Sustainable Business Breakfast
Friday April 29th | The Fairmont Pittsburgh | 8:00 AM
In honor of Arbor Day, Pittsburgh Earth Day hosted the Seventh Annual Sustainable Business Breakfast Presented by Evoqua at the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel. On Friday, April 29th from 8 AM – 10 AM, event attendees enjoyed a continental breakfast while hearing from a panel of local sustainability leaders and experts.
Moderated by S & B USA Director of Environmental Social Governance and Innovation, Grant Ervin, the panel discussion covered topics that ranged from both large and small, covering why ESG is so important, how a business is determining Key indicators, how Good Environmental Governess Leads to Good Business, and more.
This year’s panelists included David Huffaker, Chief Development Officer at Port Authority, Christine Waller, Vice President of Communications; ESG; and Corporate Giving at Duquesne Light, Taki Darakos, Vice President of Vehicle Maintenance and Fleet Services at PITT OHIO, Julia Saintz, Sustainability Manager at Evoqua, Dana Fischer, Manager of Utilities and Electrification for the East Coast at Mitsubishi Electric, Ray Prushnok, AVP, Program Development & Executive Director, Center for Social Impact at UPMC Health Plan, Nisha Blackwell, Entrepreneur and Chief Creative Officer of Knotzland Bowties, Joe Dowd, VP of Zero Harm at Koppers, Chris Gassman, Associate Director at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sustainable Business, and Dan Donovan, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Giant Eagle, Inc.
Our Featured Event Artist was Brad Bianchi. Brad is a reuse artist and furniture maker. Since childhood, Brad has been collecting objects found throughout Pittsburgh’s urban streams, wooded hillsides, and city streets. Brad's work can be found in many spots around the city and has been on display at Pittsburgh Winery since its inception.
Moderated by Grant Ervin, Director of Environmental Social Governance and Innovation for Shikun and Binui USA Construction (S&B USA Construction)
Grant Ervin currently serves as the Director of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and Innovation for S&B USA, an infrastructure integration firm based in Pittsburgh, Pa that specializes in civil construction solutions in the energy, transportation, ports and waterways and vehicle electrification space. Grant serves as an integrator of activities by working across departments, agencies and sectors to form public policy and market-based solutions. He brings deep experience, intersecting the worlds of environmental, community and economic development and infrastructure policy to create innovative and sustainable solutions for local governments, private sector clients, community development organizations and state agencies.
Prior to joining S&B USA, Mr. Ervin served as the Chief Resilience Officer and Assistant Director for the Department of City Planning for the City of Pittsburgh. Grant’s responsibilities were the integration of environmental, social, and good governance procedures into City services, programs, and policy. His work focused on making the City of Pittsburgh a smart, sustainable and resilient city through fostering partnerships, leveraging assets, and finding creative ways to solve civic problems.
Taki Darakos, Vice President of Vehicle Maintenance and Fleet Services at PITT OHIO
Taki Darakos joined Pitt Ohio in 2019 as the Vice President of Vehicle Maintenance and Fleet Services. He and his team are responsible for supporting PITT OHIO in all fleet related equipment activities. These include managing the fleet life cycle from specification, procurement, maintenance, and licensing through disposal. Mr. Darakos has been in the transportation industry for 21 years. Mr. Darakos earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a veteran of the US Army and a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh. He is a member and active participant of the American Trucking Association (ATA) Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) and serves on the board of The Education Partnership.
Julia Saintz, Sustainability Manager at Evoqua
Julia Saintz is a systems thinker with a passion for making positive change within organizations. She has helped universities, government, non-profit, and corporate drive meaningful change across environmental and social targets. Julia holds a BS in Geoenvironmental Studies, BA in History, and a Master's in Sustainability Studies. Julia is the Sustainability Manager at Evoqua Water Technologies, headquartered in Pittsburgh, where she is supporting the business to be more sustainable from supply chain to the Board, assisting investor relations, green financing, customers' requests for sustainability, and more.
David Huffaker, Chief Development Officer at Port Authority
Chief Development Officer David Huffaker joined Port Authority in September 2018 after 15 years at Sound Transit in Seattle. David oversees the Engineering and Technical Support functions, long range Planning, Scheduling, Contracted Services (ACCESS) and the Transit Oriented Communities and Sustainability Programs. During his time at Sound Transit, David progressed from financial analyst to deputy executive director of operations and support services. Prior to his tenure at Sound Transit, David held positions at Price Waterhouse in Chicago, the Port of Seattle and Microsoft. David received a Bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University, a Master's degree from the University of Washington, and is a Certified Public Accountant. David was a member of the Leadership APTA class of 2014 and participates on several APTA committees. He was also a member of the Eno Transit Senior Executive Class of 2018.
Nisha Blackwell, Entrepreneur and Chief Creative Officer of Knotzland Bowties
Nisha Blackwell is a purpose-driven Entrepreneur and Chief Creative Officer of Knotzland Bowties, an environmentally and socially sustainable company that sources, rescues, and repurposes discarded textiles into stylish bow ties intentionally made by providing flexible work from home sewing opportunities to people around the region.
