Collab’s Sustainability Board: Vanessa Miler-Fels
We’re thrilled to introduce you to another member of Collab’s Sustainability Board – Vanessa Miler Fels.
Vanessa currently leads Schneider Electric’s climate strategy, focusing her time on decarbonizing the electricity grid and tackling the hardest-to-abate industrial sectors like steel and cement. Prior to Schneider Electric, Vanessa was the Director of Energy Innovation and Impact at Microsoft and a Professor of International Affairs at Sciences Po.
Six Questions for Vanessa Miler-Fels, VP of Global Environment at Schneider Electric
1. What was your moment of obligation to work on climate?
My father trained in geology and biology. I grew up reading about Cousteau explorations and WWF campaigns. Above all, I was fascinated by volcanoes, and by the Krafft couple (a documentary was released in 2022, Fire of Love) and imagined becoming a vulcanologist.
Later, I became more interested in economics and policy, studied political science and international affairs at Sciences-Po and then at Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
That when’s I realized I could serve the environment by working for the public good in the public sector – and then understood that the private sector can also – and must – be an engine for impact and positive change.
2. What aren’t people talking enough about?
I have one foot in Europe, and another in the USA, and have Indian origins; I see how cultures and ideologies shape the discourse on climate and what is deemed possible. Europe has embraced efficiency and behavior change for much longer - and this has intensified since the war in Ukraine. The US has much more of a focus on technology and technology-focused innovation. We need both approaches and we need a balanced discourse. We don’t have time to rely on just one solution for our planet.
3. Who is doing great work but flying under the radar?
Companies working on resource-efficiency / making efficiency seamless. Macro-Eyes* is a company that builds software for supply chains, deploying technology to predict what will come off the shelf when and automating optimal supply responses. Many supply chains – food to healthcare to fashion - do an astonishingly poor job at matching supply to demand, wasting precious resources; this is a global issue hiding in plain sight. Making supply chains more efficient will have immense environmental impact.
*Macro Eyes is a Collab Fund portfolio company
4. What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?
I’m bullish on America’s ability to lead on curbing climate change. The last decade has been rocky in terms of political engagement on climate change. Nevertheless, many civil societies actors have persisted in delivering solutions, at scale or as break-throughs. Voluntary commitments from companies have attempted to fill the gap left by a public sector that was missing in action. The latest break-through from Livermore Lab on fusion makes me optimistic. With the IRA, the USA can reduce emissions 50% below 2005 levels – by 2030. The US has shown before that the scientific impossible can become possible at remarkable speed. With a deeply ambitious Manhattan Project / Apollo Program for combatting climate change, the US could deliver transformative solutions for a warming planet.
5. If you had a magic wand, what’s an emerging technology that you would make available right now?
Solutions for making circularity ubiquitous and seamless.
6. You used to be an international affairs professor at Sciences Po. If you had to teach a different subject, what would it be?
A course at the nexus of economics and environmental studies to design new ways to measure progress (rather than growth) that can bring about more sustainable, shared change in the right direction.