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Top sustainable investing leaders gather at Haas to discuss ESG disclosures

As regulators wrestle with disclosure standards for the burgeoning $35 trillion ESG investing industry—named for its focus on corporations’ environmental, social, and governance activities—a group of influential thought leaders is gathering at Berkeley Haas to share their expertise.

The June 1 conference, “ESG Accounting: The Present and Future of Environmental, Social, and Governance Disclosures,” features an SEC commissioner, the CEO of the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board, Bloomberg’s head of ESG research, the CEO of As You Sow, the global head of ESG investing at State Street, a senior Wall Street Journal editor, and leaders from law and Big 4 accounting firms. 

Panos N. Patatoukas
Associate Professor Panos N. Patatoukas

“The timing and the content of the conference are unique,” says Panos Patatoukas, associate professor of accounting at Berkeley Haas and faculty director of the Center for Financial Reporting and Management (CFRM), which organized the event. “Our set of panelists and moderators are at the cutting edge of the ESG investing world and represent a wide range of perspectives, including ESG strategies, scoring and indexing, investing, regulation, and sustainability reporting standards.”

The importance of measurement, standardization, and verification is becoming more urgent as ESG investing grows, and the amount of capital allocated in ESG indices and financial products has exploded. For example, the SEC recently fined Bank of New York Mellon over misleading claims about funds that use environmental and social criteria to pick stocks.  A transparent standard setting process can play a crucial role in advancing the clarity that investors and businesses are asking for in the area of ESG disclosures, Patatoukas says.

ESG from four angles

The conference will approach ESG accounting from four main angles, Patatoukas says: disclosure, assurance, standardization, and valuation and investing. After an introduction from Dean Ann Harrison, the first panel will focus on measurement and disclosure, and will be moderated by James Webb, executive director of the CFRM.

Next, Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a nonprofit that uses shareholder advocacy to “create lasting change by protecting human rights, reducing toxic waste, and aligning investments with values,” will lead a discussion on ESG advisory and auditing, with partners from PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Moss Adams.

Berkeley Law Professor Stavros Gadinis will moderate two keynote addresses: SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce will speak on ESG reporting regulations, and Janine Guillot, CEO of the Value Reporting Foundation, will speak on reporting standards.

The afternoon discussion of ESG valuation and investing will feature AJ Lindeman, Bloomberg’s head of Index and ESG Research; Wall Street Journal Senior Columnist James Mackintosh, and Karen Wong, head of ESG & Sustainable Investing for State Street Global Advisors. Patatoukas will moderate.

The event, which is the 26th annual Conference on Financial Reporting, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum on the Haas campus. Registration is open to all. Attendees can receive CPA Continuing Education credits.

Q&A with Sheeraz Haji, new Cleantech to Market (C2M) co-director

Sheeraz Haji standing in front of digital screen in Cafe Think
Sheeraz Haji is the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) program. Photo: Jim Block

A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas. 

“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”

We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.

How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?

Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.

 You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.

What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?

First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?

Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech. 

 Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?

I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.

 

There’s a spider robot in the attic! MBA students help win national E-ROBOT competition

 

(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy's American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.
(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.

A group of Berkeley Haas MBA students helped build the business plan for an attic-retrofit system based around heat sensing drones and foam-spraying spider robots that took the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 American-Made E-ROBOT competition.

Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, built the business plan for team RoboAttic/Thermadrone, along with Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, and Vincent Chang, MBA 22. The robotics project was led by Dr. Avideh Zakhor

Dr. Zakhor led the team of about 35 people, including UC Berkeley students, professionals, and consultants, who developed the RoboAttic/Thermadrone technology.  The three top winners in the multi-stage competition were announced April 7 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  (Watch the robot in action in the video below)

Homes lose up to 20% of their heat and air conditioning due to poorly insulated roofs. Yet just 1% of building floorspace in the U.S. undergoes a meaningful retrofit each year due to the high cost and invasive nature of construction and renovation, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, a Program Manager in the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.

Thermadrone’s software uses thermal drone camera images to diagnose and identify opportunities for attic insulation retrofits. Once attics in need of insulation are identified, Roboattic robots clean, air seal, and apply spray foam insulation to the building envelope. This enables construction workers to retrofit previously inaccessible attics with a PS4 controller. Finally, Thermadrone software provides quality assurance by measuring and verifying the retrofit was done properly.

An earlier round of the E-ROBOT Competition challenged participants to design and build robot prototypes that could be used to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency. For the second and final phase of the competition, 10 finalists were tasked with building viable business models for their respective startups.

Sergian, Aharon, and Aquino worked on the business plan for RoboAttic/Thermadrone for both the competition and as their capstone project, a required component of the MBA/MEng Program. 