Since 2015, Knotzland has rescued close to 7,000lbs of textiles and materials from entering landfills and has cultivated a community of investors, mentors, and loyal customers through participation in Pittsburgh’s bustling ecosystem of high-impact creative hubs, accelerators, and business incubators in the city and abroad. This community has allowed her to shape a business that not only provides some of the most unique one of a kinds wearables but also serves customers all over the world with four employees and a network of 29 work-from-home sewists.
Dana Fischer, Manager of Utilities and Electrification for the East Coast at Mitsubishi Electric
Dana Fischer has been with Mitsubishi Electric for 4 years engaging with everyone from individual homeowners to trade organizations to the US Secretary of Energy about the transformative power of cold-climate heat pumps. In the prior 7 years, he was the Program Manager of the Home Energy Savings Program at Efficiency Maine, helping craft award-winning residential rebate and loan programs for weatherization, conventional heating systems and heat pumps. He also has background in municipal finance, solar thermal and ultra-high purity manufacturing, and microbrewing with education and training in Philosophy, Sociology, Business and Fermentation Science, but not all at once.
Christine Waller, Vice President of Communications; ESG; and Corporate Giving at Duquesne Light
Before joining DLC, Christine Waller was the head of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at Viatris, a multi-billion-dollar, Pittsburgh-area pharmaceutical company. While there, she launched the organization’s CSR strategy, which focused on strengthening Viatris’ positive social impact through reporting transparency; ESG goal setting and rankings performance oversight; and stakeholder engagement. Prior to that, Waller led the Global Communications team at Mylan and oversaw the transformation of its internal and external communication strategy to align with the company’s long-term financial and operational objectives. A Pittsburgh native, Waller has a bachelor’s degree in English and communication and a master’s in public and international affairs, both from the University of Pittsburgh. She is also fluent in Spanish and spent several years as a national news correspondent for a leading broadcast network in Mexico.
Ray Prushnok, AVP, Program Development & Executive Director, Center for Social Impact at UPMC Health Plan
Ray currently leads UPMC Health Plan’s Center for Social Impact, an office charged with implementing programs that meet social needs which impact health, quality, and cost. The Center’s work is currently focused on employment, housing, and collaboration with human services and community-based organizations. Previously, Ray led the proposal, implementation, and operations for UPMC Community HealthChoices, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Managed Care for dual eligibles and people with long-term services and supports. Prior, he had responsibility for Medicare and D-SNP product strategy, finance, and analytics. Before joining UPMC Health Plan, Ray served in various capacities at the Pennsylvania Department of Aging from 2005 to 2011 including acting Secretary, Deputy Secretary with oversight of Policy, Finance, and Quality, and as Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Prior to his work in Harrisburg, Ray worked as a consumer advocate for New Mexico Public Interest Research Group in Albuquerque, NM. Ray has a bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations from Bucknell University.
Joseph P. Dowd is Vice President of Zero Harm at Koppers. where he is chiefly responsible for driving the organization’s Zero Harm culture, which places the care of employees, communities and environment as its highest priority. In this role, he oversees the company’s global Safety, Health, Environmental and Information Technology (IT) functions. Joe joined Koppers in 2012 as Vice President, North American Carbon Materials and Chemicals and was subsequently promoted to Vice President of Safety, Health Environmental and Process Excellence in 2016. Before joining the company, Joe served as Vice President and General Manager, North American Recycling for Exide Technologies, Inc. and held the position of Global President and Chief Operating Officer with Silberline Manufacturing. He was also employed with BASF Corporation for sixteen years in various positions of increasing responsibility. Joe earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz School of Business. He is the past President and former board member for the JDRF Western Pennsylvania Chapter.
Chris Gassman, Associate Director at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sustainable Business
Chris Gassman is the Associate Director of the Center for Sustainable Business, a leading business strategy collaboration hub at the University of Pittsburgh, partnering with companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and PPG, as well as thought leaders like Lisa Ross and Paul Polman. Chris previously worked as the Chief Commercialization Officer of a service-disabled veteran-owned small business tackling climate, modern slavery, and innovation. He is a social intrapreneur with a decade of experience across the U.S., Egypt, Germany, China, and beyond, helping companies thrive. He hosts interviews with CEOs about doing well by doing good on The Market And The Good Podcast. His 5-year BHAG: Help generate $1T in Revenue by making the world a thriving place for all.
Chris earned his MBA / JD joint degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He received his BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a double major in International Affairs and Political Science.
Dan Donovan, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Giant Eagle, Inc.
Dan Donovan is responsible for Giant Eagle’s public-facing communications and community efforts, inclusive of all media relations, sports marketing, and corporate social responsibility work. Donovan leads the strategic alignment of Giant Eagle’s four CSR pillars of food insecurity, safety, social justice and environmental sustainability. He acts as a key partner to each CSR center of excellence to ensure that the company’s efforts are woven into one cohesive narrative for internal and external stakeholders, including Giant Eagle Team Members, Guests, community partners and others.
Donovan has been a proud Giant Eagle Team Member for more than 15 years. He earned degrees from both Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh and today he resides in the Pittsburgh area with his wife and four children.
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