Meet 30 Rising Stars Fighting Climate Change at Work
Decarbonizing disaster relief, supply chains and industrial chemicals. Developing whole-food snacks, circular apparel and climate-savvy financial products. Expanding pathways into climate careers for Black and Indigenous people.
The honorees in our eighth year of the GreenBiz 30 Under 30 represent an array of geographies across most continents — from the United Arab Emirates to the United States. They seek to initiate change at scale within such corporations as AECOM, Disney, ERM, Liberty Mutual and Nike. Those at nonprofit organizations are either creating unique local solutions or advancing global goals.
We encourage you to get to know and be inspired by these 30 youthful leaders in sustainability whose positive impacts we expect to multiply in the years ahead
Propels renewables policy for the Philippines
John Altomonte, CEO and Founder, Verne Energy Solutions
Five years ago, after years working as an environmental scientist, John Altomonte sought to make more of a direct impact on climate policy in the Philippines, his home country. He founded Verne Energy Solutions, a Manila-based consultancy that helps big companies transition to renewable energy.
“It really felt like we were putting in all this work, we were putting in all the science to try and move the needle, but at the end of the day, nothing really happened,” says Altomonte.
“Looking at the energy transition in the state of the Philippines, there were many gaps,” says Altomonte, now 29. “As an entrepreneur, there was a lot of potential to disrupt the industry.”
Verne Energy also works with the government. One client, on energy policy, is the Senate of the Philippines. While Altomonte says the Philippines is making strides in the right direction, a lot of climate education is needed to speed up the energy transition. He still lectures to environmental science graduate students and learns about new plant species on botany expeditions.
“As an environmental scientist, really ultimately the overall goal is, 'How can I, in my capacity as a single person, address the impacts of climate change?'”
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Shrinks MilliporeSigma’s packaging footprint
Dustin Andre, Product and Packaging Sustainability Specialist; MilliporeSigma
”It just takes someone to look at it a little bit differently and question why we're doing it.” That’s the philosophy Dustin Andre brings as a packaging engineer at MilliporeSigma in Milwaukee.
He’s responsible for measuring, tracking and innovating the global packaging footprint of the U.S. and Canada Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany which produces more than 300,000 products — from chemicals to pipette tips — for over 1.6 million customers.
Reducing the climate and waste impacts of the pharma cold chain is Andre’s latest focus. He’s leading the launch of the company’s Greener Cooler program to replace petroleum-based expanded polystyrene (EPS) coolers, which are virtually impossible to recycle, with a circular, paper fiber-based alternative.
“We're trying to find a solution that someone can fold up and put in a recycling bin so that the recycling center can make another box out of it,” says Andre, 28. “It’s incredibly challenging.”
Thanks to Andre’s work, the Greener Cooler program is expanding to major U.S. distribution centers and is expected to replace 320,000 EPS coolers by the end of 2023. Further expansion of the program to Europe is planned for next year.
— Tom Howarth
Empowers corporate climate action in the Global South
Amjad Azmeer, Doctoral Student, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Amjad Azmeer believes it’s important to empower companies in the Global South to take action on climate change, ensuring they’re not left behind just because of geography or socioeconomics. Until September, he led the Climate Ambition Accelerator Program for the UN Global Compact Network for Sri Lanka, which has equipped 41 Sri Lankan businesses with the tools to set meaningful decarbonization goals in line with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
Connecting companies to the SBTi excites Azmeer, 27. “Even a [small to medium enterprise] in Sri Lanka that joins the Science Based Targets initiative is part of the same group as Google and Microsoft,” he says. “All of them are following the same standard and moving towards net zero.” Last year, Azmeer played a vital role in increasing the number of Sri Lankan SBTi-committed companies, including businesses in textiles and tea production, from eight to 16. Also at Network Sri Lanka, Azmeer helped set up a working group that enables businesses to commit to sustainable water management principles through coalitions such as the CEO Water Mandate.
Now, by pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, he’s hoping to increase his impact on climate adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Middle East.
— Tom Howarth
Specializes in Scope 3 decarbonization at Disney
Madison Barnes, Senior Analyst, Environmental Sustainability, The Walt Disney Company
Madison Barnes is on the frontline of aligning Disney’s Scope 3 ambition with the best practices for climate accounting. But Disney “doesn’t fit into a nice box” that greenhouse gas protocols are designed for, she says, so she helps create the strategy.
That fits with how the former competitive soccer player describes herself: “Scrappy.” Barnes has achieved big results over four years on Disney’s enterprise sustainability team from Burbank, California. She helped calculate the company’s first Scope 3 emissions inventory and set a science-based climate target and a Scope 3 emissions goal. Now Barnes, 27, is mapping and calculating Disney’s Scope 3 inventory, which covers everything from parks to productions to consumer products, such as toys and clothing.
