Group of adults applauding Group of adults applauding

A Community Celebration of “ESG”

Symposium hosted by UAlbany School of Business

ESG Symposium

This inaugural symposium brought together business leaders, policymakers, and academics to share best practices on how ESG benefits businesses and their stakeholders in various ways.

The symposium positions UAlbany’s School of Business as a leader on researching and disseminating knowledge and best practices of how businesses integrate “Environment, Social, and Governance” issues in their strategies and operations. It fulfills its mission by offering education that prepares future generations of business leaders to succeed in both their personal and professional lives as well as have substantial community benefits. The symposium concluded with the announcement of the inaugural 2021 High Peaks Impact Awards.

2021 ESG Symposium




Presenting Sponsor








Founding Sponsors

Cometti Law Firm, Mario David Cometti, Esq., logo
Optimus One, LLC, logo
ESG Strategies logo, with "environmental, social, governance" slogan
Pinnacle Human Resources, LLC, logo
Advokate logo
Simmons Capital Group logo
Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region logo



Additional Support

Sustainable PR logo, with "Public relations for a green plant" slogan

What is ESG?

There is increasing evidence that business strategy and operations that integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues can lead to enhanced operational efficiencies and lower costs, greater competitiveness and higher revenues, and improved returns and long-run profits. The concept and definition of “impact” and “values” investing have gained momentum as financial, labor, and product markets have redefined what is important to decisions: Transparency ... Legitimacy ... Resiliency ... Materiality.

The Corporation’s role was reconceptualized in 2004 when then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan invited over 50 CEOs of major financial institutions to find ways to integrate ESG into capital markets under the auspices of the UN Global Compact.Following that initiative, “Who Cares Wins, 2004-2008” argued that embedding ESG factors in capital markets makes good business sense and results in better societal outcomes while the UN Environmental Program’s Finance Initiative claimed that ESG issues are relevant for financial valuation. These two reports formed the backbone for the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) at the New York Stock Exchange in 2006 and the launch of the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative (SSEI) the following year. Nearly a decade later, the United Nations General Assembly developed its 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) that are intended to be achieved by the year 2030 (colloquially known as “Agenda 2030”). This gained momentum when BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2019 letter to Corporate CEOs stated that “profits and purpose are inextricably linked.” Later that same year, top U.S. corporate executives from 200 companies abandoned the primacy of profits and shareholder interests, claiming: “While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.” Even the late Jack Welch, who had championed shareholder primacy during his tenure as GE’s CEO, renounced it as “the world’s dumbest idea” because a company must also value its stakeholders and strive for long-term growth.

Investors pick stocks and funds they expect will outperform the market. In his bestselling book, Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” ESG fits this characterization with a mega-trend exploding as pension funds, private equity firms, and hedge funds spend trillions of dollars on indexes, investment instruments, and countless research teams offering new products and advice. While ESG may be just one paradigm recognizing companies that have an impact, it has received a lot of attention as available metrics have increased. However, much remains to be learned about ESG metrics and corporate financial performance.

Symposium Schedule

1:00pm-1:10pm – Guest Registration & Reception

1:10pm-1:25pm – Welcome - Nilanjan Sen, Dean
Opening Remarks - Paul Miesing, O'Leary Professor Emeritus and CAUSE Founding Director, UAlbany

1:25pm-2:15pm – Panel 1: ESG Measurement - Financial Reporting
Ingrid Fisher – Moderator, UAlbany School of Business

Lisa Veliz Waweru – Manager, Decarbonization/Sustainability & ESG, Deloitte & Touche

Lisa Veliz Waweru is a Manager with Deloitte’s Sustainability and ESG Services team and assists global clients with a broad range of sustainability and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) topics. This includes: corporate sustainability and ESG strategy, decarbonization solutions, climate-related financial risk assessments, TCFD readiness and reporting, and stakeholder engagement. She has over 10 years of experience across utilities/energy, education, and technology sectors. She most recently joined Deloitte from The Climate Service, a TCFD-aligned climate risk analytics firm, quantifying the financial impact of climate change on corporate operations and supply chain.

