Innovators Help Business Change From Within

June 7, 2012

Nancy McGaw
Director of the First Movers Fellowship
The Aspen Institute
(212) 895-8007
[email protected]

4th Class of Aspen Institute First Mover Fellows creates success for companies and communities

NEW YORK, June 7, 2012—The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program today announced the fourth class of First Mover Fellows, individuals who are working within companies to unite business growth with a sustainable society in the products and services they are developing. The Fellows chosen this year come from a wide variety of industries including finance (Citigroup and BlackRock); energy (GE Energy); retail (Walmart); technology (Microsoft, HP and AOL); clothing (Levis Strauss and Nike); executive search (Egon Zehnder International); and advertising (Arnold Worldwide).

“The work of these remarkable business innovators demonstrates the array of opportunities companies have to achieve financial success and positive social and environmental impacts,” says Nancy McGaw, director of the First Movers Fellowship Program.

The 12-month Fellowship, which includes three seminars, is built around the core themes of innovation, leadership, reflection and community. The program offers individuals a chance to become part of a growing community of innovators who share a passion about their work and belief in new possibilities for business. It also serves as an innovation lab where Fellows develop the skills to make their innovations real and successful in their organizations.  The program offers both a leadership development opportunity for the Fellows and an organizational development strategy for their companies.

“Today there is a clear public call for business to create long-term value for shareholders, communities, employees and the planet. We need innovative leaders who can tackle this challenge,” explains McGaw. “This Fellowship program focuses on how to build this kind of leadership capacity within business.”

Candidates for the fellowship must be nominated by their peers. The selection process, which occurs over several months, begins with phone interviews with Aspen staff. If selected for a second round, Fellows must complete an application in which they describe the “next stage innovation project” they would undertake if selected to be in the program. Candidates are also interviewed by former Fellows. The final selection of the class is made by the fellowship Design Team. A list of the Design Team members can be found at

The First Movers Fellowship was developed by the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, whose mission is to equip business leaders for the 21st century with a new management paradigm—the vision and knowledge to integrate corporate profitability and social value.

For more information about the First Movers Fellowship, or about the 2012 Fellows, visit

The First Mover Fellows – 2012

Nicola Acutt is the founding Director of the VMware Foundation, which is focused on providing a platform for the virtualization and cloud computing company’s employees to be active corporate citizens and make a difference in the communities in which they live and work, and in the wider world. Nicola developed and runs the global programs, including the signature Service Learning initiative, which represents a new twist on traditional corporate philanthropy by amplifying the personal commitments and contributions of the company’s employees rather than giving money away at the corporate level.

Dawn Baker, High Potential Program Manager, Human Capital Planning and Development, Dow Chemical. Dawn’s focus is on preparing Dow’s High Potential talent for leadership challenges of the future, accomplished through career planning, deployment, on the job and structured development opportunities. This approach contributes to optimal individual and organizational effectiveness while building succession capabilities.

Jenifer Bice, Senior Director, Global Associate Communications, Walmart. Jenifer has more than 15 years’ experience in the corporate communications and marketing disciplines. Since joining Walmart in 2008, she has been responsible for strategic internal communication to the company’s officers around the world, the Global People Division, Finance Division and currently Walmart U.S., the company’s largest division.

Erin Bina, Solar Execution Leader, GE Energy. She is responsible for the management of GE’s solar supply chain, ensuring the successful fulfillment and delivery of solar equipment to GE’s customers. Erin joined GE in 2009 as a member of the Renewable Energy Leadership Program where she developed industry insight by serving in a variety of roles including Wind Services, Global Projects, Commercial Operations, and Solar Operations. 

Cory Brandt is Senior Engagement Advisor for Continental Africa at AngloGold Ashanti. He is developing stakeholder engagement and relationship management systems, and facilitating dialogue to improve the shared benefits of mining in partnership with communities, governments, civil society and others. He covers operations in Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Namibia, Tanzania, and DRC for AGA from his home base in Kenya.

Nathaniel Bullard is Director of Content at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Nat oversees cross-sectoral analytical projects in clean energy, with a focus on international trade, the solar industry, and innovative financing mechanisms. He works closely with Bloomberg’s Sustainability team in guiding the company’s own clean energy and energy efficiency investments. He also guides analysis and content for BNEF’s annual Summit, which gathers 500 clean energy leaders to discuss the future of energy, technology, policy, and finance.

Joseph Byrum is Global Head of Soybean Seeds and Traits R&D at Syngenta, a leading agri-business committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology. Joseph leads the global soybean breeding, trait research and product development which delivers improved genetics and trait technologies for soybean growers. Since joining Syngenta in 2006 he has held a variety of roles in Syngenta’s organizations. Most recently he led the Global Scouting and Acquisition team responsible for global innovation initiatives.

Jeff Chapin is a Designer at IDEO. Jeff uses design as a means to address longstanding social and environmental issues that exist in developing countries and in the United States. In the United States, Jeff focuses on health, environment- and government-related work. Recent projects include the redesign of a state emergency operations center, the improvement of trash services in Boston, and the design of a home energy monitoring system. In the developing world, Jeff focuses on water-related issues, and his portfolio includes projects to develop rural sanitation markets in Cambodia, Laos and Kenya; to design and market handwashing devices in Vietnam; and to design irrigation pumps in Myanmar.

