This podcast series explores sustainability lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through short (15-minute) interviews with industry managers, academic experts, government officials, and civil society leaders, we explore various societal challenges magnified by the COVID-19 crisis. Each episode focuses on a specific topic and builds toward a call to action as we ask our guests to:
(1) Identify the problem,
(2) Contextualize the issue by framing it with respect to the pandemic,
(3) Pinpoint key items we must address to avoid this in the future,
(4) Explain what business leaders can do to help, and
(5) End with actionable takeaways for individuals.
With an international reach and a global perspective, our series draws on the expertise of individuals based around the world. We'll learn from each other as we share perspectives and gain insights into how this crisis is unfolding in different settings. Join us to learn more about what you can do to make our world more equitable and sustainable in this unprecedented time.
Episode 22: "Climate Change and Public Health — with Seema Wadhwa"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from the Washington, D.C. area by Seema Wadhwa, CEO and Founder of Net Positive Solutions. Prior to her position at Net Positive, Ms. Wadhwa served as the Assistant Vice President of Sustainability and Wellness at Inova Health System. She discusses the role climate change plays in health outcomes, leveraging the voice of clinicians to combat this issue, and the role business leaders can play in bridging the conversation between climate change and health: “The opportunity to look at that intersectionality of climate, health, and equity is really a new opportunity, and it’s a new vantage point.” (February 22, 2021)
Episode 21: "Marshall Plan for Middle America — with Mayor William Peduto"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Mayor William Peduto of the City of Pittsburgh. Over the past few decades, Pittsburgh has diversified its economy from one reliant on heavy industries to a hub for higher education, health care, and financial services. Mayor Peduto discusses governing during COVID-19, the Marshall Plan for Middle America, and what lies ahead for our region: “We will lose 100,000 jobs in the energy sector if we do nothing.” (February 3, 2021)
Episode 20: "Leading with Compassion during a Crisis — with Niren Chaudhary"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Boston, Massachusetts by Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread. Panera Bread is an American chain store of bakery-café fast casual restaurants with over 2,000 locations. Mr. Chaudhary discusses safety and access to food services during COVID-19, team building in a virtual setting, and Panera’s ambitious environmental sustainability goals: “We may have limited impact on the world around us, but the companies that we steward, let’s make those companies a reflection of the world that we wish to see.” (January 21, 2021)
Episode 19: "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion during COVID-19 — with Kamillah Knight"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Parsippany, New Jersey by Kamillah Knight, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Ferrero North America. Ms. Knight has a passion and purpose to be a change superhero, changing the way that people interact with their environment and with other people. Prior to joining Ferrero, she worked at Unilever where she gained experience in Supply Chain, Sales, and Human Resources. Ms. Knight discusses beginning a new leadership position during the COVID-19 crisis, how D&I ties into the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and what some companies are doing to support their employees during this time: “When I think about the Sustainable Development Goals specifically, I don’t really feel like you can solve any of them without thinking of it through a diversity and inclusion lens or perspective.” (December 16, 2020)
Episode 18: "Corporate Sustainability Strategy during COVID-19 — with Rebecca Marmot (Part 2)"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined once again from London, United Kingdom by Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with products used by 2.5 billion people each day. Ms. Marmot discusses the business case for sustainability, investor relations, and the future of the consumer goods industry post-COVID-19: “Half the world’s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. […] So, I think the business case behind doing that [reducing carbon footprint] is much better now and more widely understood and accepted.” (December 2, 2020)
Episode 17: "Corporate Sustainability Strategy during COVID-19 — with Rebecca Marmot (Part 1)"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from London, United Kingdom by Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with products used by 2.5 billion people each day. Ms. Marmot discusses Unilever’s ongoing commitment to social and environmental goals, the importance of gender equity, and what it means for each individual to do their part: “Sustainability really sits at the heart of what we’re doing, so it’s not for us about an add-on or a plan that is distinct from the business, but actually just doing business in a different way.” (November 18, 2020)
Episode 16: "Stakeholder Theory and COVID-19 — with R. Edward Freeman"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Charlottesville, Virginia by R. Edward Freeman, University Professor at University of Virginia. Professor Freeman is best known for his work on the topics of Stakeholder Management and Business Ethics, as well as his award-winning book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, first published in 1984 and reissued in 2010 by Cambridge University Press. Professor Freeman discusses stakeholder theory, curricular reform in business schools, and how corporate purpose ties into building back better post-COVID-19: “Look, I’ve got to make red blood cells to live, but it doesn’t follow that the purpose of my life is to make red blood cells. Businesses must have profits […] but it doesn’t follow that the purpose of the business is to make as much profit as you can.” (November 2, 2020)