Lisa received a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley and a Master's of Environmental Management and MBA from Yale. She also received a Certificate from the Global Association of Risk Professionals on Sustainability and Climate Risk. She is the Co-Founder and Steering Committee Chair of Women in Climate Tech, a global network dedicated to elevating the voices of women and non-binary individuals in the climate tech sphere.

Kris Pederson – Corporate Governance Leader, EY

Kris has 25 years of management consulting, auditing/financial analysis, and board of director experience.  She currently focuses on the board agenda and serves on the firm’s Long-term Value executive committee.  Focus areas include value identification/measurement, shareholder activism, and linkages of value to investor communications and governance.   She previously led EY’s Strategy and Customer consulting practices in the Americas and is one of the founders of EY’s Purpose Led Transformation practice.

Kris is an expert in large scale transformation with prowess in strategy consulting, value realization/financial engineering, operations, executive leadership, with vast experience executing ERP-led transformation initiatives as well. Process expertise includes Customer Relationship

Management (digital selling, salesforce transformation, service management and customer journey/customer experience transformation) and Enterprise Operating Model.  Industry experience includes high technology, consumer products/retail, industrial products, banking, automotive and telecommunications.

Previously, she was Vice President of Transformation within IBM’s Global Business Services organization where she managed multiple strategy and organization change practices overseeing both external client strategic transformation programs, plus internal IBM transformation initiatives.  Prior, she was a management consulting partner at PriceWaterhouse, LLC, which was acquired by IBM in 2002.  Earlier, Kris was a Consulting Manager with Gemini Consulting/the MAC Group, and before that, an Internal Auditor for Consolidated Electrical Distributors. 

Kris has strong experience at the board level.  She is currently an advisory board member for the NFL’s Alumni Association and is the programs chair of NACDCO (National Association of Corporate Directors, Colorado). She is an NACD governance fellow and a certified corporate director. Previous board roles included: Corporate Director and Audit Committee Member of Great Western Bank, Advisory Director of Microplas, a subsidiary of Nypro, and Board Member Windward Reports.  Kris is also active in association boards including the Harvard Business School Women’s Advisory Board and previously was the Vice Chair of ASME (Association of Mechanical Engineers) Industry Board in officer roles for over 10 years.

Kris is a featured conference speaker in areas such as long-term value, purpose, corporate transformation, employee engagement, value realization, and women’s initiatives.  She was recently awarded Consulting Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2016 and before that, honored as a Top 25 Consultant by the magazine in 2007.

Lyndsay Damo – Director, ESG Practices, PwC

Lyndsay specializes in both sustainability services and reporting assessments for financial services clients. She has over 11 years of reporting experience, with a strong understanding of internal controls and metrics relating to data collection, reporting and technology.

She has extensive experience with financial services clients that assess and understand ESG performance and impact investing policy enhancements across sectors, including assess and recommend engagements. Lyndsay also completed a tour of duty with the PwC Foundation within PwC’s CSR team.

2:15pm-3:05pm – Panel 2: ESG Portfolio Construction
Todd Silaika – Moderator, Managing Director, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Shireen Kafiluddi – Client Associate, Merrill Lynch

Shireen Kafiluddi started her career with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in 2015 after graduating from the University of Arkansas with degrees in Communication and Marketing & Logistics. Shireen lives in Troy, NY and enjoys reading, spending time outside, and immersing herself in the culinary scenes of Upstate NY and beyond.

Sarah Norman – Senior Sustainable Investment Strategist, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Sarah Norman is a Director and Senior Investment Strategist for the Chief Investment Office (CIO) within Bank of America Corporation. In this role, she is responsible for delivering investment guidance and driving the strategic direction of the CIO Sustainable and Impact Investing strategy through the investment process supporting Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank. Sarah has helped drive the development and advancement of CIO capabilities and value proposition to advisors and clients across wealth management channels.