Studying environmental science at Duke University, she became intrigued by the intersection of business and sustainability, and advised students on sustainability projects and career paths. Barnes enjoys mentoring, and in 2020 became certified as a leader by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.
Barnes foresees companies shifting their approach to focus more on climate risk and supply chain resiliency, and embed sustainability into regular business activities. “My career trajectory will take me to jobs that likely don't exist yet, and I'm very excited about that.”
— Meg Wilcox
Catalyzes capital to decarbonize real estate
Cedric Char, Vice President, Fifth Wall
Two years ago, Cedric Char was tapped as the second member of a new climate team at Fifth Wall, one of the largest venture capital firms focused on technology for decarbonizing the built environment.
“We have the flexibility, the freedom and autonomy to build the team and culture and structure as we saw fit,” says Char, 29.
His diverse tasks in San Francisco include everything from fundraising to discovery to due diligence to leading Fifth Wall’s investments in dozens of tech startups including those focused on AI, hydrogen and batteries. But in Char’s view, his biggest project has been hiring a world-class team of experts.
Growing up in Honolulu, Char developed a sense of responsibility to take care of natural beauty. Even when he made finance a career, he remained interested in how economics and sustainable practices could go hand in hand.
Char went into investment banking after college, but soon sought a hands-on job in line with his interests. He joined BMW i-Ventures, where one of his first investments was in Prometheus Fuels, a startup that turns CO2 from the atmosphere into gasoline and jet fuel. Bringing to fruition early-stage clean technologies that “innovate on the biggest challenge of our generation” felt “right out of science fiction,” he says.
— Holly Secon
Spearheads Bank of America’s supply chain strategy
Khiana Deas, Responsible Sourcing Manager, Bank of America
Khiana Deas drives Bank of America's evolving supply chain climate strategy, engaging with more than 300 suppliers, representing nearly $20 billion in annual spending, to improve their ESG initiatives. Her approach? Individualized conversations that connect and communicate with suppliers that each organization is part of something bigger.
When entering the corporate finance world, Deas didn’t realize she could combine her personal interest in sustainability with her day-to-day job. She had joined the second-largest U.S. bank as a global risk analyst, but a co-worker piqued her interest in ESG.
“It blew my mind,” Deas says. “I realized how connected [ESG] is to everyday life, how it feeds into policies, consumer behavior, how buildings operate — it has so much reach.” She quickly shifted into a role focused on ESG compliance and operational risk. After obtaining LEED Green Associate credentials, Deas joined the global procurement responsible sourcing team in 2022 and now runs the bank’s supplier environmental and social risk screening process from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Outside of her job, Deas, 27, is pursuing a master’s in sustainability and environment with a climate justice focus. She was named one of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project’s Leaders and volunteers with the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council’s Carolinas Community, helping to organize its annual Green Gala awards.
— Holly Secon
Champions sustainability at Nike
Anna Epstein, Sustainability Manager, Nike
Anna Epstein seeks to keep Nike, a sustainability standard bearer, at the cutting edge. On its sustainable product team, she collaborates with supply chain, product creation, finance, sourcing, legal and other sustainability leads to drive strategy and develop apparel that aligns with sustainability targets and goals.
Based in Beaverton, Oregon, Epstein managed Nike’s 2025 enterprise sustainability target to restore 13 billion liters of water annually to priority watersheds within its extended cotton supply chain, finalizing one contract for a 200-million liter project, scoping an additional 18 projects and initiating discussions for a multibillion liter project opportunity.
Now she is working on Nike’s cotton sourcing portfolio, which is factoring carbon, water, communities, soil health and biodiversity impacts into its 2030 target-setting process.
Epstein, 29, discovered her love for problem solving and driving change when she completed a college thesis on the energy-water nexus with solutions to California's ongoing drought. It was “a light bulb moment,” she says. The former competitive swimmer also worked on water projects at the Cadmus Group environmental consulting firm.
She gets amped from educating people who don’t work directly in sustainability to act about issues related to it in their jobs. “It takes much more than those [in] explicit sustainability jobs to achieve the progress needed to decarbonize and transition to a circular economy,” she says.
— Meg Wilcox
Cultivates policy priorities for the corn industry
Jamaica Gayle, Director, Sustainability & Environmental Affairs, Plant Based Products Council and Corn Refiners Association
Jamaica Gayle is advancing sustainability in the production of corn, the largest crop in the U.S., drawing on her enthusiasm for both policy and permaculture.
She serves connected trade groups in Washington, D.C.: The Corn Refiners Association (CRA), representing seven ag giants including Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill, and the Plant Based Products Council (PBPC), which adds to those other corporate members such as PepsiCo and Neste, plus smaller biomaterials players like NatureWorks and Loliware.
