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  • Writer's pictureHarley Preston

Recognizing Visionaries Driving Positive Change In ESG

BCG’s Retail Influencer Network, The Z Suite, and WWD honor most influential ESG leaders.

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They are bold visionaries who walk the talk when it comes to developing, implementing and setting ESG goals. And when it comes to putting into practice ESG policies (either for their own companies or helping others), they are steadfast, pragmatic and committed to making the world a better place.

Meet the honorees of this year’s Most Influential ESG Leaders.

The list includes leaders from American Eagle Outfitters, e.l.f. Beauty, Gap Inc., Macy’s, and Tapestry, among many others. This year’s honors are presented by Berns Communications Group (BCG)’s Retail Influencer Network and The Z Suite, in collaboration with Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). This prestigious accolade honors senior-level executives and Gen Z leaders who have exhibited exceptional commitment to advancing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices within the retail, technology, and consumer industries.

When asked what it takes to create real change in the industry on the ESG front, Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart Inc. and President of the Walmart Foundation, began by explaining that in the long term, “successful companies take an expansive view of what it means to run a great business. They create ‘shared value’ — meaning they maximize the value of their business by addressing the most important needs of their stakeholders in innovative and effective ways.”

“When it comes to ESG, companies can: prioritize the issues at the intersection of stakeholder needs and business relevance; collaborate with others across sectors to rewire operations and supply chains to address issues in value-creating ways; and manage key initiatives as they would any other part of their business — setting ambitious goals, innovating to overcome challenges, holding people accountable for results, and disclosing progress as well as challenges,” McLaughlin said.

For e.l.f. Beauty, actionable steps to reach ESG goals require a certain type of leadership approach. Tarang Amin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of e.l.f. Beauty, said, “Leading with positivity, inclusivity and accessibility achieves impactful ESG outcomes.”

“It starts with being purpose-led and representing the diverse community that we serve,” Amin explained. “We are one of only four publicly traded companies (out of 4,200) in the U.S. with a Board of Directors that is two-thirds women and one-third diverse. We strive to do the right thing for people, the planet, and our furry and finned friends. We lean into our superpowers of bringing premium quality products at accessible prices that are clean, vegan, cruelty free and Fair Trade-certified.”

Lauren Guthrie, Vice President of Global Talent and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action (IDEA) at the VF Corp., also noted that consumers are key, and that ESG, “is a powerful tool to drive corporate mobilization in support of the greatest challenges facing our planet and global societies. However, for us to drive towards real and sustained solutions, consumers need to continue to vote with their dollars and support companies who are not only talking about the work, but consistently demonstrating their commitment through action.”

The honorees of the Most Influential ESG Leaders list will be honored at the second annual Retail Influencer CEO Forum Featuring The Z Suite on September 12. The full-day, invitation-only summit at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel will unite Gen Z leaders and influencers with retail and brand executives to help the industry unlock the Gen Z consumer mindset.

This year, the forum’s programming will center on the theme of “Courageous Leadership Paving the Way for Real Change” and featured speakers will include CEOs, ZEOs and senior executives who are leading with conviction and connecting deeply with Gen Zers along the way.

“This forum is a unique opportunity to uncover what Gen Z truly values and how brand leaders are building strategies to meet them where they are,” said Stacy Berns, President and Founder of Berns Communications Group. “We believe that by bringing together these influential voices, we can drive positive change, foster innovation, and shape more sustainable, inclusive, and responsible business practices.”

The selected individuals have demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to driving positive change across environmental, social, and governance practices. Their innovative strategies and commitment to ESG principles have set new benchmarks for corporate responsibility within their respective sectors.

These leaders have been selected by a distinguished panel of experts from WWD, the Retail Influencer Network, The Z Suite, and The DealmakeHers for their outstanding contributions to fostering sustainable practices and making a significant impact on the ESG landscape.

ESG practices have gained paramount importance in the business world today. Organizations that prioritize environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and ethical governance are not only contributing positively to society but are also demonstrating resilience and a forward-looking approach. As consumers, investors, and stakeholders increasingly demand transparency and accountability, businesses that integrate ESG principles into their operations stand to build lasting trust and create a more sustainable future.

Here are the year’s most influential ESG leaders:

Keelin Evans, Vice President of Sustainability at Macy’s

Saad Amer, Founder and CEO of Justice Environment

Jake Bjorseth, CEO, Trndsttrs

Emily Gittins, CEO and Co-Founder, Archive

Serena Advani, Founder, Seadrop Skincare

Karly Gramlich, Founder and CEO, Upper District

Maya Penn, Founder and CEO, Maya’s Ideas LLC

Marci Zaroff, Founder and CEO, Ecofashion Corp.

Lisa Morales-Hellebo, CEO and Co-Founder, REFASHIOND OS

Mike Natenshon, Founder and CEO, Marine Layer

Suvi-Elina Enqvist, Head of Innovation, Marimekko

Kerry Docherty, Chief Impact Officer, Faherty

Kathleen McLaughlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Walmart Inc.; President, Walmart Foundation, Walmart

William (Bill) Caldwell, Chief Development Officer, EDENS

Dafna Mizrahi, CEO, Curamia

Logan Duran, Vice President of ESG & Sustainability, Tapestry

Michelle Tarry, Vice President – Responsible Sourcing & Sustainability, American Eagle Outfitters (AEO)

James Reinhart, CEO, thredUP

Shawn Outler, Chief DEI Officer at Macy’s

Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO, TO THE MARKET

Amy Shecter, Chief Executive Officer, Ever/Body

Harley Preston, Activist, Model, Marketer, Agent of Change

Nadya Okamoto, CEO and Co-founder, August

Amy Fisher, CEO, LOLA

Nicole Leinbach, Founder, Retail Minded

Bahja Johnson, Head of Equality and Belonging | Color Proud Council Co-Founder, Gap Inc.

Tarang Amin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, e.l.f. Beauty

Lauren Guthrie, Vice President of Global Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action, VF Corp.

Alice Kim, Founder and CEO, PerfectDD

Kristen Gonzalez, New York State Senator

Sophia Kianni

Phoebe Gates

Ziad Ahmed, JUV Consulting

Cara Smyth, Accenture


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