Previously, as an Investment Strategist for the Portfolio Solutions Desk for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Sarah delivered guidance on investment strategy implementation through equities and equity linked products, structured products and alternative investments for financial advisors and clients, and acted as the non-U.S. equities specialist on the desk.

Prior to joining Merrill, Sarah worked for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s Portfolio Strategy & Research Group in New York, globally producing and marketing international equity strategies. Sarah began her finance career with Citi Smith Barney and the Private Client Investment Strategy Group based in London.

Sarah earned a B.A. degree and First Class Honors from the University of Sussex, England.

Lynette Jefferson – Managing Director, UBS Wealth Management

Lynette currently Heads the UBS Sustainable Investing & Inclusive Investing Solutions Platform within WM Americas.

In this capacity, Lynette provides strategic oversight in delivering the Sustainable Investing (SI) product shelf and tactical investment implementation solutions. Her team also focuses on expanding the number of diverse investment managers and related investment strategies that address diversity/equality/inclusion on our product platforms. In each area, she is responsible for driving Advisor and client awareness/education; global collaboration; development and execution of marketing strategy; supporting product distribution and deployment of tools, high impact resources and the firm’s best thinking to Advisors and clients.

Lynette also has strong expertise in the Advisory space having built UBS Wealth Management’s premier Ultra High Net Worth Advisory platform - the UBS Consolidated Advisory Program ("CAP"). CAP is a bespoke advisory solution designed for the UHNW investor, enabling Advisors to deliver customized, holistic, portfolio-level advice under a single agreement. Lynette is also the primary design architect, advisory co-founder of CAP and continues to advise on program enhancements and strategic build-out.

Prior to her roles within Advisory and Planning Products, Lynette led the product management team of WMA's Institutional Corporate Cash Management ("CCM") business within UBS WM Capital Markets. CCM is a $25 billion+ platform led by advisor experts who specialize in delivering customized, separately managed short-term fixed income portfolio solutions to corporate clients and family offices.

Lynette joined UBS in 2006, and in addition to her professional accomplishments, continues to be quite active in several UBS leadership programs, initiatives, employee networks, stage/panel speaking engagements, and volunteer endeavors, particularly those related to DE&I. Among these have been her role as an initial UBS Culture Carrier for Aspire; key-talent program participant, Advanced Leadership Program; MMI Leadership Program, GTP senior program advisor, Diversity Program mentor, “Leading the Future” facilitator; Veteran's Network, and MOSAIC member, ACP Veteran mentor; she was the 2020 recipient of the WMA Home Office Leadership award for outstanding volunteer efforts, and was selected to be an inaugural member of the newly formed UBS Americas DE&I Council. She also represents UBS as a member of the Banking Policy Institute Economic Development/ D&I Working Group. In 2021, Lynette was recognized as a 2021

[email protected] awardee on behalf of UBS. [email protected] is a partnership program that disrupts how companies traditionally think about women and leadership.

Lynette spent the vast majority of her career prior to UBS as a Credit Research Analyst having held positions with firms such as Prudential Capital Management, JP Morgan Chase, and HVB Group. She also served as an adjunct professor at the Kings College in NY.

Lynette earned an MBA in Finance from New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business and a BS in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the State University of NY at Stony Brook. She is Series 7 and 66 licensed and has passed Level I and II of the CFA exams. She is a native New Yorker, currently residing in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Matthew Morris, CFA – Senior Portfolio Strategist, UBS Wealth Management, PwC


Matthew is responsible for articulating and delivering comprehensive, research-driven asset allocation and portfolio strategy advice to Private Wealth Advisors and their ultra-high net worth client s. He conducts detailed portfolio review sessions with private clients to understand their wealth structure.  His end goal is to develop customized strategic and tactical asset allocations implemented with the most suitable products UBS has to offer.

