Business and Society Program

2014 First Movers

The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program is pleased to announce the sixth class of First Mover Fellows. These individuals are working within companies to unite business growth with a sustainable society in the products and services they are developing. This year's Fellows come from a wide variety of business sectors including technology (eBay, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn); pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline); food and beverage (Chipotle); finance (Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase and Visa) and chemicals (Dow). 

Download a complete list of the Fellows and project statements.


Safir Bellali


Safir Bellali, Director, Design Innovation, Vans. With over 15 years of combined experience as an automotive engineer and industrial designer, Safir has been able to leverage his strategic thinking and creative problem-solving skills in tackling a wide range of design challenges. As Head of Innovation for one of the leading Action Sports brands, he currently oversees a team of advanced concept designers and engineers that handle everything from technical snowboard boot design to the exploration of advanced materials and ground-breaking design and visualization processes. A strong believer in a designer’s responsibility to use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of social and humanitarian endeavors, he believes in the tremendous impact technology can have in solving our society’s most pressing challenges. Besides working on mastering his ninth language, he spends his spare time participating in action sports, raising his twin daughters with his lovely wife and making lofty plans to save the world.


David Bennett


David Bennett, Real Estate Workplace Services Team Operations & Innovations Lead, Google Inc. David Bennett joined Google in 2011 as the Real Estate & Workplace Services Green Team Operations & Innovations Lead where he leads the implementation of health and sustainability strategies for the operations and maintenance of the company's global portfolio as well as leading an innovation program focused on evaluating emerging technologies for Google’s built environment. Prior to joining Google, David’s career focused on developing technology based solutions for environmental problem solving, with an emphasis on endangered species recovery planning and critical habitat protection. David has held positions with Environmental Defense Fund, The Center for Social & Environmental Stewardship, The Smithsonian Institution, USGS and USDA. David earned his B.S. in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University, a M.A. in International Development & Social Change from Clark University and his MBA in Sustainable Business Management from Presidio Graduate School.



Caitlin Bristol


Caitlin Bristol, Global Manager, Social Innovation, eBay Inc. Caitlin Bristol is a creative strategist focused on the design and development of more sustainable forms of commerce. At eBay Inc. she helps to catalyze, incubate and scale new programs that enable both business and social value. A couple of the programs she has helped to develop include partnerships with Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative and the PGA Trade-In Network. Before joining eBay, she led content and creative for, where she worked on strategic programs and creative campaigns with companies such as Intel, Safeway, Method, Levi’s, and Electrolux. Caitlin received her B.A. in English Literature from Santa Clara University, and studied sustainable design at UC Berkeley. She serves on the board of two non-profits – Global Action Through Fashion, dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable world through fashion, and Teens Turning Green, devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities.


Meg Burritt


Meg Burritt, Director of Wellness and Sustainability, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores.  At Raley’s, Meg manages the natural foods and OTC drug departments while also developing a sustainability program for this 118-store grocery chain. Passionate about creating sustainable food systems and bringing good, clean food to the everyday American, Meg has lived every link in the food chain. From working on the farm to buying organic produce, from managing restaurants to cooking on the line, and most recently, from category management to bakery manufacturing – she’s done it. Meg is a graduate of Presidio Graduate School where she obtained an MBA in Sustainable Management, and continues to serve on the board of the Presidio Alumni Association. She has an undergraduate degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, where she first learned about the importance of nutrition as a varsity athlete in rowing. Meg currently lives in beautiful Sacramento, CA, where she enjoys baking, riding bikes and spending time with her veterinarian wife, Amanda, and their family of rescue animals.


Albert H. Cho


Albert H. Cho, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Xylem Inc. Albert Cho is Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at Xylem, a global water technology company. He leads corporate and business strategy, market intelligence, and business development activities across the global ~$4 billion enterprise.  Before Xylem, Cho worked as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary at the State Department, where he was a White House Fellow and served on Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff. Previously, he was an executive at Cisco Systems, where he led innovation projects applying information technology to environmental challenges. He also worked at McKinsey & Company, where he helped found the Sustainability and Resources Practice and advised clients in the industrial, high tech and financial sectors.  He served at the United Nations with Undersecretary General Jeffrey Sachs on a global plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Albert is a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received an M.Sc in development economics and an M.B.A. with distinction from Oxford, and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College.


