South Pole, founded in 2006, began as a carbon offset project developer and has expanded into offering a wide variety of sustainability consulting services, impact investments, digital solutions, and more. The even cooler part? It currently employs a group of Presidio alums! Read more to learn about the incredible work happening at South Pole and how its mission drew in a group of passionate Presidian changemakers.
Hello everyone! For starters, could you all introduce yourselves? Tell us who you are, your role at South Pole, how long you’ve been working there, and what degree track you pursued at Presidio?
Nick Aster: I’ve been at South Pole for almost three years, and I’m in charge of marketing for North America. There was only one-degree track in the cohort 2 days, the MBA, but that was thorough and revolutionary enough at the time that it wound up working terrifically for me, but that’s a long story!
Pablo Paster: I was in cohort 2 with Nick and joined South Pole in February 2021. I am a Practice Lead in our Digital Climate Solutions group and am responsible for Climate Huddle, a climate action platform for small and medium-sized businesses.
Anna Mahar: Presidio and Pinchot merged halfway through my degree, so I started as a C14 at Pinchot University and graduated in 2017 from Presidio with an MBA in Sustainable Systems. I joined South Pole in February 2022 and am the Operations Manager for Climate Solutions North America.
Chase Nelson: I work within our Digital Climate Solutions group (we build climate software products), handling our Business Development and Partnership efforts in North America, and am a C32 Presidio alum. I graduated in May 2021.
Dana Wilke: I was the second Presidian to join South Pole after Nick Aster and celebrated my two-year anniversary in November! I’m a Managing Consultant on our Climate Strategies team and the Regional Coordinator for North America. I spend the majority of my time supporting clients to set Science-based targets and develop emissions reduction roadmaps. In addition to this, I spend my time staffing all incoming opportunities and ensuring we have the right resources in place before saying yes to working with a prospective client. I’m C28; I graduated in December 2019 with my MBA in Sustainable Solutions.
Can you tell us more about South Pole: how the company came about, what its mission is, and what kind of work it’s doing?
Chase: South Pole was founded in 2006 by five Swiss university friends who believed businesses could have a positive and sustainable impact on the world. Our mission is to accelerate the transition to a climate-smart society. We started as a carbon offset project developer (we’re still the largest in the world today) and have expanded into a wide variety of sustainability consulting services, impact investments, digital solutions, and more.
Learn more here! https://www.southpole.com/about-us/story
What are some of the projects or initiatives that South Pole has done or is currently doing that you find really exciting?
Chase: South Pole continues to push the envelope on all fronts sustainability. Some examples include chartering anchor investors to bring in new technologies to the offset market, designing new consulting practices such as Plastic/Circular Economy and Agricultural Value Chains, and building a digital practice to democratize climate action.
What kind of growth and changes have you seen at South Pole since you’ve been there? What roles is the company looking to expand on?
Pablo: When I joined two years ago, we had 350 people on staff, 15 of which were in the United States. Today we have over 1300 employees globally.
Dana: We’ve grown enormously! We’re expanding in nearly even position.
Nick – I started almost three years ago when we had a mere six employees in the United States; now we’re close to 60 – a true testament to how seriously companies are taking climate change today (finally). We intend to continue growing and are looking for people with high levels of expertise in understanding climate action from a business perspective, regulations that businesses face, as well as people on the ground with carbon project development experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing South Pole and its mission and goals right now?
Pablo: Finding new carbon credit projects, particularly on the Nature Based Solutions side, and finding enough mid- and upper-level consultants.
Dana: There is more work than we can take on. We want to scale to support as many companies as possible on their climate journeys; however, we need more people to make it happen. Additionally, our field is relatively new and ever-changing so staying on top of the latest technology and changes is always top of mind.
Five Presidio alums work at South Pole. Can you share details about how you came to South Pole? What is it about this company that drew you in, and in your opinion, originally attracted your colleagues and fellow Presidio graduates?
Pablo: I came to South Pole through a referral by Nick after a yearlong Covid sabbatical. Of all the sustainability-focused companies I have been a part of over my 20-year career, this is the only one where I felt everyone was aligned on the goal of tackling climate change.
Chase: I came to South Pole via Pablo who ultimately hired me. Alumni connections are a great resource! South Pole is an incredible organization with fascinating people from all over the world. In my opinion, South Pole has an amazing balance of growth and innovation, maximizing environmental impact and taking a practical approach to climate solutions.
Anna: I joined South Pole after working for the nonprofit We Mean Business Coalition for two-and-a-half years, and it’s been a lot of fun to support corporate climate action through a totally different business model and with a bigger global team. I think, like Presidio, South Pole has a lot of heart and great people behind our work.
Dana: Like Presidio, South Pole is full of incredibly smart, thoughtful, and talented people. The people and opportunity for massive impact drew me in and keeps me going.
Nick: I’ve been working, at least tangentially, in the corporate climate action space for many years (ever since graduating from Presidio), so South Pole and similar organizations have been on my radar for a while. South Pole has always been one of the most well-known project developers in the industry and was on my radar for some time. When the time came for me to look into something new, South Pole was a perfect fit.
Conversely, do you feel like there is something about Presidio’s curriculum or mission that has made so many of you a great fit for South Pole? Is there a specific course or faculty member that impacted you and your work?
Dana: Marsha Willard’s class on systems thinking and Khalid Kadir’s classes expanded my views of how interconnected our world and systems are. When you tug on one item it will likely impact far more than a single thing. I advise corporates on setting their Net-Zero strategy, which affects nearly every aspect of their business. I have to take a systems-lens approach when thinking through what decarbonization levers we can pull for one area of the business versus another and how it might impact a different area.
What advice would you give to people who are interested in getting involved in the work you’re doing? Or even to Presidio students who are specifically interested in working for South Pole?
Nick – Understand the details of why and how a corporation would act on climate change. Understanding their footprint is the first part, but there’s much more to it, reporting, regulation, stakeholder pressure, community interaction, etc.
What is it about Presidio and the work that they’re doing that makes you feel hopeful about creating change for the planet for future generations?
Dana: I’ve really enjoyed seeing the programs and courses evolve over the last few years, I.e., adding on a sustainability management consulting course and GHG accounting course. Those specific courses that are designed to provide a more tangible skillset will set so many Presidians up for great jobs with high impact.
Nick – When I started at Presidio, the school was essentially unknown. That was a big scary risk, but we were lucky enough to have a phenomenal cohort and a phenomenal, well-connected faculty that made that risk worthwhile.
The Presidio community is still second to none in terms of understanding how business can and should be a force for good, and I’m heartened to see the community continue to grow and continue to be recognized globally as leaders.
Thank you, Nick, Pablo, Chase, Anna, and Dana, for sharing your experiences as Presidian changemakers! Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about Presidio Graduate School and how our MBA, MPA, Dual Degree, and Certificate programs can help advance your career as a sustainability leader.
Considering a new opportunity or a career change? If you’re a purpose-driven changemaker interested in working alongside a passionate team of like-minded colleagues working to make a real difference for the planet and future generations, check out some of the career openings at South Pole here!