluate and overcome financial and management challenges, not just technical barriers. They will need to understand their organizations intimately, and institute multiple organizational changes and new policies and practices to ensure that carbon neutrality becomes a reality.

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