About the ESG Initiative
Inspired by the intersection of market demand and faculty expertise, Wharton launched the
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Initiative in July 2022.
The mission of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Initiative is, consistent with the vision of Joseph Wharton, to harness the power of business to “solve the social problems incident to our civilization.” We will do this by conducting research that investigates the intersection of ESG factors and business and by further advancing our best-in-class education of current and future practitioners, enabling them to serve a world undergoing tremendous change.
We conduct academically rigorous and practically relevant research that investigates when, where, and how ESG factors impact business value.
Informed by research, we design cutting-edge curricular and co-curricular programs and interactive simulations for current and future business leaders.
Practice & Policy
Drawing on our research, alumni, and partners, our work informs ESG strategies, valuation models, policies, and regulations.
WITOLD (VIT) HENISZ
Vice Dean and Faculty Director, ESG Initiative
Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management
Witold J. Henisz is the Vice Dean and Faculty Director, ESG Initiative and the Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management in Honor of Russell E. Palmer, former Managing Partner at The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania. His research examines the impact of political hazards as well as environmental, social and governance factors more broadly on the strategy and valuation of global corporations. This work analyzes best practices in corporate diplomacy to win the hearts and minds of external stakeholders as well as the measurement thereof. It has been published in top-ranked journals in international business, management, international studies and sociology and he is the author of the book “Corporate Diplomacy: Building Reputations and Relationships with External Stakeholders”. Witold has won multiple teaching awards at the graduate and undergraduate levels and also teaches extensively on the topic of Corporate Diplomacy as well as ESG integration in open enrollment and custom executive education programs. He is currently a principal in the consultancy PRIMA LLC whose clients span multinational firms, asset managers, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.
SANDRA MARO HUNT
Managing Director, ESG Initiative
Sandi is the Managing Director of the ESG Initiative at the Wharton School. With over a decade of experience in impact leadership, she leads the ESG Initiative in delivering best-in-class experiential learning opportunities and producing influential research to use business as a force for good. She has hosted the Dollars and Change podcast, served as a judge and speaker for impact events, and co-authored reports including “Four for Women,” “Can Investing in Public Equities Improve the Lives of Women?,” and the “Project Sage” series. Prior to joining WSII, Sandi worked in consulting at Accenture and served as Vice President of Operations for a national nonprofit. She graduated with honors from Bucknell University.
ARTHUR VAN BENTHEM
Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, Faculty Co-Director of the Climate Center
EXEQUIEL (ZEKE) HERNANDEZ
Max and Bernice Garchik Family Presidential Associate Professor, Faculty Co-Director of the Political Risk and Identity Lab
Edward H. Bowman Professor, Professor of Management, Faculty Director of the Impact Investing Research Lab
SARAH E. LIGHT
Associate Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics, Faculty Co-Director of the Climate Center
WILLIAM S. LAUFER
Julian Aresty Endowed Professor, Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics, Sociology, and Criminology, and Faculty Co-Director of the Zicklin Center for Governance and Business Ethics
MARY-HUNTER (MAE) MCDONNELL
Associate Professor of Management, Faculty Co-Director of the Zicklin Center for Governance and Business Ethics
As the Research Manager for the ESG Initiative, Jack Auslander coordinates and contributes to research efforts undertaken by various principal investigators at the Wharton School. Prior to joining the ESG Initiative, Jack earned his Master’s in International Business at the University of South Carolina, where he developed research on stakeholder-oriented business practices and explored ESG strategy. He also holds a B.S. in Finance and a B.S. in Accounting from Clemson University. Jack has previously worked at Truist Bank in investment portfolio management and Syngenta in data analytics. A few of Jack’s many hobbies include playing basketball and poker, traveling, reading, stargazing, and attempting to cook.
Head of Research
Michael Brown is the Head of Research at the ESG Initiative, where he manages research on impact investing, corporate responsibility, and social enterprise. His responsibilities include planning studies on the business of social impact, data collection and analysis, synthesizing and disseminating findings, and consulting on impact assessment. Michael came to Wharton from the University of Chicago, where he completed a PhD in Sociology and served as a consultant to nonprofits on Chicago’s South Side. In his spare time Michael enjoys trying to learn how to be handier around the house, with usually mixed results.
Senior Associate Director
As the Senior Associate Director for the ESG Initiative, Jillian designs and leads experiential learning programs for students who wish to learn more about ESG topics and strengthen their skill sets. Previously, she worked at the Career Services and Penn Abroad departments within the University of Pennsylvania. Jillian holds a B.A. in Italian Studies from Ramapo College of New Jersey, an M.S.Ed. in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and is currently a student in the Ed.D. in Higher Education program at Penn GSE, where she is focusing her studies and research on ethical leadership in education. Besides working and studying at Penn, Jillian enjoys traveling, doing yoga, and trying new restaurants in Philadelphia.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Kenneth Chung is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the ESG Initiative. His research dives into how shareholder activism influences firms’ actions and adjustments to climate change and how those actions are associated with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. More broadly, he’s passionate about bringing together environmental data with financial data to derive insights for better environmental stewardship. Kenneth holds a PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. When not in the office, Kenneth can be found listening to podcasts, shooting hoops, and doing yoga.
