Business and Markets

2022: Best of Aspen Business & Society Program Thought Leadership

December 19, 2022  • Business & Society Program

Our team at the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program regularly writes on issues from the future of ESG to the changing needs of employers and employees. Looking back on 2022, we asked our team to share the writing they were most proud of in 2022, and to shed light on their process developing insights on these issues. Enjoy!

How companies can move from playing ESG defense to ESG offense

Judy Samuelson, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

I wrote this piece in November, post-midterms, as the politicization of the term “ESG” produced more noise, making it harder to discern the signals. It is a work-in-process as we think about what’s ahead for executives and boards wrestling with how to speak authentically to the challenges, but who want to avoid being called out for any number of spurious and polarizing claims about the intentions of companies trying to “do the right thing.”

There are no simple talking points that work for everyone. Every company is unique, and the best path starts with clarity of corporate purpose, and what it reveals about what is essential to the long term success of the enterprise. To quote Mike Bloomberg, and now others, “This isn’t woke, its capitalism”—and the reasons for staying in the game are clear—among them, the expectations of your best allies, your employees.

Last year, I predicted a wild ride. This coming year could make 2022 look like a cakewalk. But the reasons for engaging—the long term risks related to climate, species decline, and too many people struggling to put food on the table—are clarifying. Business executives have choices to make; they must engage to assure a fair economy, and to invest in, and keep us hopeful about, the future.

Reframe the struggles of parenting during the pandemic into lessons that will make you a better boss

Nancy McGaw, Senior Advisor, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

The pandemic upended everyone’s life, but parents had a particularly difficult time—whether their children were toddlers or school age. I was curious about the possibility that parents were actually gaining new management skills in the process of coping. So I turned to two HR experts—Ritambhara Kumar and Amanda Billiot—who agreed that for many parents, pandemic experiences might actually make them better able to manage people and be a better boss. Now is the time for parents to reflect on lessons learned and put their hard-earned knowledge to work.   

Worker voice is evolving rapidly. Can companies keep up?

Danielle Holly, Associate Director of Leadership Programs, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program & Miguel Padró, Assistant Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

After joining the Aspen BSP team earlier this year, I had the opportunity to team up with long-time staff member Miguel Padró on this blog exploring the changing dynamics of worker voice. In my previous role as CEO of Common Impact, I spent a lot of time inside companies whose leaders were trying to more effectively engage their employees. I now get to discuss, with new colleague and coauthor Miguel, just how transformative this moment is for the relationship between employers and their employees. 

Meet the Hedge Fund Executive Who Sees the Corporate Debt Market as an Untapped Resource for Fighting Climate Change

Sheru Chowdhry, Founder & CIO at DSC Meridian Capital – interviewed by Judy Samuelson, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

Judy here again. I had to add this piece to our Best-Of—it’s one of a series of Q&A interviews we did with leaders in the field of ESG. This one, an interview with Sheru Chowdhry of DSC Meridian Capital, got some of the strongest audience response of any, and I can see why: it’s a genuinely fresh perspective on critical issues in sustainability. I learned a lot, and would strongly recommend a read!


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