Sustaining Sustainability

Every Friday at 11:00am ET

This new podcast series explores sustainability lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through short (15-minute), weekly 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 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)