2016 Agenda and Topics

2017 coming soon!

Wednesday, September 21

9:30 am - 10:00 am – Coffee and Registration

10:00 am - 11:00 am – Welcome and Introduction: Sustainability as a Megatrend in the 21st Century
Daniel C. Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, Director of Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

Sustainability has emerged as an overarching framework for life in the 21st century. In this opening module of the Leadership Forum, I will explore how sustainability brings together energy, environment, and economic issues — and for some, social elements as well — in an integrated and systematic approach to ecological challenges at various scales from global to local. I will further discuss how sustainability has helped to shift policy practices toward long-term outcomes, incentives for changed behavior, engagement of the private sector as a source of innovation, and market-based regulatory strategies rather than “command and control” mandates. Other mega-trends that are shaping our environmental trajectory including the IT revolution, transparency, Big Data and metrics, and changing attitudes toward government will also be discussed.

11:00 am - 12:30 pm – The Sustainable Companies of the 21st Century 
Nancy Pfund, Founder and Man­ag­ing Part­ner, DBL Part­ners

From massive public companies like Tesla to exciting upstarts like the Farmer’s Business Network, our country’s entrepreneurs are increasingly focused on creating 21st century businesses that bring the world into a sustainable future. Not only are these companies capable of sustainable change, they’re capable of sustainable profit – and investors know it. We are witnessing 21st century Fords, GEs and Boeings in the making, as companies that were just disruptive startups a few years ago begin to take mindshare and market share away from incumbent icons. The ongoing boom in environmental entrepreneurship and concordant increase in investment raises both excitement and new questions. Are there still opportunities for venture level returns in new clean technologies, or will existing technologies like solar and wind seize all the demand? How do the results of the Paris climate talks affect our investment theses? As we increase investment in the developing world, how do we get comfortable with political risk? How does policy shape a sustainable investment thesis, and vice versa? How do we build out a sustainable investment approach across all facets of our capital markets, beginning with venture capital? What role do incumbents play, and how will we most effectively pass the baton to our new 21st century business icons? To continue achieving a double bottom line return – social and financial – these are the types of questions investors and entrepreneurs will seek to answer.

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm – Lunch

2:00 pm - 3:30 pm – Financing Sustainability
Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York, Chair of the NYSERDA Board

Financing sustainable systems will require mobilizing trillions of dollars of capital. As there are existing channels and mechanisms for capital raising, how much will these existing structures be used to finance new infrastructure, and if so, how much do they need to change? Or will there be entirely new financing structures that emerge? In this session, we will look at lessons from venture capital and project financing in financing traditional assets. These lessons can inform corporate executives that seek to finance their investments in sustainable infrastructure as well as for entrepreneurs looking for financing for sustainable activities.

3:30 pm - 4:00 pm – Break

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm – The Evolution of Environmental Law and Policy
E. Donald Elliott, Professor of Law, Yale Law School

The Evolution of Environmental Law and Policy will be an overview of the main features of the structure and institutions of US environmental law in comparative perspective. We will cover how US environmental law has changed since the 1970s, where it is now and where it is going for the future.

5:30 pm - 6:30 pm – Cocktail Hour

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm – Dinner Talk: Pricing Carbon - Key to a Sustainable Future


Thursday, September 22

9:00 am - 10:30 am – Spurring Innovation
Gary Brudvig, Benjamin Silliman Professor and Chair of Chemistry, Professor of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Director of the Yale Energy Sciences Institute

Currently, most of the energy we use comes from ‘fossil’ fuels, but there are significant environmental impacts. Renewable and carbon-neutral sources of energy are needed. Sunlight and wind are abundant and renewable energy sources; the sunlight striking the surface of the Earth and estimates of global wind capacity both greatly exceed current global power demand. However, new technology is needed to convert light and wind energy into a storable form in order to use these intermittent energy sources on a large scale. Research and innovation are critical to develop the technology needed to transition from a fossil fuel-based energy economy to carbon-neutral and sustainable sources of energy. Solar energy conversion and storage are goals of the recently established Yale Energy Sciences Institute (YESI) on Yale’s West Campus. Interdisciplinary work is essential to spur innovation and technological breakthroughs in the energy sciences. At the YESI, faculty from Chemistry, Applied Physics, Mechanical Engineering & Material Science and Chemical & Environmental Engineering are working side by side. New facilities have been created with an open environment to maximize interactions among researchers in different disciplines, and a new Materials Characterization Core has been established with state-of- the-art instrumentation to enable cutting-edge research. Progress made to date at the YESI will be discussed. The new start-up company “Catalytic Innovations”, which was founded by members of the YESI, will be highlighted as an example of the transition from laboratory research to new technology.

