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Columbia University Names Daniel Zarrilli as Chief Climate & Sustainability Officer: 5 Things to Know

July 6, 2024 by Joe Panettieri

Columbia University has named Daniel Zarrilli as chief climate & sustainability officer -- a newly created position.

Here are five things to know about Columbia University's sustainability strategy, and Zarrilli's experience and expertise.

1. University Overview: Columbia University is a private, Ivy League university in New York City. The university serves roughly 9,700 undergraduate and 27,000 postgraduate students. Columbia University is well-known for its research activity, though the university also faced some criticism for its handling of pro-Palestinian protests in the first half of 2024.

2. Sustainability Strategy: Columbia's Plan 2030 is a ten-year strategic plan that "outlines aggressive sustainability goals, grounded in climate science, for Columbia’s New York campuses to achieve net zero emissions by 2050," the university asserts.

The journey to net zero involves the following carbon emission reduction targets:

  • 2025 target: 15%
  • 2030 target: 42%
  • 2035 target: 63%
  • 2050 target: 100%; net zero emission goal achieved.

With those goals in mind, Columbia University has focused on six key commitment areas. They include Campus Energy, Sustainable Transportation, Responsible Design and Construction, Responsible Materials Management, Campus Culture and Campus as Living Lab; and Water Conservation and Capture.

Jessica-Prata-Cianciara
Jessica Prata Cianciara, assistant VP, office of sustainability, facilities and operations, Columbia University

3. Organizational Structure: Columbia's Office of Sustainability, led by Jessica Prata, will "become part of Zarrilli's portfolio," while Zarrilli will report to Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway.

4. Daniel Zarrilli's Experience: Zarrilli has been adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia since January 2023. He has also been special advisor for climate and sustainability at the University since April 2021. Early, he was chief climate policy officer for New York City's Office of the Mayor.

5. Leadership Perspectives: In a prepared statement, Columbia President Minouche Shafik said: “I am pleased to appoint Daniel Zarrilli as the first-ever Chief Climate & Sustainability Officer at Columbia University. By establishing a world-leading Climate School, Columbia has demonstrated its strong commitment to solving this major challenge of our time through academic leadership and excellence. By creating this new operational role, we are embedding sustainability excellence and climate action into every aspect of the University’s work. Dan will be an important partner to the dean of the Climate School in embedding sustainability in everything we do.”

Cas Halloway, COO, Columbia University
Cas Halloway, COO, Columbia University

Added Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway: "Dan's wealth of experience addressing climate change and delivering successful sustainability initiatives in complex operating environments makes him uniquely qualified to lead Columbia's efforts. From the energy we use and the way we build, to the way our students, faculty, and staff live and work, Dan’s mission is to ensure that the systems we provide align with our climate and sustainability goals and that we engage with all stakeholders in the Columbia community to learn, educate, and enlist their support in our efforts.”

Concluded Zarrilli: “The world has the knowledge and tools necessary to solve our climate crisis, thanks in large part to the research done over decades at Columbia University. The path forward includes phasing out fossil fuels and the other unsustainable practices that are sending our planet and humanity into uncharted territory. Columbia is now marshaling resources and expertise from every corner of this great University to deliver climate solutions, from our research and educational programs to our operations and policies as a New York City institution. I look forward to working with the entire University community to embed climate action and sustainability into everything we do.”

Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs): Why Technology Partners Should Care

By 2027, 25% of Global 2000 companies will have assigned a chief sustainability officer (CSO) responsible for meeting their organization’s ESG goals and making ESG-related IT purchasing decisions, according to IDC.

The bottom line: Technology partners need to extend their sales, marketing, engagement and support strategies to successfully fulfill those CSO customer needs, Sustainable Tech Partner believes.

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