Gayle manages legislative and regulatory priorities for the CRA and PBPC, engaging with the USDA and EPA. For CRA’s makers of corn-based sweeteners, oil and advanced bioproducts, her work focuses on farming practices. For PBPC, she advocates for plant-based alternatives to petroleum.
A year-long Atlantic Council fellowship for women leaders in energy and climate last year took her to Abu Dhabi for an energy forum with high-level climate stakeholders.
In her free time, the certified permaculture designer volunteers with a local group of master naturalists in Arlington, Virginia.
Gayle, 27, is bullish about precision agriculture, drones, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. “What excites me about the work is kind of looking at this system … and there's a lot of excitement, generally coming from every direction about making it better.”
— Elsa Wenzel
Advises on international climate risk
Franck Gbaguidi, Director, Sustainability, Eurasia Group
At the political risk research and advisory firm Eurasia Group, Franck Gbaguidi advises some of the largest financial institutions, businesses and government agencies on environmental regulation and sustainability policy.
The Londoner grew up on the outskirts of Paris but during summers in his parents’ home country of Benin, West Africa, his mother would drive him through the city of Cotonou and discuss the air pollution.
Gbaguidi’s jump to the private sector follows early successes in the public sector, including working with the World Bank Group on climate policies for developing economies; researching carbon risk management for the European Investment Bank; instituting clean domestic cooking solutions in Uganda, researching North American energy policy and leading a project on environmental crimes in sub-Saharan Africa. He also worked as a climate adviser to the managing director of the International Finance Corporation.
On top of that, Gbaguidi, now 29, has earned three bachelors degrees and four masters degrees focused on sustainability.
“I’m fully aware that my journey in the sustainability world isn't the usual one, especially for people who look like me and are just as passionate about sustainability,” says the French-Beninese national. “My goal is to help them see they can envision and embark on a similar path.”
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Builds out Okta’s sustainability initiatives
Sophia Gluck, ESG and Sustainability Lead, Okta
After studying business in college, Gluck took a quantitatively challenging role at Apple that included working on its first ESG report.
“I was putting two sides of my brain together,” she says. “It made me realize that there was something in the corporate space that married my interests and passions, and that corporations have a really unique role to play in the broader fight against climate change.”
Gluck was drawn to Okta’s ESG and sustainability team given its small size and relatively early ESG journey. At the cloud security software company, she has led initiatives reducing Scope 3 emissions and spearheaded its initiative for a 100 percent renewable electricity commitment, focusing on social impact renewable energy certificates that advance access to solar energy in marginalized communities.
Gluck uses business and technology innovation to engage with suppliers and implement unique ways to reduce employees’ business travel emissions. Her role also involves building out programs around the science-based targets validation process, including engaging with Okta vendors to establish their goals.
Gluck, 27, isn’t done learning yet; the New Yorker is pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability management at Columbia University’s Climate School. She hopes to continue working on decarbonization efforts in the private sector and aspires to become a chief sustainability officer.
— Myisha Majumder
Educates corporate workers on climate action
Zikri Jaafar, Head of Enterprise Learning, Terra.do
Surrounded by the biodiversity of Malaysia in his youth inspired Zikri Jaafar’s career choice in sustainability.
Today, he focuses on enterprise transformation at the global climate career and education platform Terra.do, which engages with the likes of Google, Tesla and Apple in its mission to get 100 million people working in climate this decade. From Kulim, Malaysia, Jaafar designs and delivers learning experiences that upskill and mobilize workforces to accelerate corporate action on climate.
“By focusing on education, but also collaboration among employees to initiate climate action within the organization, we can help them become the agents of change,” Jaafar explains.
Prior to his Terra.do role, he developed and implemented environmental stewardship strategy across Evenlode Investment’s more than $6 billion investment funds, helping broaden the focus to include nature loss and biodiversity. As a consultant at 3Keel in Oxford, England, Jaafar accelerated science-based climate action for some of the world’s largest supermarkets, Greenpeace and WWF, as well as the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.
The 29-year-old Rhodes Scholar holds two master’s degrees: one in economics for development, the other in environmental change and management. He was also the principal author of a study in the journal Sustainability, tracing the influence of green and social finance on Islamic finance in Malaysia.
— Tom Howarth
Mobilizes supply chain impact at the Cheesecake Factory
Lauren Morrell Kotze, Sustainability Manager, The Cheesecake Factory
At The Cheesecake Factory, Lauren Morrell Kotze, 28, is at the forefront of one of the hardest problems in the food world: sustainable sourcing.