Their work included estimating the total market size, sales, marketing, channel partners, and go-to-market strategy. “As MBA/MEng students, we were brought on as folks who were not only technical enough to understand the technology, but also strategic enough to put together a compelling business vision,” Aharon said. “It’s an example of the sort of cross-disciplinary collaboration that we constantly see around UC Berkeley.”

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential. 

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.

“We were presented with an exciting technology,” said Sergian. “It was our challenge to figure out how to commercialize the product and make it a market success.”

Photo of Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23
Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, worked on the business plan with UC Berkeley Professor Avideh Zakhor.

The students said they applied lessons from their MBA coursework in research and development and finance to the project. They calculated a total market size for building envelope retrofits in the US at about $1.25 billion, estimating that contractors would be willing to invest about $10,000 per robot. The value of the robot is that it can access places in attics that are hazardous and foul for construction workers to crawl through, Aharon said. 

Chen, who also worked on the project while in the evening & weekend MBA program, helped with marketing research, identifying potential user groups and conducting interviews with facility managers, utility companies, and government agencies.

“In the business plan stage, I worked with Avideh to identify critical cost components and revenue sources,” she said. She also developed profit and loss statements, cost performance models, and a manufacturing and scalability analysis.

The other  competition winners included a semi-autonomous flying quadcopter air duct inspection drone and a robotic retrofit tool used for caulking, aerosol sealing, and foam insulating buildings.

Buzz Solutions nabs top honor at Cleantech to Market Symposium

Seven graduate students smiling
From L-R, top to bottom: Luis Felipe Gonzalez, Federico Cueva Salas, Sean Mandell, Chelsea Boyle, Preston Suan, Dinara Ermakova, and Han Le. Photo: Jim Block.

An AI-powered software that automates visual inspections and provides data analytics for utility lines and energy grids earned the top prize at the 12th annual Cleantech to Market Symposium. The event was held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum last Friday.

Cleantech to Market (C2M) is a 15-week accelerator course that brings together graduate students, industry leaders, and researchers to pitch cleantech innovations from existing startups, government-sponsored programs, and incubators. 

Five student teams–including 31 MBA and UC Berkeley graduate students from law, policy, and science–pitched emerging technologies aimed at addressing everything from fossil-fuel reduction to carbon dioxide capture to non-flammable batteries.

Buzz Solutions, the AI-powered company that provides power line and energy grid inspections, earned the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, named after former Berkeley Haas dean William Hasler. 

Team members included Chelsea Boyle, EWMBA 21, Dinara Ermakova, PhD 22 (nuclear engineering), Federico Cueva Salas, MBA 22, Han Le, PhD 24 (chemistry), Luis Felipe Gonzalez, MBA/MEng 22, Preston Suan, MBA 22, and Sean Mandell, MBA 22. 

Dean Harrison kicked off the symposium with a keynote, emphasizing the need for more cleantech solutions to address climate change.

“This is no longer a problem that our grandchildren will face. This is a crisis that we’re dealing with now,” said Harrison, pointing to recent catastrophic events, including California’s wildfires and extreme heat waves worldwide. “Our planet is out of its comfort zone, which is why this symposium and the development of cleantech solutions is so crucial.”

Other notable guest speakers included James Zahler, associate director for technology-to-market at Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); Liam Berryman, CEO of Nelumbo; Miguel Sierra Aznar, CEO of Noble Thermodynamics; and Kristin Taylor, CEO of Radical Plastics. All three CEOs participated in previous C2M symposiums.

“I’m so proud of our students and what they have accomplished in the last 15 weeks,” said Brian Steel, director of C2M. “They’ve spent nearly 1,000 hours speaking to experts and investigating a wide range of market opportunities for cleantech startups that are tackling the most pressing issues of our time.”

Berkeley Haas real estate curriculum gets a climate change makeover

Flooding in the streets of Pensacola, Fla., in September 2020 as Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The first thing real estate professor Nancy Wallace asked her students to think about last semester was rain.

 “Pick a city like Miami,” said Wallace, chair of the Real Estate Group at Haas. “When it rains in Miami, the sewage treatment plants flood, the water mains back up, and the streets are flooded. The same with Houston. We’re not talking about a hurricane, which would be 10 times worse—just a regular very rainy day. Because the infrastructure in these cities is below sea level, the risk is just huge.”

Nancy Wallace
Prof. Nancy Wallace

And with that intro, students in Wallace’s Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class began to consider the risks for cities that are fundamentally unequipped and slow to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

From flooding to wildfires to rising temperatures and other extreme weather events, climate impacts have rapidly moved from the theoretical future to the most pressing challenges facing the real estate industry today. Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at Berkeley Haas, has responded by reshaping the real estate curriculum to focus on sustainability.

“The classes, our research, and everything that we now do will be taught through a lens of sustainability,” said Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate and Capital Markets. “We’re addressing how climate change impacts all parts of the industry—from development and building to mortgages and mortgage-related securities to the insurance markets.”