As Team Coordinator, Jay helps manage day to day activities at the ESG Initiative including administrative support and student programs. He looks forward to helping students find a program within the ESG Initiative that will hopefully strengthen their desire to pursue a career in social impact. In his free time, Jay can be found reading business and technology books, listening to podcasts, going to the gym, and spending time on the beach.
Senior Communications and Engagement Specialist
As the Senior Communications and Engagement Specialist for the ESG Initiative, Emma Davis manages content creation, research translation, and event promotion through the initiative’s social channels, website, and newsletter. Prior to joining the ESG Initiative, Emma completed her Bachelors at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and her Masters at Columbia University as a member of the Climate School’s inaugural class. In her free time, Emma enjoys crocheting, baking, and reading with her library card.
Impact Program Associate
Vaibhav Gowda is the Impact Program Associate at the ESG Initiative. Passionate about the intersection of business and impact, he joined Wharton to be at the forefront of impact investing and learn more about how it can be harnessed in the most effective way. He leads an experiential learning program, Wharton Impact Venture Associates, and supports the Fund for Health. His role involves assisting students along their path to sourcing, analyzing, and researching impact investing opportunities. Prior to joining the ESG Initiative, Vaibhav worked as a special assistant to a senior partner at Capria Ventures, a fund of funds investing in early stage, emerging market impact investments. He was also a manager at the Wadhwani Foundation, a global nonprofit working to improve the quality of job creation in the developing world. In his free time, Vaibhav can be found playing pickup basketball and answering questions at the local trivia night.
Riya Jagdish Kadam
Impact Research Associate
Riya is the Impact Research Associate at the ESG Initiative where she engages in research activities on impact investing. She will assist with the data collection and data analysis for the development of the Impact Finance Database. Prior to joining the ESG Initiative, Riya completed her double major in Economics and Political Science (Hons) at the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, Riya was actively involved in various research projects, most notably, her honors thesis where she discerned the relationship between political reservations and women’s empowerment in rural India. She also interned at the Burkle Center for International Relations and held a leadership position in the UCLA Political Science Undergraduate Council. In her free time, Riya can be found crocheting at home or on the lookout for her next favorite coffee shop.
Harald is a visiting scholar at the ESG Initiative at the Wharton School and an Assistant Professor of International Management at the University of Innsbruck. He received his PhD in International Business and an MSc in International Management from WU Vienna. Harald’s research interests relate to global strategy and international finance. Within this area, he tries to connect a stakeholder-oriented perspective with a strategy view on corporate structure. Although it seems like an Austrian cliché, Harald already misses the white skiing slopes of Tyrol.
Director of Marketing and Communications
As the Director of Marketing and Communications for the ESG Initiative, Jillian Rogers leads all strategic marketing and communication priorities. Her team’s responsibilities span the ESG Initiative’s website, engaging content, events and programming promotion, media relations, social media, email marketing, and branding. She cultivated her communication, organizational, and project management skills at Analytics at Wharton, Wharton External Affairs, La Salle University, and previous positions in healthcare and retail.
Head of Impact Investments
Rajith Sebastian is the Head of Impact Investments at the ESG Initiative of the Wharton School, where he leads the overall strategy related to ESG and Impact Investments. Rajith created and manages teams that oversee several best-in-class experiential investing and consulting programs across the ESG investing / impact investing spectrum. These include the Wharton Impact Venture Associates, the Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health, and the Wharton ESG Integration Program. Prior to joining the ESG Initiative, and during his MBA, Rajith worked on raising an Africa-focused private credit impact vehicle, in collaboration with a large global bank. Rajith has 12 years of investment banking and private equity experience, primarily across Sub Saharan Africa and China, and has worked on over $8bn worth of transactions across these markets. He served in senior investment banking roles at Standard Chartered Bank and Nedbank, was a VP at Chinavest (a Shanghai based PE group), and started off his career in management consulting at the Monitor Group (now Monitor-Deloitte). He has a Bachelor of Business Science degree from the University of Cape Town, an MBA from the Wharton School, and is a CFA Charterholder. He lives in Philly, and enjoys time with his wife and two young boys.
Yuri manages the ESG Initiative’s experiential learning opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. She previously worked at the Office of University and Community Partnerships at Drexel University, and Bloomberg Philanthropies. In addition to her work at the ESG Initiative, Yuri is currently creating a conceptual writing project as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. When not working or studying she enjoys experimental records, skincare, and fitness training.