Nick Ellis


Nick Ellis, Member of the Leadership Team, TrueBlue Inc. Nick is a serial entrepreneur using business model innovation to accelerate solutions to global problems. He is currently responsible for firm-wide innovation at TrueBlue, Inc., a $2BN/year workforce solutions company employing 400,000 workers at 175,000 businesses. Previously Nick founded Job Rooster, a mobile software company that connected blue-collar workers and employers that was acquired in 2011. He also co-founded Bright Green Talent, an executive search firm specializing in social and environmental job placements. Nick began his career in public finance, underwriting over $400MM in municipal bonds to fund state and local infrastructure, including privately placing two of California's first Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. Nick earned a BA from Stanford University, where he captained the men's water polo team to consecutive NCAA Division I championships, and an MSc from the London School of Economics. He is an active startup advisor and investor in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.


Jorge Luis Fontanez

JP Morgan Chase

Jorge Luis Fontanez, Marketing Manager – Corporate Marketing, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jorge Fontanez works at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMC), reporting into the firm’s CMO and partnering with Corporate Responsibility on marketing strategy and deployment of the firm’s latest brand campaign. Jorge joined the firm in 2011 to lead Chase Community Giving (CCG), a philanthropic initiative leveraging the power of social media. Gaining nearly 3.8 million fans, CCG fulfilled the firm’s commitment to deliver $25MM in grants to thousands of small, local non-profits nationwide. Jorge has worked for over 15 years to bridge traditional marketing approaches with the latest innovations. Prior to JPMC, Jorge worked in Brand Management at Colgate-Palmolive for the flagship Colgate® brand.  At Alcoa, Jorge worked on Environment, Health & Safety programs and Sustainability, where he was inspired to explore the intersection of Marketing and CSR.  Jorge began his career as a market research consultant for Information Resources, Inc. and Spectra Marketing, consulting for a variety of Fortune 100 brands.  He is a graduate of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and received his MBA from NYU Stern.


Thomas Gannett


Thomas Gannett, President, BCR Management. Toby is the President of BCR Management, an independent consulting firm specializing in innovation management, management optimization, leadership development, and strategic planning.   Toby was born in Boston and grew up in southern New Hampshire, went to Milton Academy and was a competitive cyclist.  Toby attended Colorado College where he double majored in history and philosophy with a minor in ancient studies.   Toby has taught high school history, philosophy, math and physics and has studied religion in Brazil and archaeology in Israel.  For 12 years, he worked in commercial real-estate and development as an executive and principal in mergers and acquisitions, management and development. While in commercial real-estate he became increasingly involved in innovations in senior housing and the medical field.  Toby is currently a consultant in a health care merger, the creation of a center of innovation, entrepreneurialism and science in Colorado Springs as well as an 18,500 acre conservation effort.  He has returned to school to pursue his MBA in health care and innovation.  Toby serves on the boards of directors for several for-profit and non-profit organizations.   


Brynn Harrington


Brynn Harrington, Global Manager, People Growth, Facebook. Brynn Harrington leads the People Growth team at Facebook, which is focused on talent development, employee engagement, career development, and culture.  Prior to joining Facebook, she worked as a strategy consultant at Saatchi & Saatchi S and Blu Skye, managed programs at the Taproot Foundation, and spent five years working in public relations and corporate communications.  Her client experience spans a range of companies including Walmart, AT&T, IDEO, NetApp, and Pfizer.  She is passionate about building environments and experiences that help people perform at their best while finding meaning in what they do.  Brynn completed her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.S. in Learning & Organizational Change at Northwestern University. She spends her free time running, cycling, spending time with her family, and blogging regularly about wellness and life design at


Ashley Hegland


Ashley Hegland, Regional Director, Business + Social Purpose, Edelman Asia Pacific. Ashley is the Regional Director of Edelman's Business + Social Purpose Practice in Asia Pacific. Ashley established the Practice in 2006 and he currently leads a team that advises clients on how to create value through management of complex business-society issues. To this end, he has designed and facilitated workshops, consulted on regional strategy and corporate engagement plans with numerous multi-national companies, including, CLP Holdings, Swire Pacific, Cathay Pacific, and Shangri-La Hotel Group, among others. Currently based in Hong Kong, Ashley also serves on Edelman's Global Citizenship Senior Advisory Committee. Ashley joined Edelman in Hong Kong in May 2006 after having completed his MBA degree at the Schulich School of Business (York University) in Toronto, Canada, where he specialized in Business Strategy and Marketing. There, he focused his studies on corporate sustainability strategy, green marketing, and corporate reputation management. Prior to his graduate studies, Ashley worked in the energy and NGO sectors in Canada and Asia Pacific. A native of Calgary, Alberta, Ashley began his career as a geologist in the Canadian Energy sector.