Course changes

The Fisher Center’s real estate program provides both academic and interdisciplinary training in real estate investment, real estate law, and the role of real estate development in the built environment. MBA students, along with students in the College of Environmental Design and Berkeley Law, can earn the Center’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate (IGCRE)

Recent curriculum changes impacted two core real estate courses: Real Estate Investment and Sustainability, and Real Estate Finance and Securitization. 

Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for 70% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to C40, a network of the world’s megacities addressing climate change. What’s more, most of the world’s urban areas are on coastlines that are at risk from rising sea levels and coastal storms.  

Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy.

“It’s so important that Haas is making this shift to help students approach these problems and move to solve them from the sustainability side,” said Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. 

Bayfair real estate proiect
Students proposed a multilevel garage-based transportation hub for the Bayfair project, which includes street level retail, a shared electric vehicle program, and a solar canopy.

The Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class, which Wallace co-taught with architect Edward McFarlan, examines the challenges and opportunities in creating the next-generation city, including rethinking density, transit, mobility, infrastructure, and equity. 

Last spring, students worked on final team projects centered on sustainable redevelopment of two Bay Area sites: the Stonestown Mall in San Francisco, owned by Brookfield Properties; and the Bayfair Mall in San Leandro, owned by Madison Marquette. 

Students assumed that both sites could be redeveloped with a “blank slate” approach, and their charge was to convert both sites to a mixed-use development with affordable housing and live-work-shop components.

The Bayfair Project, outlined in a class project book Wallace compiled called “Building the Sustainable City,” included ground floor retail, a solar canopy over the garage, a shared electric vehicle program, and EV charging.  Students also recommended installing puzzle lifts, a semi-automatic parking system that moves cars both vertically and horizontally to create more parking space.

Looking back, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, said the project made him understand how ESG and sustainability extend to the community around a project and can help a project thrive in the long term. “Not only will it get good press, but it will help develop land around the project and create momentum,” he said.

Kyle Raines
Kyle Raines said what he learned in the The Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class helped him pitch investors.

What Raines learned in the class also helped him pitch investors when he was starting Crown Point, a real estate private equity fund. “The thing I think that most struck me from the class is how much investors care about ESG and sustainability—how creating that sense of community at that property is not only a competitive advantage, but also the right thing to do,”  he said.

Angus Maguire, MBA 21, said the Bayfair Project helped him better understand the real estate industry and apply what he’d learned in class from the many industry speakers.

“I took the course because I knew I would be working with real estate developers or real estate asset owners sometime in the future in my renewable energy career, so wanted to better understand how they think about project economics,” he said.

Real-world research

In the Real Estate Finance and Securitization course, Wallace, who is teaching the class this semester, draws from real-world research and the students explore real estate market data in depth.

Sabin Ray, MBA 22, said one highlight was learning about Berkeley Law’s recent findings on the City of Berkeley’s well-intentioned Property Assessed Clean Energy Program. The program allowed property owners to borrow money for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements, and make payments through a special assessment to their property tax bills. But the research found that the program raised the property taxes of low-income residents, while underdelivering the promised green benefits.

For their final projects, students in the class will be able to access the electronic S&P Global database through a subscription that the Fisher Center subsidized. The database includes balance sheet, performance, and corporate Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies. Students tap the data to analyze current ESG strategies in the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry.

“The purpose of the Fisher Center subsidy is to provide MBA students with very granular firm-level data that connects the dots between performance and sustainability strategies within real estate operating companies,” Wallace said.  

Ray said the sustainability focus of the course appealed to her and that the project finance work will help her as she pursues an impact investing career. “A lot of things we are learning in class I can apply to other areas of financing,” she said.

Classified: Using data and art to inspire conversations about climate change

“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.

George Milanovic,
George Milanović and Laila Samimi, both MBA 22, in the beginning stages of creating a hopscotch game that will reflect global warming. Photo: Jim Block

High above campus in Memorial Stadium last Wednesday, George Milanović, MBA 22, is lying on the pavement drawing hopscotch squares. It’s the first sign that this is not the usual business school class.

His project partner, Laila Samimi, MBA 22, stands nearby. She translates what Milanović is doing.

“The shorter path is the point of no return if the earth’s temperature rises two degrees Celsius—the path of corporate greed and individualistic behavior,” Samimi says. “The other is a path of sustainability. It’s a longer path and it’s harder.”

Heavy stuff for a child’s game, but the hopscotch project makes perfect sense as art created in a new course called Sustainability, Art & Business. 

Clark Kellogg speaks to student in class.
Continuing Lecturer and Haas artist-in-residence Clark Kellogg (right) chats with undergraduate Alexis Mullard about her project, which explores the idea that earth is melting like an ice cream cone. Photo: Jim Block

The course calls on 25 undergraduate and MBA students to explore the meaning of sustainability—and the human response to global warming—through art. 

