By Rebecca Sikarev | October 17, 2022
The University at Albany Massry Center for Business hosted its second annual forum on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices in business on Friday Oct. 14. Political officials, business leaders, alumni, and students alike attended the event to learn how to improve sustainable business practices in their communities.
ESG Symposium Flyer
Photo Credit: UAlbany Website
ESG is a concept that focuses on how businesses integrate environmental, social, and governance concerns into their business models. It works to improve sustainability in business through transparency, legitimacy and good governance.
This second ESG forum showcased the ways senior officials in the private and public sectors are trying to make our communities more sustainable. Safe environmental practices have become a far greater concern in recent years as more research on the dangers of climate change come to light.
One attendee, recent UAlbany graduate Martina Glab, thought the forum was “a great opportunity to connect with the local business community, reconnect with UAlbany and to learn a little bit more about sustainability in business.”
The forum’s keynote speaker, George Serafeim, was awarded the title of the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business at Harvard Business School in recognition of his outstanding teaching. With ESG as one of his specialties, he wrote a novel on sustainability called “Purpose + Profit: How Businesses Can Lift Up the World.” In his speech, he spoke about the importance of transparency and good governance in improving sustainability in business.
While he believes that implementing meaningful ESG practices in business is “very challenging” and “requires new measurements, new metrics, new skills, and new governance,” it can and should be done. His speech emphasized that strong leadership within both the private and public sector is critical to the success of ESG.
“There’s a big gap in what you see in marketing and what is really happening in the organization,” Serafeim said.
Michael Amoroso, a financial planning analyst at JSA Sustainable Wealth Management, a small sustainable wealth management firm, agrees with Professor Serafeim and believes that the best ways to improve sustainable business practices are to “improve transparency and to develop corporate governance to adopt, measure, monitor and ultimately affect metrics that are related to sustainability and provide double materiality.”
Double materiality was discussed as important in fostering sustainability. The concept describes how each measure a company implements should be evaluated from both a financial and social perspective. Instead of just looking at a measure’s financial value, it was recommended that companies should also seek to understand the environmental and social impacts of their actions.
Amy Shatsoff, another attendee of the event, is a consultant who works to support international organizations in writing their ESG reports. She attended the event in hopes of “learning about what’s happening in the capital region” in regards to sustainability.
“[The best way to integrate this topic in business is] having [sustainable practices] integrated as part of the business structure so that guidance comes from the top and is thereafter within different work streams within the organization,” Shatsoff said.
Alongside business leaders who attended and spoke at the event, political officials discussed what they are doing to improve sustainability within their communities. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden came together in a panel presentation to discuss the practices they have implemented within the capital region.
While recognizing the importance of ESG, the city of Albany is also trying to consider the most cost effective ways of implementing them.
“We're still kind of at a phase, where especially in government, you're trying to do things so that facilities are constructed for zero emissions versus the traditional method that you would have anticipated using before we had these rules in place. So we have to know what that is so we can then work with state and federal government funding sources to figure out how we are going to pay for it and what sources and resources and incentives we need in place,” Sheehan said in her speech.
In Schenectady, McCarthy claims they replaced “all street lights with LED fixtures” in an effort to limit energy consumption. According to Mobility Lab, a research center, “LEDs are up to 50 percent more energy efficient than traditional sodium bulbs and can last 15 to 20 years.”
The symposium ended with remarks by UAlbany President Dr. Havidán Rodríguez followed by a “High Peak Impact” Award Ceremony to recognize outstanding local ESG practices.