Laura Hemrika

Credit Suisse

Laura Hemrika, Head of Impact and Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative, Credit Suisse. Laura is the Head of the Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative (MCBI) at Credit Suisse, one pillar of the comprehensive and holistic approach to microfinance developed by the bank. The MCBI works directly with key players in the industry to strengthen institutional and management capacity, innovation and research across regions. It also comprises an industry-leading skills-based volunteering program in which Credit Suisse employees work directly with MFIs and social enterprises to improve operations and overcome business challenges on the ground. Laura is on the board of the European Microfinance Platform and is chair of the Swiss Capacity Building Facility, a public-private development partnership. Prior to Credit Suisse, Laura was a strategy consultant at Booz & Company as well as for a number of private and public sector players in the field of microfinance, trade, social enterprise and education. She holds an MBA from London Business School and an MA from Boston College. 


Gabriella Herzog


Gabriella Rigg Herzog, Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Hess Corporation. Gabriella Rigg Herzog is Senior Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility at Hess Corporation, where she recommends, develops and implements corporate-level corporate social responsibility strategy, analysis and systems design, as well as operations-level support for implementation.  Gabriella has over 16 years of experience in both the public and private sectors leading headquarter and field-level work in the areas of international development, human rights, labor rights, and corporate social responsibility.  Prior to Hess, Gabriella served in a number of roles in the U.S. Government, including as Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, where she managed the Bureau’s global corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy and program practice.  Gabriella serves as Chair of the Social Responsibility Working Group of IPIECA – the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues and holds a BA from Northeastern University and a MA from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. 


Suzanne Howard


Suzanne Gibbs Howard, Associate Partner, Systems and Organizational Design, IDEO. Suzanne is an Associate Partner at the global design and innovation consultancy IDEO. With over 20 years of experience in systems and organization design, understanding and influencing culture and social change has always been a central aspect of Suzanne's work. She arrived at IDEO via anthropology, teaching, museum-exhibit design, and being a dot commie. Since 2001, she has worked across the breadth of IDEO’s portfolio including designing cutting edge online learning experiences, postpartum hospital services, innovation labs inside of fortune 500 companies, and helping the US government be more collaborative. Suzanne is one of IDEO’s thought leaders. She has written and spoken about designing social movements, scaling innovation, Generation Y, and design for education. For many years she led IDEO’s insights and design research capability, cultivating techniques in deeper ethnography, co-creative methods, digital insights, and integrating data. She found IDEO’s insights blog: Patterns. Today, Suzanne leads IDEO’s work in Systems and Organizational Design, influencing change in Education, Government and Organizational Change.


Mark Pickens


Mark Pickens, Senior Director, Emerging Markets Digital, Visa. Mark is a business and social adventurist. He joined Visa in 2011 to help design and launch mVISA, a mobile financial service helping underserved consumers manage their financial lives. mVISA also brings Visa together with new and non-traditional partners, from Rwanda’s largest microcredit lender to the World Food Programme and frog design from Silicon Valley. Prior to joining Visa Mark launched a health care financing scheme in Madagascar, a crowd-sourcing news portal for progressive consumers in New York City, and a social investment fund focused on technology and banking services for the poor. His work has been featured in Wired, The Economist, and TED Design Mind. He holds a master’s from Columbia University and studied industrial design at Stanford University’s He lives in Kigali, Rwanda.


Maria Olivia Recart

BHP Billiton

Maria Olivia Recart, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, BHP Billiton. BHP Billiton is one of the most diversified mineral companies in the world. Maria Olivia and her team, based in Santiago, manage corporate affairs for the company’s copper operations in Australia , northern Chile and relations with joint ventures in Peru and other places. Her team is accountable for the corporate strategy linking non-renewable resources to their most extended contribution to economic development. Part of this strategy was developed as a result of the Cluster Program, which aims to set national standards for skills training, and also the CREO Antofagasta Plan that seeks to increase the quality of life of those living in the communities in which the company operates. Prior to BHP Billiton, Maria Olivia spent 16 years working for the non-profit organization, Fundacion Chile, and four years serving as Undersecretary of Finance for Chile.


Sarah Sasaki Tsien


Sarah Sasaki Tsien, Senior Manager, Community Relations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Sarah Sasaki Tsien is the Senior Manager of Community Relations for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the largest combination electric and natural gas energy companies in the United States. In this role, she is responsible for PG&E’s community investment program, including PG&E charitable contributions, The PG&E Corporation Foundation, signature philanthropic programs, and corporate social responsibility. Most recently, Sasaki Tsien served as Chief of Staff of Corporate Affairs for PG&E Corporation. Before this, she held roles of increasing responsibility within marketing and communications organizations in the energy and technology sector. Sasaki Tsien also taught in public schools as an AmeriCorps Fellow and is a recipient of a mayoral proclamation. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She is a member of the Contributions Council at The Conference Board and the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals. She and her husband reside in New York City.