Blair Cobb is the Senior Director of Cause Marketing for AOL. She is responsible for the development and management of AOL’s relationships with non-profit partners and the advertisers that support them. In this newly created position, Blair’s key objectives are driving traffic and revenue growth at AOL, while increasing brand perception by connecting and informing their consumers on important causes. Her efforts have resulted in a centralized giving platform called AOL Impact, which provides custom high-reach marketing opportunities for non-profits and cause marketers across multiple arms of the company including, AOL Mail, Patch and the Huffington Post.

Aslihan Denizkurdu is a Director in the Corporate Strategy Department at Citi. Aslihan works closely with senior leadership and management teams across business units and geographies to help align and optimize Citi’s business model and network against core market trends and targeted client segments. With current focus on Emerging Markets, her main responsibilities are centered around the development of long-term strategies and facilitation of informed decision-making in priority growth countries.

Paul Dillinger is the Senior Director of Color, Concept and Design for the Dockers® brand of Levi Strauss & Co. In this role, Paul is responsible for the seasonal design direction of the brand – developing the concept presentations and color palettes for the Global Dockers assortment. He also designs the brand’s two premium collections, K-1 by Dockers and the Art of Khaki.  Following his passion for sustainability, Paul has been an integral partner with the company’s Social and Environmental Sustainability group to develop front-end methods for applied sustainability in the design process.

Michelle Edkins is a Managing Director at BlackRock and Global Head of its Corporate Governance and Responsible Investment team of 20 specialists based in five key regions internationally. Michelle is responsible for the team’s engagement on corporate governance, including environmental and social factors, with the companies in which BlackRock invests on behalf of clients. She is a currently serving as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Corporate Governance Network.

Paul Ellingstad, Partnership & Program Development Director, Sustainability & Social Innovation, HP. Paul leads ideation and start-up of strategic partnerships and programs within HP’s Sustainability & Social Innovation team. Paul has played an integral role in HP’s embrace of the “Creating Shared Value” model in 2009 and the development and implementation of the social innovation strategy, partnerships and programs. Through coordination of the company’s rich talent and expertise, and in collaboration with social entrepreneurs and other innovative public and private sector orgranizations, Paul is working to drive sustainable improvements in health, education and environment enabled in part through technology and innovation.

Matt Ellis is Associate Director of Sustainability at CBRE. He is responsible for sales and services and advises businesses and real estate owners/occupiers on sustainability strategies with a focus on cost savings, process improvement and outsourcing of sustainability programs. Matt also administers CBRE’s carbon offset program and advises on its global carbon neutrality and sustainability initiatives.

Angela Frank is Director of Sustainable Manufacturing and Sourcing Operations at Nike. Working with Nike’s  internal business partners and contract manufacting partners, Angela helps define the strategy to achieve Nike’s goal of ensuring sustainability is at the core of its efforts to evaluate and elevate factory performance. Angela also served for 5 years as a member of the industry-wide Fair Labor Association Monitoring Board.

Josh Henretig is the Director of Environmental Sustainability for Microsoft and is responsible for helping define, implement and communicate the global environmental strategy for the company.  Josh has found success translating corporate insights and experiences with sustainability into scalable business practices that result in reducing the company’s environmental footprint and showcasing the role technology plays in enabling people and organizations around the world reduce their impact on the environment. Josh works closely with Microsoft business groups and international subsidiaries to embed environmental strategies and policies into their core business.

Mayra Hernandez is the Head of Corporate Responsibility for Grupo Financiero Banorte, the third largest financial institution in Mexico. She is responsible for finding opportunities for the bank to provide financial, social and environmental benefits to Mexican society, while contributing to the organization’s growth. Currently she is leading the effort to open a new market for the bank by providing financial services to the “missing middle,” the group too small and too risky for traditional financing but too large for microfinance.

Christoph Lueneburger is Global Practice Leader, at Egon Zehnder International, a leading executive search and management appraisal firm with 63 offices globally. Christoph leads the firm’s US Private Equity Practice.  He also founded and leads the firm’s market-leading Sustainability Practice which leverages Egon Zehnder’s board-level access to develop sustainability as a commercial theme.

Meg Siegal, is Senior Vice President Creative Director, at Arnold Worldwide, a global advertising agency. Meg is well-versed in the power of advertising. For more than a decade at Arnold Worldwide, she has sought out ways to use that power for good. She’s battled the tobacco industry as Creative Director of the iconic truth campaign. Meg has also produced work for former Vice President Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project,” a campaign to raise global awareness of the climate crisis faced by the planet.

Abraham Tarapani, is Vice President, Global Strategy & Business Development at Astonfield Renewables, founded in 2007 to develop, own and operate utility scale renewable energy power plants in emerging markets such as India, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa with an initial focus on solar power generation in India. Abe is responsible for Astonfield’s expansion into new markets, including working with government policymakers and electricity regulators to promote policies to attract private sector investment in affordable, large-scale renewable energy solutions. He also develops global technology partnerships for Astonfield to support the implementation of Astonfield’s solar portfolio. 

Kristian Villumsen is Senior Vice President, Emerging Markets at Coloplast, a Denmark-based company that develops products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions. For the past four years Kristian has been responsible for the commercial agenda of the group, including innovation (portfolio and pipeline), global product launches, pricing, and global commercial programs. He has now assumed responsibility for the company’s planned expansion in emerging markets.

View Comments