Thanks to her team’s efforts, the company’s bakery operations sourced 100 percent cage-free eggs three years earlier than intended; increased its gestation crate-free pork to 80 percent; and got 64 percent of its seafood to be sustainably sourced or certified by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
Kotze’s work to collect data and rank ingredients on labor, water, pesticides, fertilizers and deforestation criteria led the company to prioritize produce suppliers by their impact potential. And a pilot project with food rating company HowGood helped to understand sustainability metrics related to The Cheesecake Factory’s produce supply chain.
Other responsibilities of Kotze’s include developing targets for climate and deforestation toward the 45,000-employee company’s SBTi commitment. She has helped The Cheesecake Factory’s more than 250 U.S. restaurants divert 26 percent of waste from landfill and reduce emissions 22 percent per square foot from a 2015 baseline.
“I like to think of social and environmental boundaries not as constraints, but like a trellis that invites us to rethink form and function and come up with even more creative shapes and directions for growth,” she says from Boulder, Colorado.
— Jesse Klein
Keeps Carnivals circular
Danii Mcletchie, Sustainability Program Manager, North America, Watts Water Technologies; CEO, Carnicycle
By day, an environmental engineering background informs Danii Mcletchie’s work managing projects for the 16 factories of Watts Water Technologies, which makes piping, filtration systems and other products. At night and over weekends, Mcletchie runs her own company providing sustainability consulting and materials recycling support for some of the biggest global events: Carnival festivals.
The pre-Lent celebrations, vibrant with costumes, parade floats and music, were special during Mcletchie’s childhood on the island of Tobago, where she helped her grandmother — “the queen of reuse” — collect and return bottles for money year-round. “Back then, I didn’t even know we were participating in sustainability,” she says.
During the Carnivals she wondered: Where do the beautiful costumes worn for one half-day go? Four years ago, Mcletchie founded Carnicycle, the first Carnival-gear recycling business. It builds local circular economies by collecting costumes, cleaning them and then reselling raw materials to designers.
Mcletchie, now 27, has consulted on improving sustainable practices at Carnivals in over 15 countries and recycled more than 1,600 textile pieces. She’s also gotten involved in eco-fashion as an ambassador for the nonprofit Re/Make, advocating for sustainable apparel production and workers’ rights.
Mcletchie sees sustainability as a global imperative. “Without the planet, there’s no Carnival, no livelihoods, no culture,” she says from Washington, D.C. “Sustainability means all of that can exist.”
— Holly Secon
Integrates EY’s ESG agenda
Syreel Mishra, Manager, Climate Change Advisory & Sustainability Services, EY
“There is so much you can learn from culture — from the Indigenous caretakers of our planet,” says Syreel Mishra, raised in a diplomatic family that moved frequently between the Global North and Global South.
Earlier in her career, she sought to make a local impact with global projects by designing green vocational programs between UNESCO and academic institutions in the developing world
At EY in Dublin, where she assists clients with supply chain ESG strategy and sustainability, Mishra encourages companies to focus on the holistic benefits of projects — not only the “E” in ESG, but also the “S.”
Earlier in her career, with R20 Regions of Climate Action (now the Catalytic Finance Foundation), Mishra, 29, coordinated a project in Botswana to power streetlights with solar energy, which made women feel safer and made the case for sustainable business models. She noticed that businesses were eager to provide funding for ESG projects but lacked information on how to invest, so she moved into the private sector to address that gap.
“I want to be able to say that because of me something changed — something had a positive impact,” she says. “It’s about moving things forward.”
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Elevates young Indigenous professionals
Mackenzie Neal, Program Manager, Division of Workforce and Youth Development, Office of Trust Services, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
Mackenzie Neal leads efforts to channel Indigenous youth into environmental careers with the federal government and U.S. tribes from Washington, D.C.
Hired two years ago to run the Pathways Internship Program at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, she was tapped last year to manage all national programs connecting Native American and Alaska Native youth to federal and tribal conservation opportunities through the newly created Indian Youth Services Corps.
Neal, now 27, stepped up, working across federal agencies and juggling roles from strategic planning and operations management to rebranding to outreach, to deliver grants in “the multiple millions” to tribal organizations and nonprofits in the program’s first year. Youth work on land and natural resource management, climate resilience, regenerative agriculture and clean energy projects.
A member of the Quapaw in Oklahoma, Neal was raised in Virginia, away from her tribe. In middle school she studied her tribal language and researched their history. Learning that the Quapaw were the first tribe to lead a Superfund site cleanup on their land, which had been heavily polluted by mining, sparked her interest in tribal policy and environmentalism.
“I'm a huge proponent of allowing tribes to manage their own lands and resources,” she says. “We have that connection to our land. We can find the resources. We can train our workers, and then incredible things can happen.”