My hope is that this art will help people to see things differently–to reframe problems and challenge our comfortable assumptions,” says Clark Kellogg, a continuing lecturer with the Haas Professional Faculty and the Haas artist-in-residence. “We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability, to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.”

“We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability, to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.” — Clark Kellogg

The course, taught in the Berkeley Haas Innovation Lab, builds upon a series of classes Kellogg has taught at Haas over the past decade—from Creativity Lab to Art from Business to the pioneering Design Thinking class. 

Kellogg’s classroom method combines experiential learning-by-doing coupled with deep collaboration and peer-to-peer-critique, all on display in the new course. This morning, the class is focused on design, which is the second step of the three-step process for making public art that includes research, design, and execution.

Kellogg grabs a large roll of paper and starts cutting. 

“Let’s just start to play,” he says, as the class splits into small groups, clutching chalk, recyclable materials, and other supplies. 

Students in Memorial Stadium making art
(Left to right) MBA students Casey Dunajick-DeKnight, Rosa Huang, and Jesse Ruiz cutting recycled cans into flat aluminum that will be used to craft sea creatures. Photo: Jim Block

Preparing for the pop up

The idea is to finish something today that can be transferred to the Haas Courtyard next Wednesday to share during a pop up show.

Casey Dunajick-DeKnight and her team sit outside cutting recycled seltzer cans into shiny, flat metal pieces that will be used to craft sea creatures that are disappearing from oceans. Dunajick-DeKnight says she’s inspired by origami and found that aluminum is a flexible material “that cuts like paper.” Kellogg says he’s pleased that the cans are finding a second life as aluminum squid and crabs. “If it’s single use, and we use it twice, we cut the problem in half.”

Meanwhile, Zarine Kakalia, BS 22, is using chalk to draw a river that’s been diverted so many times that there’s no water left for the salmon. “I thought this was an interesting way to address resource constraints,” says Kakalia.

Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, presents her drawing, which explores how women artisans in developing countries are balancing business and sustainability. Photo: Jim Block

The class spends an hour working on projects before gathering for storytelling, where one group member describes the project to the class. Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, shares an idea for a game of courtyard twister, with the dots representing vanishing coral reefs. Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, explains a drawing that explores the role of women artisans in developing countries, who are balancing sustainability and business. And Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing should provoke people to think about the future of a sky obscured by greenhouse gases. “It’s rainbow versus anti-rainbow,” he says.

Vincent Chang shows his artwork.
Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing—rainbow versus anti-rainbow—addresses the impact of greenhouse gases on the sky.

Kellogg offers praise and gentle prompts for students to take their ideas to the next level.

Before class breaks up, the students head outside to check out the hopscotch game. One student asks Kellogg if he remembers how to play hopscotch. Kellogg pauses, but then obliges, skipping through the squares as the group cheers him on.

Making a plan

Afterwards, the students must decide whether to transfer their projects in some form to the Haas courtyard or recreate their projects on site. The group votes to create their art on site. “Drawing time will be critical,” Kellogg warns, and the group agrees to plan more during the week on Slack, and meet at the courtyard by 10 a.m. on Wednesday. 

“It will be so great to look at the chalk drawings on the ground and think: ‘We did this,’ ” Rosa Huang, MBA 22, says.

Clark Kellogg's art
A work from Clark Kellogg’s 365 Art project—of making art daily for a year.

After next Wednesday’s event, a second courtyard pop-up show is planned for December, followed by a final gallery reception of student art.

Throughout the course, the class will read books like “Think Like an Artist” and “In Pursuit of Inspiration” and news articles that detail the links between taking walks and creativity and the importance of taking time to be alone to just think. (One of Kellogg’s personal projects was to document his commitment to making art daily.) 

Among the students, many of whom are involved in sustainability-focused student groups and working at environmentally-related internships, the consensus is that the class is fresh and fun, tapping a different part of their brains.

“As business school students we are often comfortable with data and frameworks and this class helps us break away from that and be creative and think of things on the spot,” says Alejandra Arrué, MBA 22. “That’s why we enjoy the class.”

Poshmark’s Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95, on how clothing creates community

As CEO of Poshmark, Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95, constantly questions how and why people shop, and the journey clothing takes from the supply chain to closets to resale.

Manish Chandra, MBA95
Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95

A decade after he graduated from the evening & weekend MBA program, he started the pioneering social shopping platform Kaboodle, which he sold to Hearst two years later in 2007.  Poshmark, a social marketplace for new and used clothing and accessories that he founded in 2011, focuses largely on extending the life cycle of clothing.

In a Dean’s Speaker Series event on April 9, MBA students and Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas, interviewed Chandra about how he embeds sustainability into the core of his business, his journey as a leader, and his vision for the future of capitalism.

Here are a few highlights from the interview.

On the meaning of clothing: “Clothing really binds people together. It brings a sense of community, it empowers people, it makes people feel good, proud. It can uplift people.”