Professional History

Prior to joining UBS Financial Services, Matthew worked for UBS Asset Management in Chicago. At UBS AM, Matthew was responsible for managing institutional client accounts. Matthew began his career at Morgan Stanley where he was a Consulting Group Analyst and later a Portfolio Management Associate for Graystone Consulting, Morgan Stanley's institutional consulting division.


Matthew received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Oregon. He currently holds the Series 3, 7, and 66 registrations. Matthew is a CFA Charter holder and Co-Chair of the CFA Society of Chicago Education Advisory Group.

3:05pm-3:15pm – Break/Meet & Greet

3:15pm-3:45pm – Keynote Speaker
Introduction: Paul Grondahl, NYS Writers Institute

Daniel Esty – Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law & Policy, School of the Environment and Clinical Professor of Environmental Law & Policy, Yale Law School

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with primary appointments in the Yale School of the Environment and the Law School with a secondary appointment at the Yale School of Management. He also serves as Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and as Director of the Yale Initiative on Sustainable Finance. Professor Esty is the author or editor of fourteen books (including the prizewinning guide to corporate sustainability, Green to Gold) and dozens of articles on environmental and energy policy – and their connections to regulatory approaches, corporate strategy, sustainability performance measurement, competitiveness, trade, and economic success. His (edited) volume, A Better Planet: 40 Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future, was named a top book of 2019 by The Financial Times and his most recent book, Values at Work: Sustainable Investing and ESG Reporting has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.

From 1989-93, Professor Esty served in a number of senior positions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During this time, he led EPA’s regulatory review process and helped to negotiate the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. From 2011-14, he returned to government service as Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. In this role, he led efforts to draft Connecticut’s first energy strategy, launch a Green Bank to promote clean energy, and restructure the state’s regulatory programs. Known for his innovative work at the business-sustainability interface, Professor Esty has also provided strategy advice to companies, governments, international organizations, NGOs, and foundations around the world.

3:45pm-4:35pm – Panel 3: Implementing ESG 
Matthew Crayne – Moderator, UAlbany School of Business

Noah Miller, Co-Founder, Rho Impact

I am the co-founder of Calibrate Partners, a "no BS" ESG strategy firm for the new normal of business. I help organizations navigate the ever-changing risks and opportunities of today’s world while becoming the companies society needs them to be.
Systemic change is the ultimate team sport, and I consider myself a player-coach. Nothing gets me more fired up than joining a team of good people with even greater goals and stepping onto the field together.

I began my career on the enterprise organizational development team at Vermont’s iconic Keurig-Green Mountain (GMCR), learning the art and science of making organizations more effective and their people more engaged. Since then I’ve been an international social entrepreneur, professional athlete, army commander, sustainability/OD director, and ESG consultant. I also am a frequent speaker and lecturer on a broad range of ESG and OD topics for academic institutions, trade associations, and civil society organizations.

I believe practical solutions can lead to radical change. Shoutout to the 2014 Jaffa coexistence lacrosse team, who showed me that even in times of war, teamwork truly makes the dreamwork.

The world needs more teamwork. Dedicated to making that happen.

Sujata Chaudhry, Founder, Tangible Development

With Tangible Development, an innovative corporate training and consultancy business, Sujata combines experience, perspectives, and education making her a unique trainer and consultant who brings a personal understanding of diversity together with American corporate sensibility. Known as the “idea girl,” she specializes in cross cultural competency, diversity, and inclusive workforce training, engagement and development. Sujata has worked with industry leaders in finance, property management, hospitality, non-profit, healthcare, and science-technology to leverage diversity and inclusion to support the sustainability, viability and strategic vision of organizations.


