Fracking in Virginia
February 2013 - CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia – Faculty and
students at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business are
deep in water. Three different Darden courses spanning three
academic areas ¬¬— Accounting; Global Economies and Markets; and
Strategy, Ethics and Entrepreneurship — submerge students in the
global business of water.
U.Va. students also benefit from a cross-disciplinary course on
water and sustainability taught by Darden Professor Peter Debaere
and U.Va. colleagues Paulo D’Odorico, an environmental hydrologist,
and Brian Richter, a conservationist and expert in water policy from
the Nature Conservancy.
In the spring of 2014, Darden students
interested in business and sustainability factors involving water
will have the opportunity to dive in with Debaere and Richter during
the course “Global Economics of Water,” which will be tailored for
In his new class, Debaere’s students will study sustainability
through the lens of water and economics.
They will consider a number
How does globalization interact with water
How does water use interlock with sustainable
How can water be managed more efficiently, and what
challenges do firms face in this respect?
Is there a role for water
Debaere notes that there is growing interest in the water
markets of Australia, Chile and the U.S., and that these should
appeal to business students in particular.
“Here’s the concept: In a region where water is scarce, it may well
be that water is not used optimally,” said Debaere.
high water value activities include irrigation for maintaining an
olive orchard. Low value activities include lawn care or washing a
In the case of a water shortage, a water market makes it
possible for the person with low water value activities to sell part
of his water supply to the person engaging in high water value
Why is an international economist interested in water and getting
his students involved?
“Suppose water was like air, available everywhere on the planet
above ground. We wouldn’t have to worry about supply,” Debaere said.
“The problem is that water is not always where it’s needed when it’s
Some countries have more than they need, while others have
“This unequal distribution of water will affect what countries
produce and trade, and it is this link between water and
international economics that triggered my interest in water,” he
“It is also this awareness of the broader, global context of
the environment within which firms operate that I want to instill in
What’s more, students receive a lesson in corporate social
sustainability — how a company can behave to reduce harmful impacts
on the environment.
Professor Andy Larsen’s “Sustainable Innovation and Enterprise”
course also asked students to consider the opportunities for new
ideas in sustainability and water. This past fall, she introduced
her students to Jon Freedman, global leader in government relations
for GE Power and Water, and Francesca McCann, managing director for
Global Water Strategies.
The two discussed the state of the world’s
water supply, future technologies that could assure water for all,
and opportunities to invest in water stocks and water-focused
According to Larson, these guests allowed students to see new
opportunities for the field of water sustainability and ponder tough
“It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it. We can’t exist without
water, obviously. And our economy cannot exist without plentiful,
clean supplies of water,” said Larson during a recent Darden
“And across the world as we look at economic
development, close to 4 billion people are moving into what they
call the ‘consumer class.’ Water issues are salient to each one of
The future economic development of those cities,
those communities, those areas, regions is entirely dependent on the
sufficient availability and quality of water.”
Freedman addressed hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which
releases natural gas from the ground and produces water ¬— and has
also been a target for controversy.
He also discussed water
desalination, water purification and water reuse. McCann reported on
the water sector as one that is ripe for investing, including
wastewater infrastructure firms, and water equipment and service
McCann and Freedman share additional insights in Darden’s Greenpod.
Darden alumnae Katherine Neebe (MBA ’04) also recognized the impact
of water scarcity on the planet and on commerce and set out to do
something about it.
In her role as manager for business and Industry
at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation
organization, Neebe saw the wisdom in forming partnerships to tackle
the world’s water problems.
WWF partnered with the Coca-Cola Company
to complete several conservation initiatives around the world,
including the restoration of the world’s most important river
basins: the Yangtze, Mekong, Danube, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Lake Nissa, Mesoamerican Reef Catchments and Southeast U.S. rivers and
“When I started working on our global partnership with The Coca-Cola
Company, I really thought that we had a model and a path forward for
We wanted to see how it would work and then share it
more broadly with future leaders,” said Neebe.
So she and her colleague Kristin Treier, senior program officer for
WWF, made several visits to Darden to meet with Professor Richard
Brownlee, who teaches accounting.
Together, the three of them began
crafting a teaching case about the effectiveness of for-profit and nonprofit partnerships in support of global sustainability.
“One of the things that most interests me about our work with the
Coca-Cola Company is that, on one hand, it’s a natural fit.
other hand, there are inherent and natural risks for the Coca-Cola
Company’s brand and for our brand as we shape our work and remain
credible in this space,” Neebe said.
“For me, the real issue to
wrestle with is how do you choose the right partner to really
address global challenges so effectively?”
It’s a point that MBA students will debate as they explore the case
in Brownlee’s “Business and Sustainability” class. They’ll also
learn about the progress made through the WWF and Coca-Cola Company
“We’ve seen a lot of successes on the ground. One example is along
the Mekong River Basin in Vietnam’s Pang Chen National Park. WWF and
Coca-Cola worked there to help pass a new management statute to
improve habitats. Since then, we’ve seen the return of bird
species,” said Treier.
“Coca-Cola is a water business in many ways.
Without water, they don’t have a business. They talk about that
quite a lot and it gives us a common, central focus.”
“There are so many questions and nuances about this type of work.
Sustainability touches so many different things — livelihoods,
nature and the global economy,” added Neebe. “I’m excited to see how
students learn from our case and then potentially apply some of
these lessons moving forward in their own careers.”
Neebe and Treier also shared their story for in a podcast interview.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or a
member of the Communication team.
About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the
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