Episode 15: "Mining and Community Engagement — with Carolina Lobato"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil by Carolina Lobato, Vice President of Legal at Kinross Brasil Mineração, a subsidiary of Kinross Gold Corporation, a senior gold mining company with a diverse portfolio of mines and projects in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Mauritania, and Russia. Ms. Lobato discusses mining as an essential industry, engaging with local communities, and the value the UN Sustainable Development Goals offer to international companies: “If we just keep doing whatever we did 5 years ago, we will not be operating 5 years from now. It’s time to rethink, redesign, and reposition our companies in a more responsible way, thinking about the future.” (October 19, 2020)
Episode 14: "Commercial Vehicles and Supply Chain Sustainability — with Vipin Sondhi"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Tamil Nadu, India by Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director and CEO of Ashok Leyland Limited, the 2nd largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in India, the 3rd largest manufacturer of buses in the world, and the 10th largest manufacturer of trucks. Mr. Sondhi discusses how COVID-19 is affecting the Indian economy and movement of labor, the management of environmental impact in the supply chain, and the future potential for an electric vehicle ecosystem: “The troika of industry, government, and academia has to work together. Too often we leave academia outside of this. We've got to bring in professors and we've got to bring in students. They will be the pioneers of innovation for the future. And if we can do that, and we are trying to do that as well for electric mobility, I think we will have a far more sustainable future.” (October 2, 2020)
Episode 13: "Brand Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic — with Lisa Osborne Ross"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined by Lisa Osborne Ross, Chief Operating Officer of Edelman US and President of Edelman Washington DC, a global communications and consultancy firm with 6,000 people in more than 60 offices worldwide. Ms. Ross discusses the growing importance of brand trust during the current COVID-19 crisis, and how companies can navigate brand trust as part of their sustainability strategy: “All relationships are rooted in trust. Do I trust you to do what you say you're going to do? […] We created this Trust Barometer because we believe, again, trust is at the root of all positive intent.” (September 18, 2020)
Episode 12: "Refugee Assistance during a Global Pandemic — with Betsy Fisher"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Minneapolis, Minnesota by Betsy Fisher, Director of Strategy at the International Refugee Assistance Project. Ms. Fisher discusses how COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges for refugee populations, such as travel restrictions and barriers to entering the labor market. She also makes the business case for protecting refugees and provides specific resources for individuals to get involved: "We know that over time refugees are much more likely than individuals born in the United States to become entrepreneurs, to own homes, that their children are extremely likely to go on to achieve great things in the United States. There have been a couple of studies by the Tent Foundation that refugee employees in the United States have high retention rates, they stay in their jobs longer, and that employing refugees boosts recruitment of other employees." (June 26, 2020)
Episode 11: "Global Supply Chains, Retail Distribution, and Consumer Behavior — with Carlo Vassallo"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Frankfurt, Germany by Carlo Vassallo, CEO of Ferrero Germany. Mr. Vassallo discusses the government response in Germany, the pandemic’s impact on retail and changing consumer behavior, and Ferrero’s commitment to sustainability: “Our duty, our commitment, is to continue to follow and work towards the sustainability goals, to help the consumer to keep these, and to continue on this path because otherwise our work will have even more troubles.” (June 19, 2020)
Episode 10: "The Role of Tech in Driving Sustainability — with Kate Brandt"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Mountain View, California by Kate Brandt, Sustainability Officer at Google. Ms. Brandt discusses the situation in California, Google’s dedication to climate action, and the business case for circular economy: “In my mind, there was already tremendous urgency before COVID. We’ve all seen the climate science and the very clear indication that this must be our decisive decade on climate change […] with climate change comes the possibility of other pandemics like this.” (June 12, 2020)
Episode 9: "Workplace Safety in Essential Industries during COVID-19 — with Mark Cancilla"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Pittsburgh, PA by Mark Cancilla, Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety at PPG, a global supplier of paints, coatings, and specialty materials. Mr. Cancilla discusses PPG’s global operations during the pandemic as an essential business, workplace transparency, and centering people in PPG’s sustainability strategy: “The demonstration that sustainability is a critical part of how we manage the company really has not taken a backseat at all during this crisis, and in fact, I would say that the human element of sustainability, the criticality of our people and the role that they play in ensuring our long-term sustainability, has heightened during this crisis.” (June 5, 2020)