Trent Romer, Co-owner, Clear View Plastic

Trent Romer has been in the custom plastic bag manufacturing business for over 25 years. He is the 3rd generation co-owner of his family’s business founded in 1961 by his grandfather. He is guided by his faith and loves the outdoors, both of which he found at a young age. His passion for the planet, his faith, and his family business ignited a quest to take action toward a better future. He has traveled extensively to learn about and apply sustainability in his professional and personal life. Those travels led to his debut book Finding Sustainability (John Hunt Publishing). The book takes the reader on a journey to 8 states, 3 national parks, and 3 countries to experience the life-changing education and adventures that led Trent to finding sustainability for his plastic bag manufacturing business and himself. Trent has Master's degrees in both Education and Business from the University at Albany. His undergraduate degree in Economics is from Hamilton College. He lives outside Albany, NY and spends summers vacationing at national parks, nearby lakes, and the ocean with his wife and three boys. Details for book and reviews on the book can be found at . Amazon details the book as well at .

4:35pm-4:45pm – Break/Meet & Greet

4:45pm-5:35pm – Panel 4: Technology Trends Driving the Future of ESG Sanjay Goel – Moderator, UAlbany School of Business

Heng Xu, Professor of Information Technology & Analytics, Kogod School of Business at the American University, Director of the Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center

Dr. Heng Xu is a Professor of Information Technology and Analytics in the Kogod School of Business at the American University, where she also serves as the Director of the Kogod Cybersecurity Governance Center. Before joining Kogod in 2018, she was a faculty member at the Pennsylvania State University for 12 years, as well as a program director at the National Science Foundation for 3 years. Her recent research focuses on AI governance, data privacy, and data ethics. Her scholarly work has been published in outlets such as Management Science, MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Psychological Methods, and many others. Her interdisciplinary research and education have been sponsored by many competitive grants from funding agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, and National Security Agency. Her work has received many awards, including the Woman of Achievement Award in IEEE Big Data Security (2021), IEEE ITSS Leadership Award in Intelligence and Security Informatics (2020), the Operational Research Society’s Stafford Beer Medal (2018), National Science Foundation's CAREER award in 2010, and many best paper awards and nominations at various conferences. Currently she serves as an associate editor at MIS Quarterly and IEEE Security & Privacy. [See also:]

Mark Esposito – Co-founder & Chief Learning Officer, Nexus FrontierTech

Mark Esposito, PhD, is recognized internationally as a top global thought leader in matters relating to The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the changes and opportunities that technology will bring to a variety of industries. He is Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Nexus FrontierTech, an AI scale up venture, dedicated to help business become more efficient and competitive by introducing the latest data management science. He was inducted in 2016 in the radar of Thinkers50 as one of the 30 most prominent rising business thinkers in the world. He is a global expert of the World Economic Forum and advisor to national governments. Since 2020, he is a Subject Matter Expert for the National Program on Artificial Intelligence at the Prime Minister Office of the UAE.

In his academic career, Mark has held academic appointments for some of the world’s leading institutions such as Harvard University, University of Cambridge, Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, Hult International Business School and IE Business School.

He has developed and conducted courses in Business, Government & Society & Economic Strategy and Competitiveness for Harvard University's Division of Continuing Education and served as Institutes Council Co-Leader, at the Microeconomics of Competitiveness program (MOC) at the Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness, at Harvard Business School under the mentorship of Professor Michael E. Porter.

He equally runs two executive education programs at Harvard Professional Development designed around his books: “Growth Strategies: Identifying Opportunities in Market Trends” and “Artificial Intelligence in Business: Creating Value with Machine Learning”. His third executive program at Harvard will be launched in 2021 on “ Fintech and Blockchain”. 

Richard Perez – Senior Research Associate, UAlbany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Richard Perez is a senior research associate at the University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, where he directs applied research and teaches in the fields of solar radiation, solar energy applications and daylighting. He holds a Master and a Doctorate in Atmospheric Sciences (University of Paris and SUNY-Albany), and an Undergraduate degree in Electrotechnics (University of Nice, France).

Two of Perez’s noted contributions to the field of solar energy are:

  • Identifying the potential of photovoltaic (PV) power generation to meet the electrical power demand of large cities in nontraditional solar regions such as the northeastern U.S.
  • The development of solar radiation models that have been incorporated in standard solar energy and daylighting calculation practice around the world.

