Organized by our managing director Jabril Bensedrine, in his capacity as Vice-President of Professional Development of the Haas – Berkeley Alumni Chapter in NYC, this event brought together a high-powered panel at Cornerstone Capital on July 19th.

55 people total (full room) interacted with our host Erika Karp (CEO of Cornerstone, also advisor to the UN Global Compact, member of the World Economic Forum, Advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative; formerly managing director and head of Global Sector Research at UBS Investment Bank); United Nations officers, the Founder of AssetMark ($25 billion in assets)… Triana Group’s role in organizing this panel also included masterful orchestration and moderation by Deborah Stern (Senior Advisor to The Triana Group) and end-to-end support from Valerie Salmon (Junior Analyst, The Triana Group). This panel reflects one of our practice areas, aiming at facilitating the global expansion of innovative solution providers in the sustainability space.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 ambitious global goals adopted by all member countries of the United Nations. They represent a vision and collective action plan for a better world – from ending severe poverty, to achieving gender equality, and making significant gains in conservation and environmental sustainability by 2030. Catalyzed and led by the United Nations, it requires a true public-private effort.

In this workshop, participants heard from among the world’s institutional, business and financial leaders in this grand undertaking, including from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — the lead UN agency responsible for partnering with governments, businesses, and individuals around the globe to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As innovation is key to achieving breakthrough solutions for humanity’s vexing challenges, we explored the role of innovation – and approaches to investing in innovation – occurring now in business/financial markets, philanthropy, and social and environmental organizations including the UN.


  • Ron Cordes, Co-Founder, Cordes Foundation; Executive Co-Chairman, AssetMark; Haas School of Business Alum
  • Nik Sekhran, Chief of Profession, Sustainable Development Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP
  • Deborah Stern (Moderator), Founding Principal, 2020 Strategies, LLC; Haas School of Business Alumna
  • Benjamin Kumpf, Innovation Policy Specialist, UNDP Innovation Facility Team
  • John Wilson, Head of Corporate Governance, Engagement & Research, Cornerstone Capital Group


