Stephanie Ly is a strategic operator and social entrepreneur with a focus on cleantech. Seeking to broaden her knowledge in the ever-changing ESG (environmental, social, and governance) space, Ly has enrolled in the Certificate in ESG Strategy program with CESR for the spring 2024 semester. She received a scholarship from B:CIVIC, a Denver-based organization of ESG and CSR (corporate social responsibility) professionals that has been a partner in developing and promoting this certificate since it began in 2016. In a recent interview with Ly, she shared her motivations behind joining the ESG program, her work experiences, and the importance of ESG in a business setting.

Stephanie Ly: I’m currently on the path to changing my career. I was formerly Head of Impact for a clean-tech startup but my career has spanned the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors. Climate technology, specifically, has been the main focus of my career and I’ve been proud to help companies apply their innovative technologies for environmental and social good.

At the moment, I am actively transitioning into venture capital (VC). My hope is to be a driving force for portfolio growth and success as a platform lead. I see myself leveraging my experiences across Operations, Impact & ESG to category-defining companies during their growth journey, ensuring that the operational, strategic, and developmental needs of startups are met, beyond capital. I’m looking forward to taking my experience in the startup space and applying it to the founder space.

Stephanie Ly: First – I have a personal excitement to develop my expertise in the ESG landscape. It’s been awhile since I’ve been a student and I was looking forward to coming back to learning in a dynamic, but low-pressure environment that works for my working schedule. Second – winter in Colorado is an ideal time to invest in learning and development. Naturally, more time is spent indoors during the winter months so I’ve enjoyed dedicating this season to learning.

CESR: What were some of your deciding factors to enroll in this program?

Stephanie Ly: I met instructor Jennifer Forman at a UN sustainability event who first introduced me to the program. In addition, I have a colleague in the impact space who was an alumnus of the program and loved it. It has been on my radar for at least a year. This certificate is relevant to my career and it’s well-aligned with my learning preference as a remote-based program.

Stephanie Ly: For me, it’s the practical knowledge and skillsets around an evolving and often political landscape that is ESG. We need leaders and businesses to continue to pioneer the path forward in ESG. I want to be able to navigate headwinds in the industry and stay resilient, and an important part of it is to understand this complicated topic and speak intelligently on it.

Thought leadership is also an important aspect. I have been so impressed with the depth of inquiry from my classmates, their leadership in their respective industries, and the contagious optimism they bring to this space. They bring incredible expertise and passion to the class. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with my peers outside of structured class times through coffee chats in-person and virtually, and that’s been a tremendously important value-add from the course.

Stephanie Ly: I will always be an advocate for businesses to be a force multiplier for good. It’s not only the right thing to do, but ESG makes good business sense. It’s a powerful and useful framework to drive transparency, financial performance, reputation, branding, and so much more. It’s in everyone’s best interest to holistically care about business impact and ESG outcomes.

CESR: You received a scholarship from B:CIVIC to help with attendance for this program. What comments do you have regarding the importance of scholarships?

Stephanie Ly: I graduated with degrees in Environmental Science and Geography from UCLA on a full-ride scholarship, so I feel exceptionally grateful and privileged to have had my education funded. I have been fortunate and empowered to pursue academic and career opportunities because of the financial benefits of education funded by scholarships. The impact of scholarships are never lost on me, and I firmly believe that scholarships are a powerful vehicle to fuel systemic change for individuals and their communities, particularly for underrepresented groups.

CESR: Would you recommend this ESG Certificate Program? Why or why not?

Stephanie Ly: Yes! It’s not for everyone, but it is for anyone looking for holistic and engaging experiences built on practical knowledge. The format of the course is ideal for working professionals. The content is relevant, and the materials are fun and engaging to learn. My favorite part of this course is that each week features a guest speaker who is leading the way in the specific topic, whether that’s Social Impact, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEIB), B Corps, or Financial Reporting.

Another element of the class that I enjoy are the hands-on practical breakout activities. These mini business case studies have been an interactive way to engage with our peers and practice what we learn.

CESR provides a platform for those involved in sustainability or any professional to build upon previous experiences and education with programs such as the Certificate in ESG Strategy. Ly’s involvement in this course demonstrates the value of continued education, especially for working professionals.

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