On Poshmark’s rise in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Covid 19 was a seismic shock and a very sad shock for all of us. We’re still reeling from it. We’re isolated and we’re not physically connected. The circular economy and the resale really was in many ways a connector. When you bought and sold things from each other it connected you to another human being. It gave you something that was very powerful, that took energy to do. We saw the rise of second hand.”

On capitalism in the post-pandemic world: “We’re at a very powerful moment in our history…As we come out of hiding places and the world reintegrates over the next few months, I feel like everyone is looking at their life and looking at their values in a very different way. And as we go out and truly experience both the wonder of human connection and the misery that people have had, it’s a really important time to transform how we feel about consumption, how we feel about capitalism, and how we feel about sustainability. I think all three things can exist in a meaningful way.”

On getting an MBA: “Haas is, for me, one of the most transformational experiences, particularly because it happened after I’d worked for a few years and I was looking at finding that next level of growth for me.”

Watch the full interview:

 

Prof. Adair Morse joins Biden administration as a treasury department deputy

Adair Morse, an associate professor of finance at the Haas School of Business, has been named to the Biden Administration’s treasury department as deputy assistant secretary of capital access in the Office of Domestic Finance.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, led by Prof. Emeritus Janet Yellen, announced the appointment today.

Adair Morse (Photo by Genevieve Shiffrar)

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve in the Biden Administration and to join the team at treasury, serving the people of this great country,” said Morse, the Soloman P. Lee Chair in Business Ethics, who is taking a leave from the Haas Finance Group to commit to her new role.

“We will miss Adair at Haas, where she has conducted groundbreaking finance research and launched the Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative with (former Haas Dean) Laura Tyson to train many new leaders in the field,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “She has already made an impact in helping small businesses in California through her work on the California Rebuilding Fund. I have no doubt she will have an even greater impact on a national scale.”

The Office of Domestic Finance develops policies and guidance in the areas of financial institutions, regulation, capital markets, and federal debt finance. Its community and economic development division coordinates small business finance and development, housing policy, capital access, and issues related to underserved communities.

Morse, who holds a PhD in finance from the University of Michigan’s Ross School and two master’s degrees from Purdue University, joined Haas in 2012 from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Her research interests include equity issues in financial services and algorithms, small business survival, sustainable investing, discrimination and corruption, venture capital, and pension management. The unifying theme in her work, she has said, is “leveling economic playing fields.”

“Adair’s groundbreaking research has looked at important issues, like small business survival in the city of Oakland, consumer lending discrimation in fintech, and the pervasiveness of corporate fraud,” said Prof. Catherine Wolfram, associate dean for Academic Affairs and chair of the faculty. “As a pioneering, creative thinker in so many areas, she will have plenty of opportunity to bring her financial and social impact leadership to the table.”

As a pioneering, creative thinker in so many areas, she will have plenty of opportunity to bring her financial and social impact leadership to the table. —Prof. Catherine Wolfram, chair of the faculty

Morse has spent much of the pandemic using her finance expertise to try to help small businesses. Last spring, Morse and Tyson began working on a strategy to use public capital to attract private lenders to provide low-interest credit to help vulnerable small businesses get through the crisis. They first helped develop a program with the City of Berkeley, and then worked with others—including Yellen, who was then on Gov. Newsom’s Task Force on Jobs and Competitiveness—to implement an innovative public-private loan structure at the state level. Their work helped launch the California Rebuilding Fund, run by the Governors’ Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and aimed at some of the state’s smallest businesses in under-resourced communities.

At Berkeley Haas, Morse also ran the Haas Impact Fund and Sustainable Investment Fund curriculum, managing two endowment funds with Haas students. The Sustainable Investment Fund is the first and largest student-led Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) fund within a leading business school.Until recently, Morse served on the Governance and Allocations Committee of the California Rebuilding Fund, as well as on the expert panel for the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, advising on issues of sustainability and innovation.

Dean’s Speaker Series: Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh on leadership in a pandemic

Chip BerghLevi’s CEO Chip Bergh believes it’s his job to speak up about pressing and difficult societal issues including racial and social injustice, voter rights, environmental protection, and sustainability.

Bergh spent 28 years at Procter & Gamble before taking the helm at Levi’s, one of the oldest companies in America, in 2011. His goal was to revive it.

“The whole Levi’s story for the past nine years has been the turnaround,” he said. “Levi’s is back. It’s a hot brand. We’re number one around the world.” But then the pandemic hit hard, shuttering stores and slashing quarterly revenue 67 percent. “I can honestly say I’ve never had to post revenue results that bad,” Bergh said, predicting that Levi’s will emerge from COVID-19 smaller, but with stronger brands.

Berkeley Haas MBA students asked Bergh some tough questions during this jointly sponsored Dean’s Speaker and Peterson Speaker Series Q&A.Here are some of Bergh’s thoughts and the video (below).