Perez has produced more than 200 journal articles, conference papers and technical reports, and he holds two U.S. patents on methods of load management using photovoltaics. Perez has received numerous awards including:

  • International Solar Energy Society Farrington Daniels Award
  • American Solar Energy Society Charles Greeley Abbot Award
  • Certificate for Outstanding Research from the USDOE
  • Best Published Article from the International Solar Energy Society
  • Solar Industry Professional of the Year Award from the New York Solar Energy Industries Association.

5:35pm-5:50pm – Recognize 3 HPIA Finalists
Mario Cometti 

5:50pm-5:55pm – Announcing HPIA Winner
President Havidan Rodriguez

5:55pm-6:00pmVote of Thanks



Executive Committee

The following members created and organized the ESG symposium and the High Peaks Impact Awards:

  • Mario Cometti, Cometti Law Firm and Co-Founder ESG Strategies
  • Matt Grattan, Director of Community & Economic Development, UAlbany
  • Paul Grondahl, Director, New York State Writers Institute
  • Paul Miesing, O’Leary Professor Emeritus and CAUSE Founding Director, UAlbany
  • Terri Scalise Roller, Director of Corporate Engagement, UAlbany
  • William Roller, Director of Development, School of Business, UAlbany  
  • Amy Ryan, Co-Founder/CEO, ESG Strategies
  • Nilanjan Sen, Dean, School of Business, UAlbany

About the High Peaks Impact Award

Recognizing Local Businesses

The purpose of the award is to promote environment, social, and governance (ESG) efforts taking place locally and recognize Capital Region companies that exhibit a business model enabling it to operate in a responsible and sustainable way. The High Peak Impact Awards (HPIA) recognize Capital Region businesses that exhibit an understanding of and appreciation for their impacts on all their stakeholders. Conceptualized in late 2020, the HPIA was created to serve two purposes. First, to recognize Capital Region Businesses that exhibits an understanding of and appreciation for operating in both a financially sustainable and a socially responsible way. Second, the University at Albany School of Business has an opportunity to educate how companies integrating ESG provide value and positively benefit stakeholders and the community in a multitude of ways.

Why is it called the High Peaks Impact Award?

While the 46 “High Peaks” in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains are iconic to locals, Ray Anderson coined a similar metaphor in the late 1990s when he was CEO of carpet company Interface, Inc. As he and his team embarked on “Climbing Mount Sustainability”, they devised and committed to various goals along the way. By keeping their long-term vision in their sites, they were able to achieve smaller, shorter-term initiatives and arrived at the summit in 2019. Similarly, aspects of business models can become more sustainable regardless if they focus on the E, S, or G.

High Peaks Impact Awards Committees 2021:

Nomination Committee 
Members of the local business community will review nominations and select three finalists:

  • Amy Ryan, Co-Founder/CEO, ESG Strategies
  • Dr. Mary Ellen Mallia, Director, Office of Environmental Sustainability, UAlbany
  • Dr. Sanjay Goel, Chair & Professor, Department of Information Security & Digital Forensics, UAlbany
  • Katie Newcombe, Chief Economic Development Officer, CEG
  • Mark Little, Senior VP & Director, Global R&D Center (retired), GE
  • Matt Grattan (Chair), Director of Community & Economic Development, UAlbany
  • Paul Stewart, Director of Training & Technical Assistance, Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region
  • Rose Miller, President, Pinnacle Human Resources, LLC

Award Committee (judges):

  • Cedric Carter, VP, Senior Relationship Manager, TD Bank
  • Dr. Linda Krzykowski, VP for Student Engagement, UAlbany
  • Debra Pollard, President & COO, Fenimore Asset Management
  • Laurie Poltynski, Director of Customer & Community Management, National Grid
  • Dr. Hany Shawky, Professor of Finance, UAlbany