Published: Sept. 26, 2022 By

Long shot of Community Reception

"I’m optimistic that CESR’s programs and collaborations will enable more values-based, purpose-driven business models to flourish and help drive solutions to the tough environmental and social challenges that we see in this world today." Kathryn Wendell, Executive Director, CESR

The Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) annual Community Reception brought together community members, faculty and students for an evening focused on the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration in business.

The event was an opportunity to look ahead at the big programs CESR is working on, recognize community members whose collaboration helps strengthen our work to connect the business world to the business school, and be inspired to continue driving values-based business forward through two talks featuring business and faculty thought leadership.

A Look Ahead

Kathryn Wendell at the ReceptionKathryn Wendell, Executive Director at CESR, opened the event with with a look at some of the strategic initiatives the Center is working on to “to foster dialogue and enable action related to the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into business strategy and operations,” from career pathways for Leeds MBA students to a new online executive education program called Climate Action for Business that will help business professionals develop and implement climate action plans. 

She noted that CESR is also playing an important role in helping to shape the UN Global Climate Summit, “Right Here, Right Now” which CU Boulder will host on December 1-4th, 2022. As part of the Summit, Kathryn will be moderating two conversations, one of which will gather Chief Sustainability Officers to talk about their companies’ commitments to climate and human rights. This event, along with the entire UN Global Climate Summit, will be livestreamed so that it is accessible to anyone who is interested.

Kathryn thanked CESR's supporters, and noted that all of CESR's initiatives are rooted in strong partnerships with influential organizations at the local, national, and global levels in Clean Energy, Natural & Organic Products, and ESG Integration.

CESR Community Connector Awards

One of the highlights of the Community Reception is the opportunity for CESR to recognize key individuals whose contributions have strengthened the Center's mission and work over the past year. This year’s CESR Community Connector Awards recognized three awardees; one each to a vital supporter focused on driving impact in business solutions to the environment, social issues and good governance (ESG).

Carlotta Mast CESR Community Connector Awardee

Carlotta Mast

Carlotta leads the New Hope Network Content Team, producing all content and conference programming for Natural Products Expos, among many other initiatives, and she is the chief author of the NEXT Natural Products Industry Forecast. Carlotta helped to shape our Natural & Organic Pathway at Leeds, and has enabled Leeds MBA students to experience Expo West annually in Anaheim, California, and she cares deeply about positioning Leeds as THE business school for students interested in the natural products industry.

Demesha Hill Community Connector Awardee

Demesha Hill

Demesha Hill is Managing Director at Janus Henderson Foundation and the Community Relations Manager at Janus Henderson Investors. She is a champion for community engagement programs and provides leadership and strategic support for the corporate diversity and community outreach initiatives. She serves or has served on several nonprofit boards and was named Corporate Executive of the Year by the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce in 2018. Demesha has worked to strengthen CESR’s and Leeds’ programs in DEI for full time and executive education students, serving as a guest speaker, and consulting on program design and content. 

Ellen Ballageur CESR Community Connection Awardee

Ellen Balaguer

Ellen was a senior executive with Accenture for 27 years before retiring. She is a philanthropist and works with a number of education organizations and nonprofits in the U.S. and around the world. She is an active member of the Leeds Advisory Board in addition to several other boards. Ellen was crucial in helping to shape CESR’s strategic plan over the past year, and we are grateful for her big ideas, passion, and support.

Keynote: Richard Steel

Richard Steel at the CESR receptionRichard Steel, CEO of Parsec Ventures, an investment firm focused on early stage companies, gave the keynote. One of Inc Magazine's fastest-growing company CEOs, he has run both private and public companies over the last two decades and advised the White House Business Council for the last 9 years. Richard founded and chairs a philanthropic fund, writes for Forbes, and is the author of the best-selling book, Elevated Economics. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School where he serves on the Alumni Board.

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"ESG is no longer a fringe issue. It is in every board room and in every marketing department. It is no longer a siloed topic," 

says Richard Steel

Richard spoke about the confluence of events that are pushing businesses toward greater integration of ESG. From climate change and DEI, to regulatory standards, to the increasing accessibility of information and changing consumption habits of the next generation, ESG is affecting business decision making. Investors are also focused on sustainability, and on leveraging their capital to combine profit and impact.

CEOs are grappling with how businesses should respond. Some companies, notably those represented by The Business Roundtable, are taking the lead on redefining the purpose of a business away from shareholder primacy and toward investments in employees, consumers and communities with an eye toward long-term shareholder value. 

"Purpose is inherently linked to value creation  . . .and companies who can legitimately articulate a story that includes meaning and purpose beyond simply the product attributes will have a greater chance of winning in the elevated economy," says Steel.

Faculty Talk: Dr. Joshua Nunziato

Joshua Nunziato at the CESR community receptionJoshua Nunziato is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Social Responsibility and Sustainability division (SRS) of the Leeds School of Business. He teaches courses on sustainability, business ethics, and ethical leadership to EMBA, MBA, and undergraduate students. In addition to his teaching, Joshua directs the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Collegiate Program at Leeds.

Joshua focused on some of the ways SRS faculty are helping to create a more sustainable business world through scholarship, teaching, and collaborations with the business community. For current undergraduates Joshua mentioned the SRS capstone course The Sustainable Firm: ESG Strategies and Practice, in which  teams of students are placed at companies on and beyond the Front Range for a three month, pro bono sustainability consulting project. 

A new project, launched just this past year, is a partnership between SRS and CESR to offer working groups—facilitated by Leeds faculty— for young professionals to workshop principles-based ethical decision-making challenges they face on the job. 

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“Across every single one of these initiatives, CESR has been an invaluable partner. As a faculty, we look forward to continuing this rich collaboration in the months and years ahead, in service of a more sustainable world for all!"

says Joshua Nunziato

Joshua also noted several faculty research projects underway at Leeds that are shaping our understanding of how businesses can contribute to an ethical and sustainable world. “As members of the scholarly community, Leeds faculty in our division are doing world-class research, to deliver innovative insights about best practices for more sustainable business,” he said.

In particular, Joshua highlighted 

  • Jeff York, who is a world expert on the power of green entrepreneurship to deliver market-based solutions to sustainability problems.
  • Marcia Kwaramba, who is currently doing field research in Africa on how entrepreneurship can lift small business owners out of poverty.
  • Zack Donohew whose applied research, in partnership with some of the world’s largest space companies in (and beyond) the US, is helping to ensure efficient and equitable use of near earth orbital space. 
  • Joshua's own work on contemplative practice as a catalyst for more sustainable business leadership, including prayer, yoga, mindfulness , and even the legal, therapeutic use of psychedelics.


​Interested in learning more or following up with one of our incredible speakers?

  • You can read faculty peer reviewed articles on the CESR Faculty Research page

  • To partner with Joshua’s Sustainable Firm capstone class, please reach out to him directly

  • To learn more about the upcoming Climate Action for Business executive educaiton class, please fill out the interest form.

  • To learn more about CESR’s plans for ESG Integration, or to collaborate with CESR as a guest speaker, Trek site, or for hiring students, please contact us.

  • Richard Steel’s full remarks will be available on the Leeds YouTube channel. We will update this article with a link as soon as it is ready.