On “amping up his empathy muscles”:

When I joined the company (in 2011), diversity and inclusion was really low on my list. The house was on fire. We needed to fix the house and I thought that the two were separate. When I look back on it now, I realize that if I’d addressed these issues head on in the early days we’d be a better company today. I really do believe that diverse organizations will out-compete homogeneous ones every single day.

On the no nonsense pre-IPO road show with investors:

We made it really really clear during our IPO that what got us to where we are is being a values-led company and by doubling down on the things that make us who we are. We talked about our values and the investments we’ve made in sustainability. We talked about some of the innovation that’s come out of sustainability. I talked about the stand that we took on ending gun violence in this country. It’s a pretty polarizing place to be…and I said if you don’t have an appetite for that we’re not your kind of stock. Don’t invest in us.

Watch the video:

Four new senior leaders join Berkeley Haas

Berkeley Haas has rounded out its leadership team, welcoming new hires in the areas of finance, alumni development, human resources, and sustainability.

The group of newly-appointed leaders includes:

Loretta Ezeife, Chief Financial Officer

Loretta Ezeife, chief financial officer
Loretta Ezeife, chief financial officer

Loretta Ezeife comes to Berkeley Haas with 20 years experience in financial planning and management in both the public and private sectors. Ezeife, who grew up in both Oakland and Nigeria, has worked for both private and public institutions, serving in management and financial leadership positions at Chevron, McKesson, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Kaiser Permanente.

In 2010, she transitioned to the public sphere, working for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Berkeley’s Parking & Transportation Department, Recreational Sports, and Student Affairs divisions, and University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR).

In her new role as CFO, Ezeife says she’s excited to collaborate with the Haas senior leadership team to develop sustainable financial strategies to emerge strong from the COVID-19 crisis.

Ezeife has a bachelor’s in accounting from California State University, Hayward, an MBA from Golden Gate University, and a doctorate in business administration from Walden University.

Howie Avery, Assistant Dean for Development & Alumni Relations

Howard Avery
Howard Avery, assistant dean for Development & Alumni Relations

Howie Avery arrives with more than 18 years of fundraising experience at several top-tier public universities. Most recently, he served as assistant vice president for advancement and campaign director at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business. In his role, Avery was the senior leader for principal and major gifts, reunion giving, corporate and foundation relations. He also managed the school’s $400 million campaign.

Prior to joining Darden, Avery served in several leadership roles at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, including managing the College of Law’s successful seven-year Campaign for Tennessee, and securing the funds for a building project at the Haslam College of Business. Avery began his development career at the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas, Austin.

Michele de Nevers, Executive Director of Sustainability Programs

Michele de Nevers, who has had a long career in leadership positions for environment and climate change programs in developing countries, is taking on a newly established role as executive director of Sustainability Programs.

De Nevers’ work spans a wide range of environmental issues from biodiversity to industrial pollution to climate finance to carbon removal and storage.

Michelle de Nevers
Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs

De Nevers joins Haas from the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (Barcelona Institute for International Studies) where she was a visiting professor and taught a highly-rated course on International Climate Change Policy to graduate students from all over Europe and the world.

Prior to teaching at IBEI, de Nevers was a senior associate at the Center for Global Development (CGD) in Washington, DC, where she headed its climate change program and led a team working to establish the Tropical Forest Finance Facility, a multilateral wealth fund and pay-for-performance mechanism to finance reduced deforestation of tropical forests.  She continues to work with CGD as a non-resident fellow on climate issues.

Before joining CGD, de Nevers was a visiting fellow at the Global Economic Governance Programme at University College, Oxford, researching private investment for climate finance and economic development.

From 1981 to 2010 she worked for the World Bank, including as senior manager of the Environment Department and director at the World Bank Institute. She managed environment programs in the Latin America and Eastern Europe/Central Asia regions.  In the Environment Department, she managed preparation of the World Bank’s corporate Environment Strategy and led the global consultations on its Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change.

From 1976  to 1978, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, where she worked in public health and family planning.

De Nevers holds an MS in Management with a concentration in finance from MIT, a BA in Bacteriology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a certificate in executive education from the Harvard Business School.

Michelle Marquez, Assistant Dean of Human Resources

Michelle Marquez, Assistant Dean of Human Resources
Michelle Marquez, assistant dean of Human Resources.

Marquez brings 13 years of experience working in operations, administration, and human resources to her role as assistant dean of Human Resources for Berkeley Haas.

Marquez, a Central Valley native, comes to haas from City College of San Francisco (CCSF), where she was senior director of human resources. Prior to CCSF, she served in leadership positions within the California community college system, as vice president of administrative services for the San Mateo County Community College District, and vice president of administrative services at Cañada College.

Marquez says one of her goals is to dive deeper into the Berkeley Haas culture using the Defining Leadership Principles as a guide. Another goal is to explore and review HR practices and procedures through a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens.