Stewart, Tyler

Venetian Palazzo Sands Expo

Tyler Stewart, Director of Tradeshow Sales, The Venetian / The Palazzo Sands Expo Center. Tyler currently leads a team of 13 talented sales people and administrative staff at one of the largest hotels in the world.  His team is responsible for contracting some of the largest tradeshows and association clients in North America.  These clients, many of whom have over 100,000 attendees, utilize 7000 hotel rooms and 2.2 million square ft. of meeting and convention space at the Sands Expo and Venetian Congress Center.  Tyler represents his property at several executive conferences throughout the year and has been selected to sit on several committees within the hospitality industry.  He is passionate about leadership and being a torch bearer for the positive culture within his company that he joined in 2005.


Connie Chan Wang


Connie Chan Wang, Social Media Strategist, LinkedIn. Connie Chan Wang leads social media strategy at LinkedIn where she is leveraging social media to pursue the company's vision of creating economic opportunity for every professional in the world. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Board for LinkedIn for Good for Employees, an employee-led organization she co-founded that focuses on connecting employees with opportunities to make an impact. Prior to LinkedIn, Connie worked at Yahoo! as part of Yahoo! for Good where she developed her passion for using social media for social good. During her career, Connie has worked extensively in the field of education running an educational center, working for a nonprofit Jumpstart for Young Children, and teaching at-risk youth through Breakthrough Collaborative. She currently serves on the Boards of the American Red Cross Silicon Valley and Go Inspire Go, an innovative nonprofit that uses social media to inspire social change. Connie received an MA in Education from Stanford University and a BS in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. 


Eric Wilson


Eric Wilson, Director, New Market Development, Chipotle Mexican Grill. Eric Wilson is currently the Director, New Market Development at Chipotle Mexican Grill.  In this recently created role, he oversees all aspects of the company’s growth into new international regions or markets. In addition to his international responsibilities, Eric also co-chairs the planning, prioritization and resourcing process for all major corporate initiatives. For the past five years, Eric was on Chipotle’s corporate marketing team, overseeing day-to-day marketing operations, as well as directly leading several disciplines including in-store marketing, event marketing, social media, mobile and web marketing, e-commerce and project management. Prior to joining Chipotle in 2009, Eric held a variety of positions in design and technology companies. Eric started his career at Apple, working for two years in the multimedia lab. Then, from 1993 to 1995, he was the founding Executive Director of New Media Centers, an educational technology non-profit. In 1995, Eric left New Media Centers to join Clement Mok design, later Studio Archetype, a branding and design firm. While there he personally led pioneering efforts with American Express, IBM, QVC and the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. In 2002, he co-founded Sequence, a branding and design consultancy in San Francisco. In 2005, Eric joined the executive team at PlanetOut, first managing the company’s international business and eventually taking over product responsibility for all of the company’s online efforts. Eric holds a bachelor's degree in Asian Studies from Williams College, a master's degree in Political Economy from Stanford University and attended the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.



Laura Wolak

Dow Chemical

Laura Wolak, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager, Performance Materials Division, Dow Chemical. Laura Wolak is a Senior Marketing Manager at Dow Chemical.  She coordinates the Midland/HQ Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) and Pinnacle Award for Marketing Excellence for North America, and is a member of the Corporate Citizenship Steering Team.  In her current role she leads business teams through market assessments, market opportunity mapping, and innovation projects. Laura was also the Dow market/sell representative in the collaboration with the Nature Conservancy. Laura was the Global Strategic Market Manager for the Performance Chemicals business at Dow Corning Corporation where she also held multiple marketing and communication roles between 2005 and 2010. Prior to Dow Corning, Laura was a consultant at A.T. Kearney in Milano, Italy. Laura is the co-founder of RedDirtRoad.CO and a director at Do-All, Inc. in Bay City, MI. Laura holds a BBA from Western Michigan University with majors in Marketing and Asian Studies.  She spent 7 years abroad in Italy, Japan, and Australia, and now lives in Michigan with her husband and 2 children.  


William Zuercher


William Zuercher, Senior Scientific Investigator, Department of Chemical Biology, RD Platform Technology & Science, GlaxoSmithKline. William Zuercher is Senior Scientific Investigator of Chemical Biology at GlaxoSmithKline (Research Triangle Park, NC, USA) where he has been since 2000. His team develops and evaluates innovative new approaches to improve drug discovery through better target identification and selection. Bill is a strong advocate for value creation by expansion of precompetitive discovery space with open access to chemical probes as research tools. He believes that advancing the starting line in this manner will more effectively address unmet medical need through better informed and more successful proprietary drug discovery efforts. Bill holds a BA from Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA, USA) and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA, USA) where he studied under the direction of Professor Robert Grubbs. He enjoys spending time with his wife and children, both while traveling and at home in North Carolina.