Emily Schiller C'02, WG '09 Associate Director of Sustainablilty and Leadership at Wharton
Shortly after earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn, Emily was named Wharton’s Associate Director for Sustainability and Leadership in 2009. Since then, she has helped launch numerous successful sustainability initiatives within the Wharton School that are currently being replicated across campus. In addition to serving as an ex oficio board member of Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), Emily works with Wharton students, staff, faculty, and administrators to develop a comprehensive school sustainability program focused on operational eco-efficiency and behavior change.
She is a LEED Accredited Professional and recently finished conducting a comprehensive green building assessment of Jon M. Huntsman Hall for LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Mainentance (EB-OM) standards, with the goal of reducing the building’s environmental footprint dramatically. And that’s just half of her job; she also manages marketing and communications efforts for the Graduate and Undergraduate Leadership Programs and the Center for Leadership and Change Management.
Emily completed her MBA at Wharton in 2009 with a major in Environmental and Risk Management, focusing on corporate sustainability and entrepreneurship. While in school, she served as co-chair of the 2008 Net Impact North America Conference, helped develop Wharton’s Program for Social Impact, and interned with Intel’s Eco-Technology division to develop an end-user carbon footprint analysis for Intel products that helped indicate future trends and identify where overall reductions could be made. Read on for our interview with Emily and more on Wharton sustainability initiatives.
Read on for our interview with Emily:
OCG: A number of exciting sustainability initiatives are underway at Wharton… are there any upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about:
ES: I am really excited to move into the implementation phase of the LEED-based energy reduction project at Huntsman Hall. We’ve been working on this project now for about a year and a half and are expecting things to really move forward quickly in the next six months. We are almost ready to officially announce the project details so stay tuned for the release!
OCG: Having been both a Penn undergrad and graduate student, what’s it like to now be employed by the University? Do you have a different perspective of campus sustainability initiatives?
ES: Sustainability at Penn has come so far since I was an undergrad. As an employee now I can see how deep into the organization the commitment to sustainability runs, and how many people have to be actively engaged in the process to really make big changes. I love being a part of this work at Penn at a time when we are moving so quickly. Pilots turn into projects and become institutionalized so fast! It’s an exciting time.
OCG: What aspect of environmental sustainability do Wharton students, faculty, and staff seem to be most enthusiastic about?
ES: I think the simplest thing to relate to as a stakeholder is always recycling and waste diversion. It’s tangible and visible so it’s easy to be excited about it. We’ve also seen a real uptick in interest in green cleaning, environmental design for building renovations and business aspects of sustainability. I have a lot of student interest in learning to calculate both financial and environmental return on investment for sustainability projects. This type of data-driven, life cycle costing of projects has made it so much easier for us to understand the potential impacts and savings of new ideas.
OCG: Many of the projects you’ve launched at Wharton are waste reduction and recycling intiatives... Would you consider yourself a RecycleManiac?
ES: Absolutely. In addition to being important for the environment, waste reduction and recycling initiatives are some of the best ways to engage stakeholders. They are visible, high-impact projects that require individual support and action. As Wharton works to improve our environmental footprint, it’s incredibly important to mobilize students, staff, faculty, alumni, housekeepers, trustees and everyone else that is a part of our community. That kind of activation will help us move forward on all kinds of other sustainability projects.
OCG: Did you spend any time in the working world before pursuing your MBA?
ES: Prior to the MBA, I spent 5 years running a consumer heating oil cooperative here in Philadelphia. It was a for-profit company owned by a large environmental and consumer advocacy non-profit, so I consider my career back then to be all about social enterprise. I negotiated cheaper prices on home heating oil for low-income consumers and senior citizens across the region, and served as a lobbyist and advocate for low-income energy assistance at the local, state and federal levels. For so many families in Philadelphia, it is a struggle to just keep the heat on in the winter and very little assistance is available. So few people are aware of what’s going on out there.
I also ran summer canvass offices for PennEnvironment. I think we raised over half a million dollars in two summers to protect open spaces in Philadelphia, just by knocking on doors. It was a pretty incredible experience.
OCG: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in sustainability?
ES: Running a small business, participating in environmental lobbying and going to Wharton really helped me flesh out exactly how I wanted to pursue this career. I believe there are better ways to do business that minimize (or eliminate) environmental impact, build up communities and are more profitable in the long term, so to me, the most important thing I can be doing is helping companies and organizations make that transition.
OCG: How many Joe’s Café frequent coffee customer cards have you gone through already?
ES: Now that would be a waste of paper… In all seriousness, I love Joe’s Café. It’s this open, sunny, relaxed space and they make a fantastic latte. Also, coffee is only a dollar (Buck-a-Brew) when you BYOM (bring your own mug)!
OCG: What are some of your hobbies when you’re not greening the Wharton School?
ES: When I’m not greening Wharton or managing marketing for the Wharton Leadership Program, which is the other half of my job, I am usually hanging out with my partner, Ken, and our three trouble-making rescue mutts in Kensington.
OCG: Word on the street is that you recently got engaged (congratulations!)… Is the ring eco-friendly?
ES: Thanks for the public announcement, On College Green! Yes, the ring is a total reflection of our values: minimizing environmental impact, supporting independent artists, and a little off the beaten path.
Each issue, we recognize a member of the Penn community for his or her environmental sustainability efforts on campus. If you know someone at Penn who is "leading the green," let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.