Marquez holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and is working on a doctorate with Grand Canyon University in industrial and organizational psychology.

A Berkeley Haas startup’s quick pivot to deliver hand sanitizer to the needy

A Dispatch Goods container kit
A Dispatch Goods container kit

Word was getting out last year about Berkeley Haas startup Dispatch Goods.

The startup had landed its first two corporate clients and had 15 deals in the pipeline. They’d signed a partnership with Yelp! and debuted a mobile app and subscription service with membership tiers. By November, the Wall Street Journal had featured Dispatch’s business model— providing reusable stainless steel containers that companies use for restaurant takeout or pickup— in a news article.

But then coronavirus hit. Nearly overnight, business evaporated as restaurant owners shut down and corporate workers started working from home. For CEO Lindsey Hoell and her team it was “a gut punch for the anti-single use movement.”

“COVID was a huge disruption,” said Hoell, EWMBA 21. “We thought to ourselves: What do we have to offer now and how can we help?”

Dispatch Goods & Project Clean team includes (left to right) Lindsey Hoell, EWMBA 21, CEO; Jessica Heiges, UC Berkeley PhD student in environmental science, sustainability leader; Andrew Foster, tech and design director; Peter Altaffer, user experience designer; and Adam Boostrom, EWMBA 21, CFO (front).
Dispatch Goods & Project Clean team includes (l-r) Lindsey Hoell, EWMBA 21, CEO; Jessica Heiges, UC Berkeley PhD student in environmental science, sustainability leader; Andrew Foster, tech and design director; Peter Altaffer, user experience designer; and Adam Boostrom, EWMBA 21, CFO (front).

A quick pivot

Hoell had heard that hand sanitizer was quickly hard to come by after COVID-19 hit. One of the Dispatch team members knew that Tim Obert, CEO of Seven Stills distillery in San Francisco, had a plan to use some of the company’s alcohol to make hand sanitizer. The company connects donors to those in need on its website.

Andrew Foster of Dispatch Goods & Project Clean holds recycled bottles filled with Seven Stills hand sanitizer.
Andrew Foster of Dispatch Goods & Project Clean holds recycled bottles filled with Seven Stills hand sanitizer.

Hoell chatted with Obert and decided to launch a zero waste co-op to provide some of the hand sanitizer in recycled containers. Now, the team is collecting plastic bottles from donors, cleaning the bottles in their commercial dishwasher at their warehouse space in Daly City, and delivering them in the company’s van to Bay Area organizations, including retirement communities and homeless shelters.

Hoell, who is relying on donations to run the co-op, said they’re trying to keep costs down by batching pickups in neighborhoods in San Francisco, South San Francisco, Daly City, Berkeley, and Oakland. (Bottle donors can sign up on their website) She’s not sure if the model is financially sustainable, as the transportation costs are high, but the startup is willing to try to make it work.

“All of us got into this company because of the impact we want to have,” Hoell said. “We didn’t know how we could make money but we knew we could make an impact.”

All of us got into this company because of the impact we want to have.

Sticking to the mission

Pizza pan
Square Guys pizza is delivered in a zero-waste metal pan. Photo: Square Guys

Meanwhile, Dispatch Goods’ founding mission hasn’t been lost.

Adam Boostrom, an evening and weekend MBA student, is working to adapt the business model while Dispatch participates in Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator program. During Skydeck’s online sessions, he worked alongside the Dispatch team to develop a pilot which would continue zero waste delivery for businesses. The first plan is to work with Square Pie Guys to deliver pizza on Tuesdays and Thursdays to employees’ homes in a reusable, covered metal alloy pan.

If the pilot works, the startup will approach other companies that want to provide takeout food to their employees who are working at home.

The startup’s goal has always been to change the food delivery model and eliminate the waste—and this is a new approach.

“The mission is still the same: we pick up containers, clean them, and return them to food providers,” said Boostrom. “What’s different is the primary customer.”

 

Haas feeds growing appetite for the business of sustainable food

(left to right) Will Rosenzweig, who launched the Sustainable Food Initiative at Haas, with Aaron Hall, a PhD student in the Materials Science & Engineering Program, and Jessica Heiges, a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management.
(left to right) Will Rosenzweig, who launched the Sustainable Food Initiative at Haas, with students who took his Food Innovation Studio course: Aaron Hall, a PhD student in the Materials Science & Engineering Program and Jessica Heiges, a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. Photo: Jim Block

After working in the dairy industry in Illinois for six years, John Monaghan, MBA 20, arrived at Berkeley Haas on a mission to dive deeper into the business of food.

He didn’t waste any time. In his first year, Monaghan became co-president of the student-run Food@Haas, was nominated to the student advisory board for the Berkeley Haas Center for Responsible Business, and snagged a summer internship at Danone in New York, where he’ll be supporting marketing of the Oikos yogurt brand. He even shared lunch with Alice Waters at her restaurant Chez Panisse, after he worked as a graduate student reader during her Edible Education 101 course. “She hosted us as a thank-you for the semester,” he said.