— Meg Wilcox
Builds Black career pipelines
Sarah Nesbit, Co-Founder, BlackOak Collective; Principal Associate, External Affairs, Capital One
“When you uplift the voices of folks who have traditionally gone without one, you're kind of shaking the table, you're igniting a spark that will lead to a monumental form of change,” says Sarah Nesbit, who co-founded BlackOak Collective in 2020 in Washington, D.C., to expand the representation of Black people in sustainability work.
With 320 member professionals and students, the nonprofit offers job boards, professional development coaching, fireside chats, career fairs and happy hours. It has forged partnerships with 16 organizations including universities, Microsoft, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Ocean Conservancy to highlight career paths and opportunities. BlackOak seeks to deepen its existing regional focus and build its presence across the U.S.
In her day job at Capital One, Nesbit, who holds two master’s degrees focused on business sustainability, works on the external affairs team, a division of sustainability professionals who strive to expand socioeconomic opportunities for communities.
Nesbit names one word that guides her career: Sankofa, from the Twi language of Ghana. It means retrieving that which risks being left behind. To elevate narratives that could otherwise be lost, she strives to return to the community that raised her and cites her heritage in Gullah Geechee culture, which traces back 170 years to ancestors enslaved on South Carolina sea island plantations. Nesbit also dreams of breaking the glass ceiling for little girls who resemble her, she says.
— Elsa Wenzel
Decarbonizes pharmaceuticals at GSK
Thomas Newbigging, Senior Sustainability Manager, GSK
“Our mission is to get ahead of disease together," says Thomas Newbigging of his work at GSK in London. "You can't do that if you're not tackling your impacts on climate and nature."
The trained chemist, 29, is tasked with making the complex and carbon-intensive pharmaceutical supply chains fit for the future. He has led cross-industry collaborations including Energize, which is helping over 215 of GSK’s suppliers transition to renewable energy, and Activate, which gathers pharma giants to decarbonize the manufacturing of their ingredients.
Newbigging is exploring how to draw on the expertise he has gathered to collaborate with fast-moving consumer goods, food and beverage companies. He is also leading the charge on GSK’s Sustainable Sourcing Programme, which has created sourcing standards for high-risk livestock, marine, crop and poultry-derived commodities. “In the past, the focus of procurement was to create value and save money, but we’re now starting to see sustainability as another real purpose of it,” Newbigging says.
He wants to see science-based targets not just for carbon emissions, but for the biodiversity impacts of the pharma industry, too.
“We rely on nature to run our business model, so how can we do that in a way that doesn’t degrade natural resources?” he says. “I’m asking: How can I be at the forefront of the challenge of tackling nature loss in our supply chain?”
— Tom Howarth
Develops green chemicals
Shauheen Noorani, Associate Director, Product, Solugen
Shauheen Noorani heads up the product team at biotech startup Solugen, which makes chemicals using corn starch and enzymes instead of oil and gas. He helps Fortune 500 companies develop decarbonization strategies for their chemical product portfolios.
Noorani has been responsible for the commercial launch of products — which Solugen says are created in carbon-neutral processes without harmful byproducts — across agriculture, construction, energy, household, industrial and water treatment industries, to name a few.
“I’ve always been inclined to translate the technical aspects of chemical engineering into what really matters to people: it’s the dollars and cents,” says Noorani, who previously led efforts to advance the circular plastics economy at Chevron Phillips Chemical. Born in Mumbai, India, the 29-year-old grew up in Texas and was the first in his family to attend college.
“My first goal is to make sure that we are delivering a product that is competitive, if not better in all aspects, versus traditional chemicals,” Noorani says from Houston.
He’s looking forward to a day when the price and performance of green products becomes consistently superior. “Once at scale, sustainability will become the new normal,” he says.
— Tom Howarth
Advances gender and climate solutions in Indonesia
Aghnia Dima Rochmawati, ESG Specialist, East Ventures
Raised by a single mother, Aghnia Dima Rochmawati was inspired to improve gender equality. After studying public health and epidemiology, her first project for the nonprofit Rutgers Indonesia addressed child marriage, which she noticed was linked to economic factors caused by climate change.
Now at East Ventures, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest venture capital firms, Rochmawati has led its net-zero commitment through carbon accounting initiatives, developed a sustainable investment strategy and sustainability reporting, and spearheaded the integration of ESG considerations into investment decisions.
“I have always worked in nonprofit organizations, then I suddenly transitioned to for-profit and I feel like I can help to make our firm more accountable,” she says from Jakarta.
Rochmawati, 29, has helped to build new initiatives, such as the Indonesia Climate and Health Association, which brings together individuals to work towards climate justice and health equity. She also developed a food security program to address regional nutrition problems.
