“What inspires me? Working on an A-TEAM where everyone is good at something.”
Oxford Net Zero is an interdisciplinary research initiative based at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE). It is embedded within the ecosystem of research on climate neutrality. Their research fellows, recruited from partner institutions from around the world, are working to accelerate the transition to a net zero future.
In this series of conversations, you’ll hear about the work these experts are focused on and how their research can be applied to business. You’ll also get to hear their personal stories and achievements you wouldn’t otherwise read in their bio, where they get their inspiration and even what kind of music is on their playlist! Tune in to this series if you’re looking to be inspired, excited and hopeful about the important research underway at Oxford in creating a net zero pathway for the world.
Interviewee: Dr Stephen Smith, Executive Director at Oxford Net Zero
Interviewer: Charmian Love, Social Entrepreneur in Residence at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Key takeaways from the conversation
Where does Steve go as a source of energy and inspiration?
Inspiration for Steve does NOT come from offices in spare bedrooms - but rather in places where he has space to think big thoughts and get away from emails. He enjoys having time to talk to other experts and is happiest when working with a team of trusted experts where everyone knows their role and has complementary skills - like the A-Team! When it comes to Steve’s music choices right now, he is listening to acid jazz, funk and James Brown.
What big questions is Steve exploring?
Steve is interested in going beyond the scientific modelling of the climate system and looking at the societal questions about how we, as humans and as a society, deal with the climate challenge.
Steve is also working on supercharging net zero targets and tracking the number of pledges and what these pledges mean. How robust are the targets? He believes saying you want to be net zero is easy and is interested in what are organisations are actually putting in place to achieve it.
How would Steve like to see businesses engage in climate?
Steve believes most businesses are thinking relatively short term about their support for climate action – switching to a green electricity provider or maybe thinking about electric cars. But getting to net zero will involve a much deeper level of engagement, working through the ‘knotty issues’ of land use, emissions from essential materials such as steel, cement and plastics. Plus, thinking about not just less emissions, but carbon removal and what it might mean to responsibly incentivise action beyond just an immediate sense of what you're responsible for.
What advice does Steve have for students?
Find ways to learn across different disciplines.
Do not let that pressure get to you - recognise that someone else's path is not necessarily your path.
Don't get too hung up on setting your career path right now for the rest of your life.