Alice Waters with John Monaghan, MBA 20
Alice Waters with John Monaghan, MBA 20

Like many of the 20 full-time MBA students who have landed coveted internships and jobs this year in the food and beverage industry—at companies ranging from Clif Bar to Kraft— Monaghan is benefiting from the Sustainable Food Initiative at Haas. The umbrella effort, launched in April 2018 by the Center for Responsible Business, combines food-focused courses, cutting-edge research, entrepreneurship training, events with food industry luminaries, and key industry partnerships.

A food-focused tribe

The initiative both reflects and cultivates a growing interest in the food business at Haas and Berkeley. The number of students landing internships and full-time jobs in the food and beverage industry has doubled over the past three years, and the number of food-related startups—from 2019 MBA grad Somiran Gupta’s nearfarms, an online marketplace that connects small, local farmers directly with consumers, to Tannor’s Tea, founded by Samantha Tannor, MBA 20, whose company sells sugar-free matcha concentrate—is increasing every year.

“We’ve attracted a tribe of people who are food-focused,” says Doug Massa, a corporate relationship manager with the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group. “They want to learn about branding and marketing, but they also want to learn about opportunities in the food supply chain, business operations, and the role of venture capital in food.”

Connecting across Berkeley

Will Rosenzweig, faculty co-chair with the Berkeley Haas Center for Responsible Business (CRB) and a pioneer of the sustainable food movement at Berkeley, is leading the Sustainable Food Initiative. The founder of the Republic of Tea, Rosenzweig taught Haas’ first class on social entrepreneurship 20 years ago—and went on to mentor and invest in successful Haas startups including Revolution Foods, co-founded by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, both MBA 06, to make healthier cafeteria food for kids.

Working with CRB’s program manager Emily Pellisier, Rosenzweig is now figuring out how Haas expertise in entrepreneurship and business aligns with sustainability efforts across the Berkeley campus. They’re reaching out to innovative programs like the Berkeley Food Institute and the Alternative Meat Lab at the UC Berkeley Sutardja Center.

“With the riches we have at Berkeley, one of my jobs is to is to remove some of the boundaries between the disciplines, and Haas has been really supportive of that,” Rosenzweig said. “We’re getting other really smart people involved in solving these sustainability problems.”

Watch an “Edible Education 101” session with chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat and community organizer Shakirah Simley, discussing diversity and inclusion in the food industry.

At the initiative’s core is “Edible Education 101,” which Rosenzweig teaches with Waters, who co-founded the class with author Michael Pollan in 2011. The undergraduate course brings scientists, CEOs, community activists, and chefs to Haas to talk about the future of food, from seeds to soil health to increasing access to quality food for all. Guests have included chef Samin Nosrat (of the popular Netflix docu-series based on her cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat), who spoke last semester on diversity and inclusion in the food industry, to Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, who addressed the future of restaurant careers.

Students in Will Rosenzweig's Food Innovation Studio
Students in Will Rosenzweig’s Food Innovation Studio course.

Victoria Williams-Ononye, MBA 19, the graduate student instructor for the “Edible Education” course, said about 20 of her MBA peers attended the classes. “There’s a core group of people who come to Haas knowing they’re passionate about food,” said Williams-Ononye, who has accepted a job working in Breakthrough Innovation at Kraft in Chicago.

Monaghan called the caliber of “Edible Education” guest speakers “a hidden gem of this entire university.”

The sky’s the limit

Meanwhile, the Food Innovation Studio, Rosenzweig’s two-unit course which uses the Lean LaunchPad method to encourage students in food entrepreneurship, dives deeply into topics such as the rise of regenerative agriculture, sustainable alternatives to single-use packaging, the evolution of plant-based proteins, food system sustainability, and disruptive food delivery models.

While the majority of the students enrolled last semester were from the MBA program, the course draws students from across Berkeley, including Aaron Hall, a PhD student in the Materials Science & Engineering Program who is developing a richer-tasting plant-based fat substitute, and Jessica Heiges, a PhD candidate in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management, who co-founded RePeel, a reusable-food-container service for universities.

Beyond classes, the Sustainable Food Initiative serves as an umbrella for new research, including the recent case, “Reversing Climate Change Through Sustainable Food: Patagonia Provisions Attempts to Scale a ‘Big Wall’.” It’s also a home for partnerships with companies like Patagonia Provisions and General Mills’ Natural and Organics Operating Unit, which includes Annie’s Homegrown, EPIC, Cascadian Farm Organic, and Muir Glen brands. Both companies are now on the CRB advisory board, where they often find time to collaborate with each other, as well as Haas, said Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business.

“The sky’s the limit with this initiative,” Strand said. “We want to be a strong partner in the global conversation on food and bring the world to California and our ideas to the world.”