Rochmawati is a 2023 Equity Initiative Fellow, where she integrates issues of gender and health into the climate conversation. She is also a gender and climate finance officer at United Nations Development Programme, pushing forward innovative financing and gender-responsive climate policy in Indonesia.
“I think we can actually demand our government to create changes in the policy,” Rochmawati says. “This is what makes me hopeful.”
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Marries design with social impact
Haleemah Sadiah, Designer, Catapult Design
As a designer of crafts and household accessories in Bangalore, India, Haleemah Sadiah observed a power asymmetry between artisans and the communities that work with them. At Catapult Design in Georgia, by contrast, she is part of a studio that integrates a localized partnership model that elevates community voices at the start.
The nonprofit consultancy pairs high-level design strategy with social impact to organizations advancing products and services for underserved communities.
A recent project of hers, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, partnered with Indigenous creatives and social entrepreneurs in Arizona to create a framework for decolonizing and indigenizing the design process.
“As a designer, I see my role more as a facilitator, where people can come together and advocate for themselves because they’re the experts in their fields,” says Sadiah, 27.
While pursuing a master's in design for sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, she worked with the local environmental justice community to assist residents and nonprofit groups with competing agendas in reaching a common ground.
At Catapult, Sadiah has implemented these practices through integrating community design efforts into essential services, including a North Carolina hospital system, and developing a future vision for the early childhood education system in Washington, D.C.
— Myisha Majumder
Translates climate risks for Liberty Mutual
Emily Sambuco, Lead Catastrophe Analyst, Research & Development Team, Corporate Enterprise Risk Management, Liberty Mutual
For someone in the business of catastrophes, Emily Sambuco is optimistic. “I believe that insurance really is where the action is on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” she says.
In her role at Liberty Mutual, the atmospheric scientist is advancing the industry’s approach to evaluating hurricanes, wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters — applying climate science to the company’s proprietary view of risk.
One project partnered with a flood modeling company to overlay sea-level rise scenarios onto aspects of the insurer’s business, flagging areas at heightened risk due to socioeconomic, infrastructure and landscape factors. Such findings inform underwriting and enable Liberty Mutual to help mitigate future risks in coastal areas, potentially by encouraging policyholders to make changes to their properties. Sambuco, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, is also involved in a project to understand where the risks of natural catastrophe and the low-carbon energy transition meet.
The insurance industry was a shift for Sambuco, 28, whose master’s in atmospheric sciences and climatology involved measuring climate impacts on mountain microclimates in Nevada and testing ice samples for the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center in Ohio.
Realizing her science background positions her at the forefront of a growing field, she speaks to groups of university science students about opportunities in the insurance industry and financial sectors.
— Elsa Wenzel
Counsels Deutsche Bank clients on climate transitions
Shrinal Sheth, ESG Advisory, Deutsche Bank
At Deutsche Bank, Shrinal Sheth provides strategic guidance to bring ESG considerations to the future trajectory of investment banking clients in Europe, Middle East, Africa and the U.S. She is passionate about transitioning hard-to-abate sectors. That includes identifying capital expenditures for sustainability transformations and financing them with green financial instruments.
Sheth, 27, served as a climate counselor with the United Nations to lead her university campus in Bangalore, India, to adopt zero-waste practices. However, she attributes her expertise in the climate space to working summers for a family business in the chemical sector.
“I learned how you actually use money to drive decisions and make some real impact,” she says. “The types of companies we were working with were mostly in the infrastructure and pharmaceutical spaces,” she says from London.
Later, as one of the youngest project leads at the World Economic Forum (WEF), she spoke to CEOs and CSOs at more than 150 companies, including big players such as Unilever, for a project to standardize ESG metrics and disclosures. To get private equity firms on board, Sheth collaborated with the Harvard Business School in 2020 to conduct a study that prioritized sustainability for the future of private equity. She also helped launch the WEF’s first venture capital community and organized its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Reduces Hilton’s supply chain footprint
Alex Shockley, Director, Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability, Hilton
Alex Shockley’s career in hospitality began as a teen juicing oranges at a breakfast restaurant. Now 27, he manages the global supply chain for Hilton, with its nearly 7,300 hotels in over 120 countries and territories. That includes finding sourcing strategies to reduce its environmental footprint, create a positive economic impact and protect human rights.
Shockley liaises with regional teams to advance supply chain sustainability and analyzes data for reporting. He also launched Hilton’s Travel with Purpose 2030 goals; developed its first global foundation; managed community grant-giving; and helped oversee natural disaster community response efforts. One of his favorite parts of the job, though, is working on pilot projects with suppliers to reduce single-use plastics and furniture waste.
Beyond his day job, Shockley has what he calls his “gay job” as a leader of Hilton’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group. He prioritizes strengthening workplace culture and resource development, including guidance on inclusive language for employees and guests.