  • Ron Cordes, Co-Founder, Cordes Foundation; Executive Co-Chairman, AssetMark; Haas School of Business Alum.
    An investment industry veteran of 30+ years, Ron co-founded AssetMark Investment Services and is currently Executive Co-Chairman of AssetMark with more than $25 billion of assets under management. He is a co-author of “The Art of Investing & Portfolio Management” and was recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005. Ron and his wife, Marty, co-founded the Cordes Foundation to advance market-based solutions addressing the world’s most challenging problems. He speaks on impact investing and managing an encore career and has been profiled in Fast Company, Forbes, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning and Private Wealth Management. Ron chairs the Executive Committee for ImpactAssets, a nonprofit financial services company, and is also co-chair of the Opportunity Collaboration. In addition, Ron chairs the board of Fair Trade USA and serves as a board member of MicroVest Holdings.
  • Nik Sekhran, Chief of Profession, Sustainable Development Bureau for Policy and Programme, UNDP.
    Nik directs and oversees UNDP’s global work on development planning, inclusive sustainable growth, livelihoods and economic recovery, environment and natural resources management. Over the past 22 years, Mr. Sekhran has dedicated his career to spearheading sustainable development, working on-the-ground in over 40 countries across the world. His particular experience in development and natural resources management has included the provision of policy advice and programme support to governments to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, including fish stocks, forest resources and minerals, the conservation of biodiversity and measures to ensure that economic development is planned and managed to optimize sustainable and inclusive growth prospects and to uplift the livelihoods of the poor. He also has a strong track record in the governance arena, working to improve transparency in decision making, accountability and institutional effectiveness in public administrations. Nik holds degrees in Economics from the Universities of Bath and Cambridge in England. Prior to his present post, Nik was Head of the USD 1.5 billion UNDP Ecosystems and Biodiversity Programme.
  • Deborah Stern (Moderator), Founding Principal, 2020 Strategies, LLC; Haas School of Business Alumna
    2020 Strategies is a consulting and venture development firm dedicated to building capacity to achieve a sustainable world. The firm serves businesses, NGOs, philanthropies and impact investors – through business development, fundraising, and multi-stakeholder/collective impact strategies. Ms. Stern is currently a Senior Advisor to The Triana Group, Inc. and to Tennaxia, focused on growing the firm’s service to North American-based global companies; and most recently led the development of philanthropic major gifts and impact investments for Pro Mujer to expand its mission of serving low-income women in Latin America.
    Deborah’s 25+ years professional track record in the social impact sector includes creating business development or financing campaigns of up to $100M; securing commitments of up to $25Million – with missions ranging from energy efficiency to the historic South Africa Free Elections Fund, to international women’s development & microfinance, affordable housing, community development, arts, education and health. She is also the visionary catalyst of the C2020 Initiative, a social enterprise strategy for accelerating capital and commitment to achieve a sustainable world. Ms. Stern earned an MBA from Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, and a BA from Beloit College.
  • Benjamin Kumpf, Innovation Policy Specialist, The UNDP Innovation Facility. For UNDP, innovation for development means using the most up-to-date concepts and means available to achieve change. It is about finding better ways to create impact for people and the planet, to strengthen resilience and build more inclusive societies. In 2014, UNDP launched the Innovation Facility as a dedicated funding mechanism that nurtures promising development interventions on the ground. A diverse global team based in Addis Ababa, Amman, Bangkok, Istanbul, New York and Panama City scans the horizon to identify promising approaches and technologies used by the private and public sector. The Innovation Facility takes a portfolio approach to compare the effectiveness of promising concepts, promotes calculated risk-taking to learn and identify effective ways of designing solutions around the needs of the people and communities affected by development challenges. Benjamin is working on social innovation for the United Nations Development Program in New York, exploring new and emerging data for development, behavioral insights, lean and agile development and other extraordinary topics to change business as usual. Over the last ten years, Benjamin has worked in Rwanda, India and Nepal for the German Development Cooperation and in Jordan on UNDP’s Syria crisis response. He holds a Masters in Psychology and in Political Science from the University of Heidelberg.
  • John Wilson, Head of Corporate Governance, Engagement & Research, Cornerstone Capital Group. The mission of Cornerstone Capital is to apply the principles of sustainable finance across the capital markets enhancing transparency and collaboration. In offering investment banking, investment management and strategic consulting services, Cornerstone works with both corporations and financial institutions, promoting new research in the field of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) analysis, and facilitating capital introductions for companies around the world engaged in sustainable business practices. John has over 18 years of experience in socially responsible investing and corporate governance. He was Director of Corporate Governance for TIAA-CREF, the largest private pension system in the United States with assets under management of over $500 billion. In this role, he oversaw the voting of proxies at CREF’s 8,000 portfolio companies and engaged in dialogue with corporate boards and management to promote sustainability and good corporate governance. He also writes and presents widely about the relevance of social responsibility to investment performance for academic, corporate and investor audiences. Prior to joining TIAA-CREF in early 2008, John served as Director of Socially Responsible Investing for Christian Brothers Investment Services, an investment advisor to Catholic institutions. In that role, he led the company’s shareholder advocacy, social screening, and proxy voting functions as well as participating in the company’s outreach to religious communities around the United States. An Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia Business School, John is also a member of the Advisory Council to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. He is a past Vice-Chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and was a founding advisory committee member of the International SRI Working Group, a think tank serving social investing professionals. John has also served on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Human Rights Working Group and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment Clearinghouse Steering Committee. He has an MBA and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a BA in English from Georgetown University.

Interested in exploring how our global solution providers can help your organization leverage innovative sustainability strategies? Contact The Triana Group to schedule an introductory conversation!


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