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Oelwang to lead inaugural Susman Sustainability Leadership Award Speaker Series panel

April 19, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jean Oelwang, the founding CEO and president of Virgin Unite and a member of the Penn State Smeal College of Business Board of Visitors, will lead a panel discussion in the inaugural Susman Sustainability Leadership Award Speaker Series at noon Wednesday. 

The discussion, titled “Collective Courage: A Talk on Changing Business for Good,” will be held virtually via Zoom. Attendees are asked to register online

Oelwang, a 1987 Smeal marketing alumna, is the first recipient of the Gerald I. Susman Sustainability Leadership Award. The award recognizes alumni and friends who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the advancement of sustainable business strategy, management and practice. Their achievements should support Smeal’s strategic pillar of accelerating the integration of sustainability in business. 

Joining Oelwang in the discussion about how to make business a force for good for people and the planet will be Erin Meezan, chief sustainability officer at Interface and Jochen Zeitz, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson. 

For the past 17 years, Oelwang has worked with partners to lead the incubation and start up of a host of global initiatives, including: The Elders, The B Team, The Carbon War Room (successfully merged with the RMI), Ocean Unite, The Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator, 100% Human at Work, The Virgin Unite Constellation and The Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship.  She also played a key partner role in the incubation of many other initiatives such as The Audacious Project, The Africa Donor Collective and The New Now. 

Meezan led the company to unveil a new mission in 2016, Climate Take Back, tackling global warming. Interface is a global commercial flooring company and a pioneer in sustainable business. It has evolved its thinking from doing less harm to creating positive impacts, for Interface, the flooring industry and the world at large. The company has met a goal it first stated in 1994, to eliminate negative impact on the environment, delivering on its Mission Zero® commitment, in part by becoming the first global flooring manufacturer to sell all products as carbon neutral across their full life cycle. 

Zeitz has served as a board member of Harley-Davidson since 2007 and established the company’s Brand and Sustainability Committee. Prior to that he spent six years at Kering, a Paris-based multinational corporation that specializes in luxury goods. At Kering he served as director of the board, chair of the Sustainable Development Committee and chief sustainability officer. In 1993, at the age of 30, he was named CEO of Puma, making him the youngest CEO of a German company at the time. Over the next 19 years he turned the near-bankrupt company into one of the world’s top three sports brands.

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