The Art of the Corporate-Investor ESG Conversation 2020: Virtual Event

For the past four years, the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program has invited a small number of ESG experts – long-term investors, chief sustainability officers and corporate responsibility strategists, academics and others – to take stock of where this frenzy of interest is taking ESG.

This workshop explores how we can improve ESG-related conversations inside companies, between companies and the market, and in communications with other corporate stakeholders. This year’s event consisted of public webinars and private virtual seminars, held over several days in early December.


Webinars (open to all registrants)

Where Is ESG Heading in 2021?

Webinar  |  Wednesday, December 9th  |  2:30PM – 3:30PM ET

After initial fears that ESG might be labeled as a ‘backburner’ concern during the pandemic, superior performance by highly rated companies and growing emphasis from mainstream investors have boosted ESG up the list of priorities in corporate-investor conversations. As we move into the post-election environment, this webinar will examine the direction of public policy and investor focus around ESG, as the U.S. attempts to support a strained economy, address social justice concerns and deal with increasingly anxious news on the climate front. 

Invited Speakers:

  • Jonathan Bailey, Managing Director and Head of ESG Investing, Neuberger Berman
  • Cambria Allen, Director of Corporate Governance, UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust & Board Member, Council of Institutional Investors
  • Lex Suvanto, Global Managing Director, Capital Markets and Financial Communications, Edelman
  • Moderator: Sabastian Niles, Partner, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz


Going Beyond ESG Scores: Putting Purpose at the Heart of Corporate Decision-Making

Webinar  |   Wednesday, December 16th  |  12:30PM – 1:30PM ET

As many companies look to ‘reset’ after a year of concurrent crises and disruption, executives and Boards are dramatically rethinking assumptions about operations, business models and trading partners. As stakeholder considerations receive more attention, the pressure to set more purpose-focused targets while increasing organizational resilience is mounting. With an uncertain geopolitical backdrop, how are executives and Boards navigating these waters, and how are social, environmental and governance considerations affecting their strategies?

Invited Speakers:

  • Joseph Wolk, EVP and Chief Financial Officer, Johnson & Johnson
  • Brandon Nelson, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, JetBlue
  • Moderator: Judy Samuelson, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

Special Thanks: This Art of the ESG Conversation webinar was developed as part of the Global Inclusive Growth Partnership, a collaboration between the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.



Virtual Seminars (by invitation only)

Seeking Alpha – and Transparency – in Human Capital Practices 

Virtual Dialogue  |  Friday, December 11th

In the wake of the pandemic and the calls for racial justice, companies are making bold commitments to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. However, to date, disclosures on human capital practices are limited and idiosyncratic, so it’s hard to know how to assess and compare corporate performance.  What questions should investors and other stakeholders ask about the risks and opportunities associated with company approaches to inclusion/equity/human capital?  How could human capital disclosures be used more broadly for tracking progress and valuing company actions?   

Invited Provocateurs:

  • Thomas Kamei, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management
  • Marian Macindoe, Head of ESG Strategy & Engagement, Uber
  • Rick Wartzman, Head of the KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society, Drucker Institute
  • Facilitator: Miguel Padró, Senior Program Manager, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program


Green Bonds and Beyond: Structuring Securities for Impact 

Virtual Dialogue  |  Monday, December 14th

As companies announce bold commitments to reduce their environmental footprint and address a wide array of pressing social issues, they are heading into the bond markets to raise the capital needed to realize these ambitions.  In this session we will discuss how environmental and social impact bonds are structured and monitored, how they fit into an ambitious sustainability plan and where the market for these financial instruments may be headed in 2021.  

Invited Provocateurs:

  • Valerie Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer, Citi
  • Sidney Dillard, Partner and Head of Corporate Investment Banking, Loop Capital
  • Facilitator: Nancy McGaw, Deputy Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program


The Disclosure Challenge: Who Needs to Know What and Why? 

Virtual Dialogue  |  Tuesday, December 15th  

Companies are facing increasing demands to disclose information that help stakeholders assess the company’s performance on a wide array of sustainability metrics. As the ever-expanding oversight and reporting task falls to increasingly strained CSR professionals and departments, it seems that the expectations themselves may be unsustainable.

In this workshop, we will get an inside look at sustainability reporting from two leaders in the field.  Then we will turn to corporate stakeholders to understand – what do they really want to know? What advice do they have for companies facing a plethora of requests for insights into their sustainability performance? Participants will meet in plenary and then discuss insights in small groups.

Invited Provocateurs:

  • Rachel Bonfante, Manager ESG & Sustainability, Chevron
  • Anna Palazij, Senior Director Sustainability/ESG Reporting, Pepsi
  • Dazzle Bhujwala, Director, Investor Network, Ceres
  • Gabriella Rigg Herzog, Vice President, Labor Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, USCIB
  • Facilitator: Paula Luff, ESG Investor & Founder, VISO Strategies