“It’s my responsibility to create a more sustainable and inclusive experience for every team member and community member that walks through our doors anywhere in the world,” Shockley says from Washington, D.C. “My hope is that I help sustain a healthy planet for future generations of travelers, and that they can travel as their true, authentic selves.”
— Holly Secon
Generates low-carbon power for disaster relief
DaWan Smith II, Green Hydrogen Product Manager, Sesame Solar
Growing up on a Michigan horse farm, DaWan Smith often wandered out of earshot from his parents to play with engines.
“And next thing, you know, they come around the corner, and I've got something all torn apart,” he says. “And I'm telling my dad, ‘No, don't worry, I can put it back together, I can put it back together.’ ”
Smith applies his engineering aptitude to the “nanogrids” from startup Sesame Solar, which seeks to decarbonize disaster relief and ultimately render diesel generators obsolete. Its turnkey, mobile power systems — in shipping container or trailer formats — can be towed, shipped or dropped into areas hit by hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
Each pop-open photovoltaic solar box offers enough solar power and battery storage for a first-responder basecamp or a handful of homes — and each can double as a shelter, an office or a medical hub. Sesame Solar units have been put to work in Louisiana, the island of Dominica and Santa Barbara County, California. From Jackson, Michigan, Smith manages the integration of green hydrogen backup systems and helps to engage frontline communities and customers, which include the U.S. Air Force, Comcast and MediaCom.
Smith, 26, is eager to explore the potential for technologies such as robotic welding and 3D printing to help the nanogrids scale. With unlimited resources, he would like to realize a vision of assembly lines cranking out Sesame Solar nanogrids by the thousands.
— Elsa Wenzel
Builds trust in carbon markets
Raymond Song, Carbon Markets and Policy Lead, CTrees
At CTrees, Raymond Song focuses on fixing the trust and verification problems that plague voluntary carbon markets to help them achieve gigaton-level emissions reductions.
“We're having huge emissions from deforestation around the world, especially from really valuable tropical rainforest,” he says. “What I’m trying to do, in at least the next five years, is use whatever power I can to reverse that deforestation.”
The nonprofit startup is “tracking carbon in every tree on the planet” via its AI-enabled satellite service that generates granular forest data for governments, the private sector and NGOs so they can monitor deforestation, land degradation and reforestation efforts.
Song, 24, a New Yorker who until July worked at RMI on a project building transparency and trust in voluntary carbon markets, leads CTrees’ engagement with policymakers and investors.
His roots in climate data are deep. As an undergraduate, Song tracked and analyzed climate agreements at the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, and researched how to phase out coal in China for the Harvard China project.
His involvement in climate work started at an early age. When the air pollution index in Song’s home of Beijing was high, the then-12-year-old researched why and gave out N95 masks at school. By age 16, he was invited to join the Chinese delegation at COP21 in Paris. Since then, Song has attended every single COP.
— Meg Wilcox
Helps private companies assess their ESG impact
Visvesh Sridharan, ESG Integration Lead, ERM
At ERM for slightly more than a year, Visvesh Sridharan already has been intimately involved in the development and rollout of ESG Fusion, a “first-of-its-kind” assessment tool for private markets.
“Privately-owned companies also need to understand the importance of what ESG is and the kind of risks it has for their business if not considered,” explains Sridharan. “That’s a big problem we’re trying to tackle now.”
Sridharan, based in Frankfurt, Germany, enjoys training research teams in India, supporting quality review staff in Romania and working with methodology teams in the U.S. and Europe. Looking ahead, he wants to play a key role in incorporating sustainability as part of mainstream financial analysis.
After finishing university, Sridharan, now 28, had stints at Ceres and Resource Recycling Systems, followed by assessing and rating over 100 high-profile issuers at ESG rating firm Morningstar Sustainalytics. In early 2022, the trained chemical engineer joined ERM, one of the world's largest pure-play sustainability consultancy firms, as a lead ESG analyst.
While pursuing a master’s in environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Sridharan realized he could make an impact in the corporate world. “Something that really piqued my interest was the fact that money can be used as a force for good, by highlighting the impact both investors and companies can have on the environment and society through sustainable growth,” he says.
— Tom Howarth
Furnishes sustainability standards for Wayfair
Savannah Tarpey, Shop Sustainably Global Program Lead, Wayfair
Growing up in Texas, Savannah Tarpey watched birds and visited national parks outdoors. Now working from Boston she focuses on the indoors, making sure Wayfair’s furniture is sustainably made, responsibly sourced and free of toxic materials.
After Tarpey joined the $9 billion home goods e-commerce company in 2021, she helped formalize its corporate responsibility reporting, using learnings from her previous work with global sustainability consultancy ERM, where she undertook life-cycle analysis, sustainability reporting and materiality assessments.