Episode 8: "Urban Infrastructure and COVID-19 in the Global South — with Astrid Haas"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Kampala, Uganda by Astrid Haas, Policy Director of the International Growth Centre, a global civil society organization that promotes sustainable growth in developing countries. Ms. Haas discusses the situation in Uganda; how infrastructure and economic practices across Africa and Asia impact urban areas’ ability to respond to the pandemic; and the role of public-private partnerships in tackling these issues: "I do believe very strongly that COVID-19 is a collective action challenge, and therefore, we need a collective action response that involves the private sector." (May 29, 2020)
Episode 7: "Digital Technology for the Environment – with Wayne Balta"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Pittsburgh, PA by Wayne Balta, Vice President of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety at IBM. Mr. Balta discusses how IBM’s digital technology is helping researchers better understand the spread of COVID-19, the structure of the virus, and potential treatments; why questions surrounding information access and data quality are essential to tackling global challenges beyond COVID-19; and the need to continually reflect on whether new technologies are being used to facilitate better environmental outcomes from a global systems perspective: “If you think about what's possible today with what some have called the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ -- meaning, data and advanced IT tools -- I personally am convinced that there exists today opportunities to tackle longstanding environmental sustainability challenges in completely new ways.” (May 22, 2020)
Episode 6: "Finance & Banking During a Global Pandemic — with Piyush Gupta"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Singapore by Piyush Gupta, CEO and Director of DBS Group, a leading financial services group in Asia. Mr. Gupta discusses the role of banks and financial institutions in responding to—and recovering from—the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation covers AI and monitoring techniques to prevent the spread of the virus, digital infrastructure and the transition to remote work, and the importance of companies’ social license to operate: “I fully expect that you will wind up a year from now with a set of people who are heroes and a set of people who are villains. And it's going to be very easy to fall into the category of villains if you are not really, really thoughtful about what could make you a hero instead.” (May 15, 2020)
Episode 5: "Resilient Cities Need Strong Networks — with Grant Ervin”
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Pittsburgh, PA by Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer and Sustainability Manager for the City of Pittsburgh. Mr. Ervin discusses the historical challenges and inequalities in Pittsburgh magnified by the COVID-19 crisis; why an integrated approach is needed to build a more resilient city going forward; and, the critical role that industry partners can play in implementing some of the more pressing digital, environmental, and food systems innovations the city needs: “Those issues of education and work, which were challenges beforehand, or food access – finding ways in which to build more robust systems and networks [to address those issues] are going to be really critical for the city going forward.” (May 8, 2020)
Episode 4: "The Urgency of Collaboration — with Paul Polman"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from London, UK by Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, Co-Founder of IMAGINE, and Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Polman talks about his efforts to facilitate coordinated action by CEOs in major industries, what it means to be a responsible business in these times, and the opportunity to build a new, global green economy through widespread collaboration: “We also don’t have the right level of cooperation at the global governance level to deal with these issues, and I hope that the business community will step up and fill that void.” (May 1, 2020)
Episode 3: "Leading an Energy Company in the COVID-19 Era — with Francesco Starace"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya is joined from Rome, Italy by Francesco Starace, the CEO and General Manager of Enel, a global energy company and utility provider. Mr. Starace talks about the rapid steps Enel took to adapt in the early days of the pandemic, the critical societal role played by business, and his take on the future of renewable energy: "The COVID-19 is, in my opinion, a big accelerator of a trend that was there already – and the trend was to shift the energy supply out of fossil fuels into electricity, being that electricity is an energy form that can be de-carbonized." (April 24, 2020)
Episode 2: "What’s going to happen to the UN SDGs? — with Jeffrey Sachs"
In this episode, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya interviews Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Prof. Sachs talks about the pandemic from his base in New York City, the impact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the role of political systems during this crisis. (April 17, 2020)
Episode 1: "Sustaining Sustainability — Introduction to the Series"
In this brief introduction to the series, our host, CSB Director CB Bhattacharya, describes our motivation for launching the podcast, what to expect from each episode, and gives a preview of upcoming guests. (April 10, 2020)