What is ESG? Why It Matters and Why You Should Pay Attention


This event is a part of Energy Week at Penn, a week of energy-focused events across Penn’s campus. Browse and register for other Energy Week events: energyweek.penn.edu.

ESG—short for Environmental, Social and Governance—is all the buzz in the business and investment worlds. But what exactly is ESG? And why should you care about it? While business firms are increasingly taking steps to consider how their actions both are affected by and impact these factors, the use of ESG has also elicited strong pushback from investors, politicians, and others.  This panel event moderated by Dr. Michael Mann will bring together panelists with expertise in ESG from Wharton and industry to explore the ins and outs of ESG, why it has become so important, as well as to explain the controversies. Panelists will include Vit Henisz, Vice Dean and Faculty Director, ESG Initiative and Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management, Sarah Light, Faculty Co-Director of the Wharton Climate Center and Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, Claudine Gartenberg, Assistant Professor of Management, Lolita Jackson MBE, executive director of sustainable cities at Sustainable Development Capital LLP, and another soon-to-be-anonounced panelist.

Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media (PCSSM) is excited to cohost this event with Kleinman Center for Energy Policy (KCEP) and the Wharton Climate Center as a part of the Kleinman Center’s Energy Week (running from 3/20-3/24).



Sarah E. Light is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses related to
Environmental Management, Law and Policy as well as Business, Social Responsibility and the Environment, among others. Light serves as co-Faculty Director of the Wharton Climate Center, as well as Advisor to both the undergraduate concentration and MBA major in Business, Energy, Environment, and Sustainability. Her research examines issues at the intersection of environmental law, corporate sustainability, and business innovation. Her articles have appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and Organization and Environment, among others. Professor Light has received numerous teaching awards for MBA and undergraduate teaching. Prior to joining the Wharton faculty, Professor Light served for ten years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, including four years as Chief of the Environmental Protection Unit. Professor Light earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, an M. Phil in Politics from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and an A.B. from Harvard College.

Claudine Gartenberg is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on corporate purpose and pay inequality, and the implications of both for firm strategy and competitiveness. Her work has been published in top academic journals, including Management Science, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. She is an associate editor at Management Science, and serves on the editorial boards of Strategic Management Journal and Strategy Science. Professor Gartenberg received a B.A. with honors in Physics from Harvard College, and a D.B.A. and M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, where she graduated as a Baker Scholar and received the Wyss Award for best doctoral research. She joins Wharton from the faculty of NYU Stern School. Prior to joining academia, Professor Gartenberg was an account manager at a business consulting firm, working with clients such as PG&E, Chevron, Hallmark Cards, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

Witold J. Henisz is the Vice Dean and Faculty Director of the ESG Initiative and Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management in Honor of Russell E. Palmer, former Managing Director at The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in Business and Public Policy from the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley and previously received a M.A. in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. His research examines the impact of political hazards as well as environmental, social and governance factors more broadly on the strategy and valuation of global corporations. This work analyzes best practices in corporate diplomacy to win the hearts and minds of external stakeholders as well as the measurement and valuation thereof. His most recent work focuses on the application of alternative data to the measurement of non-traditional political and ESG risks and opportunities and their financial and operational impact on multinational firms as well as the performance of the asset managers that invest in them. His research has been published in top-ranked journals in international business, management, international studies and sociology. He served as a Departmental Editor at The Journal of International Business Studies and as an Associate Editor at Strategic Management Journal. He is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business. Witold has won multiple teaching awards at the graduate and undergraduate levels including being named Iron Prof, 2019 and an Aspen Institute Ideas Worth Teaching Award Winner, 2020 for his elective courses that highlight the importance of integrating a deep understanding of political and social risk factors into the design and valuation of an organization’s global strategy. These courses incorporate multiple cases that he has authored as well as capstone KEROVKA crisis management simulation for which he served as the academic co-Director. He led the redesign of the required global management content in the Wharton core curriculum. He teaches extensively on the topic of ‘Corporate Diplomacy: Building Reputations and Relationships with External Stakeholders’ as well as ESG integration in open enrollment and custom executive education programs. He is currently a principal in the consultancy PRIMA LLC whose clients span multinational firms, asset managers, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations including Anglo Gold Ashanti, Dundee Precious Metals, EastWestRail, Eaton Vance, Engine No 1, Gabriel Resources, Lockheed Martin, Rio Tinto, Shell Corporation, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the World Wildlife Fund. He previously worked for The International Monetary Fund.

Lolita K. Jackson MBE is the executive director of sustainable cities at Sustainable Development Capital LLP, a multibillion-pound FTSE 250 climate investment firm. Jackson is a frequent speaker at global gatherings and universities on the topics of climate diplomacy and public and private sector engagement on climate. She previously worked for the NYC Mayor’s Office for fifteen years in a variety of roles, lastly as the Special Advisor for Climate Policy & Programs, where she was the climate diplomat for NYC. Jackson is a member of the British-American Project’s US advisory board, a member of GlobalScot; a trustee of the Jazz Museum in Harlem; a board member of the St Andrew’s Society of New York; and president of the Penn Alumni Class of 1989. She was named to the City & State’s “Energy & Environment Power 100” list for 2022 and was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2021. Jackson is a professional singer, having performed on four continents and at Carnegie Hall. She is an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, majoring in applied science with a concentration in chemical engineering.


Michael Mann is Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication. His research focuses on climate science and climate change. He was selected by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002, was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geophysical Union in 2012. He made Bloomberg News‘ list of fifty most influential people in 2013.  He has received the Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education, the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication from Climate, the Award for Public Engagement with Science from the AAAS, the Climate Communication Prize from the American Geophysical Union and the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society. He received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 2019 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2020. He is a Fellow of the AGU, AMS, GSA, AAAS and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is co-founder of RealClimate.org, author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, numerous op-eds and commentaries, and five books including Dire Predictions, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, The Madhouse Effect, The Tantrum that Saved the World, and The New Climate War.