Names in the News

Apparel industry fashions sustainability roles; insurers look to cut risk with new chiefs

Names in the news portraits
GreenBiz Collage
Clockwise from top left: Amina Razvi with The Sustainable Apparel Coalition; Carmel McQuaid with Marks and Spencer; Jennifer Waldner with AIG; Yafit Cohn with Travelers; Scott Breen with the Can Manufacturers Institute; Surya Panditi with Enel X North America; Paul Polman with Imagine; and Halide Alagöz with Ralph Lauren.

You might be coming back from a summer vacation or heading out for a quick Labor Day weekend away, but some of your fellow sustainability professionals are making even bigger moves before they head back to work this fall.

Yes, we’re talking about the oft-overlooked summer career developments. From board rooms to the C-suite, think tanks to management consultants, we’ve got you covered. So welcome back to Names in the News, late summer edition, and buckle up for some interesting jumps, exciting leaps and major bounds.

Of particular note in this round of reporting on the sustainability field's movers and shakers are a few "firsts." There's the fact that this summer's edition features many "first" sustainability officers in big-name companies (Ralph Lauren, the globally-recognized fashion, apparel and home goods company; AIG, a leading multinational finance and insurance company; and Travelers Company, one of the largest writers of U.S. commercial property casualty insurance). It's an encouraging sign that more businesses are thinking about environmental strategies, both internally and externally.

There's another big "first" coming out of the cross-sector coalition, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, too: its first CEO and president. The Alliance, announced at the beginning of this year, has pledged to invest $1.5 billion in solutions that will, well, end plastic waste. Thus far, it has drafted an impressive roster of partner companies (Dow, BASF, ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips, DSM, Henkel, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, among other chemical and plastics manufacturers, and partnered with investment firm Circulate Capital and innovation agency SecondMuse) and has announced some local projects, but hasn't been very public in other announcements yet. With new CEO Jacob Duer hailing directly from the U.N. Environment Program, specifically as the chief of the Economy Division's Chemicals and Health Branch, that's set to change soon.

And, as always, if you hear any of your colleagues, friends and mentors — even yourself — making moves that should be featured in the next Names in the News column, send it along to [email protected].

Who’s news

Jacob Duer, former program director for the U.N. Environment Program, will join the Alliance to End Plastic Waste as the inaugural president and CEO in October. For the newly formed nonprofit alliance, whose partners also include World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, OxyChem, Tomra and SUEZ, the appointment shows that the group is ramping up operations with new leadership.

Fashion industry stalwart Ralph Lauren Company announced its first sustainability officer this summer: Halide Alagöz, who also serves as the company’s chief supply chain officer. The news came amid a flurry of environmental commitments from the company, and in the midst of increased criticism of the apparel industry’s environmental impacts.

Susan Ruffo, former managing director of the Ocean Conservancy, is moving into a new role and founding a new initiative: She’ll be the founding executive director of The Circulate Initiative. It’s a new nonprofit that will focus on solutions, partnerships and innovations to advance the circular economy and prevent ocean plastic created by impact investment group Circulate Capital.

Big sustainable business names — Paul Polman, Valerie Keller and Jeff Seabright — have joined together to form a new organization called Imagine that will tackle inequality and climate change. Polman was formerly Unilever’s CEO, Procter & Gamble’s European president and Nestle’s CFO; Keller comes from serving as EY’s executive director; and Seabright previously worked as chief sustainability officer of Unilever and vice president of environment and water resources at Coca-Cola. According to reports, the new venture will push for corporate activism for the Global Goals.

Finance and Insurance giant AIG appointed its first sustainability officer, Jennifer Waldner. She’s been a part of the responsibility team for a decade and steps into the role as the insurance industry deepens its sustainability strategies.

The commercial property insurance firm, Travelers Companies, also has announced a newly created role:, chief sustainability officer, to which it named Yafit Cohn, formerly associate group general counsel there. She’ll lead ESG efforts for the organization. 

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the industry-wide association promoting social and environmental measurements and standards, has a new executive director, Amina Razvi. Prior to joining the company, she worked on sustainability efforts with Old Navy and Gap, Inc.

On the move

Scott Breen has left his role as the associate manager of the sustainability and circular economy program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and is serving as the vice president of sustainability at the Can Manufacturers Institute, the trade association of U.S. suppliers and manufacturers of metal cans.

— Clean energy solutions platform Enel X announced former tech executive Surya Panditi as the new head of Enel X North America. 

Mike Barry, former director of sustainable business (a.k.a. Plan A) at British retailer Marks and Spencer, has left, and Carmel McQuaid is taking over for him.

Jennifer Leitsch has been promoted to vice president of corporate responsibility at CBRE, the global commercial real estate services and investment firm, after serving four years as director of corporate responsibility. She'll be responsible for sustainability strategy and reporting in the new role.

BSR, the sustainable business consultancy, has a new human rights director, Jenny Vaughan. She comes from a long career of humanitarian work with Mercy Corps, where she worked to reduce violence, promote peace and development and address threats, from climate change and disruptive technology to poor governance and gender inequality.

Miller/Howard, an investment portfolio management firm for ESG and dividend-focused strategies, has promoted veteran Luan Jenifer to president. She’s been with the company for almost 20 years.

— The Massachusetts university Babson College has a new director of sustainability, Asheen Phansey, an adjunct professor and corporate sustainability professional.

— The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable has brought longtime human rights and transparency advocate Alison Friedman on board as executive director. She brings a depth of experience from policymaking to diplomacy to advocacy to the organization that convenes human rights, environmental, labor and development groups to push for corporate accountability. 

On board

Christine Barone, CEO of True Food Kitchen, has joined the Sustainable Restaurant Group’s board of directors.

Lindsay Baker, global head of sustainability at The We Company (formerly WeWork), has joined Measurabl's board.

— The Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) have welcomed three new members to its board of directors:

  • Jessica Booker, founder and CEO of The Booker Group
  • Julia Bovey, director of external affairs at Equinor Wind US
  • Katy Briggs, global service area leader with Renewables Advisory Services, DNV GL

— Seminal sustainable building nonprofit, The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has new additions to its board of directors:

  • Dan McQuade, group president of Global Infrastructure Solutions
  • Karen Weigert, vice president of Slipstream
  • Doug Woods, co-founder of DPR Construction
  • Lakisha Ann Woods, president and CEO of the National Institute of Building Sciences