10:30 am - 11:00 am – Break

11:00 am - 12:10 pm – The Multiple Scales of Sustainability Governance
Lisa Dale, Associate Director, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

Sustainability challenges exist across a range of scales, as do solutions. Governance of sustainability includes familiar statutory, regulatory and market-based strategies, as well as the cultivation of social norms. When international policies are translated into domestic laws, and those domestic statutes are in turn implemented by states, provinces, and cities, we see the emergence of a web of governance. Ideally, the tools employed at each nested scale complement and reinforce one another, but may in fact contradict or undermine shared goals. This module will highlight the importance of matching each challenge of sustainability with the best scale for integrated governance.

12:10 pm - 12:30 pm – Plate lunch and resettle for lunch talk

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm – Lunch Talk: Sustainability and Spirituality
Mary Evelyn Tucker, Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar, Yale University

Science, policy, and economics are clearly necessary components for discussing sustainability issues. However, they may not be sufficient for obtaining the needed changes in human attitudes and behavior needed to create a flourishing future. There is a growing realization that values are a key component to making this shift viable. Values arise from secular environmental ethics as well as from the world's cultural and religious attitudes toward nature. These values and ethics need to be integrated into the quest for an integral ecology, such as highlighted in the Papal encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. This talk will survey how the world's religions are contributing to a broader vision of sustainability for future generations.

1:30 pm - 2:00 pm – Break

2:00 pm - 3:30 pm – Moving Toward Data-Driven Decision Making
Todd Cort, Lecturer in Sustainability and Co-Director of Center for Business and the Environment at Yale, Yale University

There is a vast amount of data available from which the ESG-minded company or investor might draw in order to make decisions from strategic direction to portfolio balancing. And yet, we continue to struggle with basic questions such as ‘is sustainability a good business decision?’ or ‘what is a sustainable company?’ This session will explore ESG data and how the challenges in the data can explain some of our angst around sustainability and business. We will then look specifically at the investor case and explore a path forward to grow our trust in ESG data in order to drive smarter decision-making. The answer, it turns out, is as much about the audience as it is about the data.

3:30 pm - 4:00 pm – Break

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm – Industrial Ecology: Closing the Loop

Marian Chertow, Associate Professor of Industrial Environmental Management, Director of the Program on Solid Waste Policy, and Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program, Yale University

Industrial ecology has emerged since the 1990s as a multi-disciplinary field at the nexus of environmental science, engineering, business, and policy. With an intensive focus on the physical flow of materials and energy through systems at different scales, it also examines the influences of economic, political, regulatory, and social factors on the flow, use, and transformation of resources. This session highlights the great potential in cycling resources and closing loops at international and national levels, and also at the firm and industrial cluster levels, by exploring topics such as “lifecycle assessment,” “industrial symbiosis” and the “circular economy.”

Free evening


Friday, September 23

9:00 am - 10:30 am – New Conservation Strategies

Bradford Gentry, Associate Dean for Professional Practice; Professor in the Practice; Co-Director of the Center for Business & the Environment at Yale; Director of the Research Program on Private Investment and the Environment, Yale University

“Conserving land” has traditionally meant setting aside natural areas primarily for the benefit of non-human species by keeping people out. There is growing recognition, however, that natural areas also provide a wide range of essential goods and services to humans – from food and fuel, to clean water, water storage, flood management, temperature reduction, improved human health and many others. The value of these services is likely to continue to increase with a growing population and a changing climate. This has led to an expansion of what constitutes land conservation, as well as who is investing in it and what tools they are using to do so. Not only does it involve protecting existing natural areas, it means restoring and managing new ones. Not only is this work being supported by conservation agencies and NGOs, but also by cities, production companies, financial investors and others – using new philanthropic, policy and business tools for sustaining both “healthy places and healthy people.” The purpose of this session is to explore these expanding values, investors and tools, as well as the opportunities to do even more in the future.

10:30 am - 11:00 am – Break

11:00 am - 12:30 pm – Climate Change as a Case Study
Daniel C. Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, Director of Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

Climate change is perhaps the most critical issue within the emerging 21st century sustainability framework. Since the Earth Summit of 1992, which produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the world has approached the climate change challenge with a top-down (nation state-led) emphasis on targets and timetables for emissions reductions. Little progress was made, however, as it turns out that Presidents and Prime Ministers have little day to day control over the carbon footprints of their societies. Last December in Paris, 195 countries came together and conclude a new climate change agreement that broadens engagement to include mayors, governors/premiers, corporate executives, and community leaders — recognizing that “bottom up” efforts at the city, state/provincial, and corporate scales often produce better results. Professor Dan Esty will describe how the new 2015 Paris Agreement exemplifies sustainability as an integrative management concept for the 21st century.

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm – Closing Ceremony with Lunch