Today, the 29-year-old manages Wayfair's Shop Sustainably program, working with third-party certifiers to ensure products are sustainable and labeled in a transparent way, and implementing rigorous checks for products to meet Fair Trade, carbon-neutral and even asthma- and allergy-friendly certifications. The program has over 50 certifications — with over 30,000 pieces of inventory certified, from cribs to faucets to outdoor lounge sets.
Tarpey says it’s rewarding to pioneer Wayfair’s customer-facing sustainability voice, including providing sustainability information for the first time in Wayfair’s print catalogs.
“From an impact standpoint, I'm really proud of being able to go home every day and know that because of the work that I'm doing day in and day out, people have healthier products in their homes,” Tarpey says.
— Holly Secon
Mitigates infrastructure impacts for AECOM
Namitha Thomas, Environment and Sustainability Consultant, AECOM
At consulting juggernaut AECOM, Namitha Thomas is instrumental in driving climate adaptation within some of the world’s most ambitious infrastructure projects. Trained as a civil engineer, she also is contributing to the carbon and sustainability goals for the COP28 summit gathering planned for Dubai this fall.
“Compared to when I started off my career to now, clients are more open to innovation strategies, ambitious strategies,” she says from Dubai.
One of Thomas’s highest-profile consulting gigs centers on creating carbon strategies for the controversial Neom 170-kilometer, smart eco-city in the Saudi desert, called “The Line” and designed to have no emissions, cars or streets. She coordinates with its engineering teams, helping with carbon calculations and reduction strategies for the underground “spine” where water, energy and transport flow. Although the United Nations has denounced the project for greenwashing and evicting members of an Indigenous tribe, Thomas, 27, seeks to mitigate impacts for the vertical city she says will have fewer emissions than typical cities.
Thomas describes growing up in a “humble expatriate household” in Kerala, India, and devotes time helping to develop an AI-based platform to teach sustainability and innovation to children in the Middle East. “I didn’t have a lot of opportunities growing up,” she says. “So I want to try and provide that education to kids as soon as possible so that they can access the right opportunities as soon as they come along.”
— Jesse Chase-Lubitz
Drives equitable electrification for Seattle
Alex Trecha, Program Manager, ICF
Alex Trecha focuses on a key missing piece in the clean energy transformation: increasing city dwellers’ access to electric vehicle charging. Since 2022, she has been designing a uniquely equity-focused EV charging program managed through partnership between global consultancy ICF and Seattle City Light. The effort, launched in February, supports Seattle’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and its Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan.
The Multifamily EV Charging Program provides access to the expanding EV market for Seattle residents, especially those with disproportionately lower incomes — and who live in neighborhoods with higher levels of air or noise pollution. It pays for level 2 charger projects to lower the barriers to entry for affordable housing, she says. This year, the project is set to install roughly 100 charging ports at multifamily homes and commercial properties.
Trecha, 29, focuses on engaging with tenants, not just owners and property managers, so they understand the program’s flexibility and long-term benefits, including cleaner air and cost savings.
Trecha previously worked for the United Nations Climate Change Convention in Germany and served as a policy fellow in state government with the Michigan Environmental Council. But community-building drives her. “Getting my hands dirty on the ground is really what I want to do,” she says.
— Holly Secon
Innovates ingredients for Simple Mills
Berklee Welsh, Associate Manager, Sustainability & Mission, Simple Mills
Almond flour, buckwheat and coconut sugar aren’t staples in most supermarkets, but they’re the bread and butter of Simple Mills’ products.
“We’re trying to flip the script on food design,” says Berklee Welsh, an essential part of the company’s efforts to engineer nutrient-rich, whole-food snacks that forego synthetic ingredients, promote regenerative agriculture and boost lesser-known plant ingredients
Chicago-based Simple Mills’ cookies, crackers and baking mixes “create a home,” as Welsh puts it, for 45 unique crops beyond sugar cane, corn, rice and wheat, which dominate half of global crop production. She champions the company’s missions of advancing “food with impact,” supporting biodiversity, and empowering farmers and consumers.
Welsh, 24, is involved in Simple Mills’ collaborative partnerships including the Almond Project, which seeks to revolutionize the way the nut is grown in California. Through Simple Mills’ Coconut Sugar Project, she learns from farmers about longtime practices and new possibilities, such as a mini-species of coconut palm that’s easier to harvest.
Working with the Simple Mills innovation team in Mill Valley, California, Welsh has traveled to supplier farms in the Central Valley, the Midwest and Indonesia.
“I would be proud to look back, if I could say that I made a lot of progress in connecting people to where their food comes from and the people and the communities that work really hard to provide that food for them,” Welsh says.
— Elsa Wenzel