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Alumni profile: Brad Sparks (MBA ’04) uses Antarctica trek to guide climate change efforts at KPMG International

4/20/2009

Brad Sparks (MBA ’04) spent two and half weeks last month in Antarctica learning first-hand about climate change.

Sparks, director of KPMG International’s Global Green Initiative, plans to use what he took away from the trip to further his efforts to help KPMG reduce its emissions globally and raise awareness of climate change issues with employees, suppliers and clients.

Sparks went with a group of 80 people from 25 countries on the trip. Others in the group were from corporations and non-governmental organizations. The annual journey to Antarctica is organized by Sir Robert Swan, a polar explorer and the first person to have walked to the North and South poles.

The goal of the trip is to raise awareness of the Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits drilling and mining in Antarctica through 2041.

“The focus of the trip was to serve as an opportunity to further learn about climate change and witness and experience the impact that it is having within Antarctica,” Sparks said. “We were able to make our own reflections and observations of how fragile the ecosystem is.”

Sparks said he learned about the impact of warming on the Antarctic peninsula and the changes in the penguin population caused by climate change.

The group spent time hiking and traveling in inflatable rafts exploring the peninsular and surrounding islands. Sparks spent one night under the stars camping on the ice.

The groups also spent time in seminars learning about climate change issues from the environmental experts and the other members of the group, Sparks added.

In his job, Sparks is leading KPMG International’s Global Green Initiative aimed at addressing climate change and reducing the company’s global emissions by 25 percent over the next several years. He plans to use the information he gathered from the Antarctica trip to initiate discussions with KPMG employees worldwide on climate change issues.

In conjunction with another KPMG employee who also traveled to Antarctica, KPMG launched an intranet site and a daily blog about the trip for its KPMG China employees.

Sparks began his career in 1997 with KPMG in Atlanta working in the company’s audit practice.

“One of the reasons I selected UNC Kenan-Flagler for my MBA was the focus on the sustainable enterprise,” he noted. “Kenan-Flagler has an outstanding program.”

While he was in the UNC Kenan-Flagler program, Sparks reconnected with KPMG and spent two months as an intern in their sustainability practice in Johannesburg, South Africa. That same summer he had an internship as an adviser to the Kenan Institute Asia in Bangkok.

“The entire second year I was able to engage in a much more international perspective,” Sparks said. “In one year I went to four different continents all through UNC Kenan-Flagler-related programs. Kenan-Flagler provided the international focus and the global opportunities I was seeking from a business school.”