From the persistent COVID-19 pandemic to steep inflation, America has faced no shortage of hurdles in recent months.
And further challenges await, according to Columbia Business School Dean Costis Maglaras.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance's Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, Maglaras highlighted three issues that will consume the country and business leaders in the coming years: China, inequality, and climate change.
Since COVID struck, U.S.-China relations have significantly worsened.
The two countries have clashed over imports of high-tech products, political autonomy in Hong Kong, and human rights in Xinjiang.
“I think through COVID, and through the political tension that has emerged in the last four or five, six years between the U.S. and China, we have entered a sort of a new phase in that relationship,” Maglaras said. “I do believe that that relationship is going to be one of the defining things that will continue to consume us over the next several decades.”
Maglaras, a Greek native who studied in England, noted the importance of viewing such conflict from an international perspective. He added that Columbia students and alumni come from "all sorts of corners in the world" and "become business leaders all around the world."
“Around the world, I think it's important for us to understand global business,” Maglaras said. “I think it's important for us to understand things that have to do with globalization right now about U.S.-China. I mean, in some sense, we need to be both open and continuously refining our understanding of the global economic order and world order.”
Societal tension and inequality make up “another topic that is going to consume us for quite some time,” Maglaras said.
Social inequality has become a persistent and serious problem in the United States. According to a 2020 study by Pew Research, the gap between upper-income and middle- to lower-income Americans has been growing in recent years.
It's also evident in the country's racial wealth gap. In 2019, Black Americans held one-sixth of the income held by white Americans and, on average, earned 50 cents for every dollar earned by white Americans.
Maglaras stated that inculcating a strong social conscience in its students is a priority for Columbia Business School, which has publicly affirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“We need to become socially responsible leaders and that's an emphasis in our curriculum while people are here in the school but also an emphasis when we're talking to our alumni,” he said. “We have a role to play you, me, and certainly our alums that sort of lead very successful professional lives, to really think about the role of businesses within society and sort of try to alleviate the tensions that we are experiencing today.”
Maglaras also highlighted the threat climate change poses to America and the world.
“If you ask me what's going to change the world in the next 75 years, it's going to be our collective response to climate change,” he said.
Recent reports have shown climate change is already driving extreme heat and flooding in 2022. The last three months have seen catastrophic flooding in Bangladesh and drought-induced famine in East Africa.
As these physical threats ramp up in the face of higher global temperatures, governments, companies, and other institutions are racing to set carbon emissions targets and develop more sustainable business models.
Maglaras says that’s just the beginning: “It's going to change the energy sector, of course, transportation, food, agriculture, manufacturing, supply chains, every aspect of our lives is going to be transformed every industry, every business, etc.”
Dylan Croll is a reporter and researcher at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol