Importance of Environmental Management Education with Wharton IGEL’s Joanne Spigonardo

April 6, 2015

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JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good, and I’m so lucky to have my good friend with us today, Joanne Spigonardo. She’s the Senior Associate Director of Business Development at the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, IGEL. Welcome to Green is Good, Joanne. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Thank you so much, John. It’s such an honor to be on the show today, and thank you again for the amazing partnership you have with the Wharton School and with the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, IGEL. It’s so great to speak with you today. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s always great to speak with you. I was with you in person last week at your amazing program at the Wharton School, the great and iconic Wharton School, worldwide known, and it was just so great to be with you in Philadelphia, to have you on the show today talking about all the important initiatives you’re doing and all the great people that you bring together and brands you bring together. This is a real honor for me. Before we get talking about all the great work you’re doing at Wharton, I want you to share your amazing story and journey leading up to this position. Share your life experiences with our listeners first, so they get to know you a little bit. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Thank you so much, John, again, for giving me this opportunity. I’m really happy that I had the privilege of being part of the University of Pennsylvania for so many years. Actually, my dad was the lead gardener here at Penn, and he always wanted us to go to college. We’re from an immigrant background, so I was very, very honored that my father worked here and I was able to come to Penn because of him. I worked full-time and went to school part-time. I actually graduated from Penn with my degree in Italian Renaissance history and literature. After I graduated, I went to work for Alitalia Airlines. I did airline sales for 17 years, and when they closed the airline here in Philadelphia, I came back to Penn and was able to get a job in public relations. I have nine years of experience in public relations communications. I worked as the media relations person here at Wharton. I was the person that would call and I would arrange the interviews with the news media. I also was the business manager for the Wharton Magazine. From this, I got to meet Eric Orts, who’s my current boss. He actually recruited me for this position, Sustainability, in 2007. I was able to come in as the Associate Director at that time. Having a communications and public relations background really, really helped me in this job because in 2007, it was still a very popular rising trend, sustainability and environmental management, whereas now, sustainability is really part of the fabric of every organization. I was really glad to be part of that journey. Being a kid from the 60s and 70s, sustainability, recycling, waste management, the Earth, that really was part of our DNA growing up in that era. Being able to do that later on in my life as part of my profession is huge. I’m really happy to be able to do that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there that want to learn more about what Joanne is doing at the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, you can go to I’m on the site right now. It’s just amazing. You’re just doing great things there. Can you share a little bit about what Wharton IGEL really is, and how does it interface with business, Joanne? JOANNE SPIGONARDO: We started, as I said, in 2007. We came in on the ground level. The school, at that time, had many different silos of environmental management, whether it was on the operations side, for the school operations and facilities, or it was part of the academic side. Back in 2007, my current boss, Eric Orts, who’s the faculty director of IGEL, wanted to really bring this to a more academic focus school wide. At that time, they decided to have it housed in the legal studies and business ethics department at the Wharton School because it was part of the social impact movement that’s still going strong here at the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton. We’re bringing together academia with government, non-government organizations and top business leaders in industry today. We started out with a corporate advisory board, which we’re very honored to have Electronic Recyclers on our advisory board, and we only invite companies that actually have a huge part of sustainability. Obviously, Electronic Recyclers has that in its repertoire. We don’t invite just any company. We’re very proud to have excellent members on this board, which include Bank of America, United Water, Xerox, Merck, International Paper, CHEP, DTZ and, most recently, Electronic Recyclers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you, and thank you for inviting us on. It’s just an honor to participate. Can you talk a little bit about some of the work that you do there? You have all these great brands that you interface with. You’re at one of the top, if not the top, business school in the world at Wharton. Can you share what some of your conferences look like? How does that work with regards to moving the needle forward with regards to sustainability? JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Since 2007, we have had some really interesting conferences, and they are research conferences. The way we make up these conferences, again, we want to bring in different types of diverse audiences. We have the academic audience, which is represented by our faculty, and also our peer schools. We invite our peer schools to come and speak as well as part of these agendas for our conferences, and our students, obviously, but then again our corporate leaders that are really, really prominent in this space and government and non-government organizations. For example, some of the conferences that we’ve planned have been greening the supply chain, valuing water, energy, food, and water nexus, sustainability in the age of big data, and this April 22nd, Earth Day, we’re doing our 8th annual conference workshop, which is about how business takes the lead, how innovation will drive our mitigation and adaptation to climate change. These conferences are not just over once our conferences are over. We actually publish our special reports and Knowledge at Wharton about the conference proceedings, but not just that, other things that maybe we didn’t discuss at the conference. Ongoing conversations come out in this report. It comes out 3-4 months after the conference, and Knowledge at Wharton does go to 3 million subscribers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Explain again the special reports. Go a little bit more in-depth about what the special reports are and why they’re so important. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: The special reports, sometimes they are about the conference we have, but sometimes they’re about specific topics that are important in the world, for example, waste management, electronic recycling, valuing water, whether it’s valuing water in a developing world, where there’s a crisis in water or scarcity, where there are gender issues about the safety of young women that don’t have access to water. It could be about the food. The population reaching 7 billion in the world, there’s a real issue with food. What’s going to happen in the future? Food security is another big issue. These reports really delve into crucial topics that are affecting the world. They’re affecting the world on a humanitarian basis, but on an economic level as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’ve got Joanne Spigonardo with us today. She’s the Senior Associate Director of Business Development at the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, which is called IGEL. Joanne, talk a little bit about how Wharton and Penn promote the sustainability curriculum that you’re heading up. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: That’s a great question, John. Actually, we have been teaching here in the legal studies and business ethics department at Wharton, we’ve been teaching environmental management for about 20 years. That’s one of the ways that we actually also started IGEL. These courses have been taught for, as I said, 20 years, but to kick it up a notch, we have, here at the Wharton School at the MBA level, we do have majors in environmental management and social impact, as well as risk management. On the undergraduate level, we also have concentrations. When the kids graduate with their Bachelor of Science in Economics on the undergraduate level, they pick a concentration. Their primary concentration could be accounting, finance, real estate, etc. But then a secondary concentration could be environmental management. We were able to make that happen in the past six years that IGEL has been in existence. We also were able to do a dual degree program, which five years ago we just started, which you can get your MBA and your Master’s in environmental science as well. Instead of going for two years for each one, you go for three years, but you get three degrees. In addition to that, there is a school-wide sustainability minor on the undergraduate level. In the School of Arts and Sciences, we have the earth and environmental studies department. Students, if they go to the college and get a Bachelor of Arts, they can major in environmental studies and sciences. It’s a really big curriculum. Our current president, Amy Gutmann, this is part of her agenda. It has been for the past decade. We have a tremendous green campus partnership. We work very, very closely, as I said, with the School of Arts and Sciences, Earth and Environmental Studies. We work very closely with the School of Engineering. It has huge components in sustainability. We work very closely with Penn Design and the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. Here at Wharton, all the departments now have sustainability, again, as the fabric of the curriculum. Sustainability is a part of the finance curriculum, it’s part of the accounting curriculum, the management, marketing, I could go on and on. It’s no longer a trend. It’s something that is part of the economy and part of the curriculum here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That makes sense. Since you’ve been there, the sustainability curriculum has massively grown. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Since you shared all the amazing degrees someone could earn in that curriculum, can you share some of the courses that are relevant to MBA students who want to pursue careers in social impact, energy or risk management? JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Absolutely. We have courses in cost benefit analysis that focus on risk management. It could be water risk, energy risk, food security, they’re all part of this course. We have corporate sustainability, which is taught at the School of Arts and Sciences in the Masters in Environmental Studies program, which basically does case studies on different industries, and the students can focus on corporate social responsibility. In addition, we actually do have a water risk course. We have, as I mentioned, an environmental management course. We have social impact, we have energy economics. The Wharton School has the Wharton Initiative of Public Policy in the business economics and public policy department that actually has four or five different courses in energy and economics. As I said, it’s a growing part of the economy, and we’re on the forefront, along with our peer schools that are doing the same thing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Talk a little bit about the Penn Wharton operations, and how they work with you to improve sustainable practices as well. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: Several years ago, one of my good friends, Emily Schapira, she went to the MBA program. She was a real pioneer in sustainability. When she graduated from her MBA, she actually worked on getting herself a job in operations. We have huge facilities and services. We, at the time, did not have at the Wharton School a Sustainability Director. Emily actually created her job as the Sustainability Director to really bring in these green vendors, to bring in great companies like Electronic Recyclers here and different companies that we work with directly, to bring in the paper that’s recycled. We work very closely with Dontar and International Paper. International Paper is one of our big vendors that has recycled product. That’s something that has really grown in the past five or six years. We have operations managers and facilities that are actually focused on sustainable practices, which was not the case when I first started here. That’s huge. That’s not just at Wharton, but throughout Penn. The school has really done a lot. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s really interesting, Joanne, is when I was asked to speak by you last week, and that was such an honor to come down to Philadelphia and speak with some of the students over at your school, and you put together a little working lunch session, that some of your people from the waste section of operations came in to the meeting room, and they enjoyed the conversation and actually asked questions because they were looking to improve their processes and procedures themselves. I was like, wow, they’re really into it here. They’re into it, not only from the student perspective and an education perspective, but from an operations perspective. They just want to keep upping their game and do better whenever they can. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: That’s absolutely right. As far as the staff is concerned, we do have eco reps. You can volunteer to be an eco rep for your department. It’s all about great school-wide citizenship. We’re responsible for the Earth. We’re responsible for the things that we do and what we use. Here, we try to demonstrate that as becoming an eco representative. During the summer, we have heat waves. We power down, we turn down the air conditioner, and the eco reps are sort of like the police of the department to make sure that everybody turns their computer off, that everybody doesn’t use a lot of energy. The people that came to your talk, which was amazing, by the way, you did a wonderful job, John. We were so happy to have you. They want to have every opportunity available to them to learn more on how to become sustainable. Your talk was equally important to the students as well as the staff, and I think there were a couple faculty members in there too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, it was great from that perspective. There was even a member of the local EPA in there. It was a fascinating mixture of people from all different disciplines, and it’s just so nice how Wharton and IGEL welcome everybody in with open arms and says, “Hey, let’s constructively collaborate and make the world a better place together.” JOANNE SPIGONARDO: It’s all about collaboration. Partnerships, public and private, educational partnerships, collaboration, this is what it’s all about, not just in the Penn community, but in the global community. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to survive. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there, we’re down to the last two minutes. We have listeners not only in the United States, but around the world. We have a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses. How can entrepreneurs and businesses that are listening right now today help you help students with research projects and internships at Wharton’s IGEL program? JOANNE SPIGONARDO: We would love to have anyone that’s interested to propose an internship project or a research project to us. They would just send it to me. My e-mail address is Our students are hungry for opportunities in this space. Obviously, it’s all about gaining skills, not just about making money. It’s the skills that are going to help you make the money and also improve the world at the same time. The students sometimes will take an internship or a research project unpaid in order to get the network, in order to get the mentorship and obviously to get the opportunity to get wonderful skills. Anybody can contact us. We’re willing to look at the project and see if we can come up with a good fit. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Joanne, we’re down to the last minute. I’ll leave the final thoughts for you before we have to sign off today. JOANNE SPIGONARDO: I really appreciate this opportunity to speak on your show, John. Thank you so much. It is an honor to be in a partnership with you. We need not just corporate citizens, we need global citizens, we need community citizens, in order to build collaboration and sustainability going forward. It’s good for the world and it’s good for the economy. Thank you again for having me on the show. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Thank you, Joanne. For our listeners out there that want to learn more about the great program at Wharton, Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, please go to Thank you, Joanne, for being an inspiration and visionary leader and my friend. You are truly living proof that green is good.

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