State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Alumni Spotlight: Marly Isler

 

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Marly Isler graduated from Columbia’s M.S. in Sustainability Management program in 2020. Now she works at Johnson and Johnson, implementing socially and environmentally responsible strategies.

Marly Isler serves as the worldwide manager of enterprise ESG strategy and reporting at Johnson & Johnson. In this role, she supports the implementation of enterprise-wide environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy to accelerate J&J’s Health for Humanity goals.

Isler completed her master’s in sustainability management (SUMA) at Columbia University in 2020. Prior to her graduate studies, she managed the sustainability program of Latham & Watkins law firm, developing corporate strategies around procurement practices and implementing energy-efficiency initiatives across 33 offices. She received a B.A. from Yale University in 2016. In her spare time, she competitively sails and won the 2021 IC37 North American Championship.

What drew you to apply and choose the SUMA program?

While working as the sustainability program coordinator at Latham & Watkins law firm, I frequently crossed paths with graduates of the SUMA program. It piqued my interest that Columbia University offered a full master’s program uniquely dedicated to the study of sustainability from a managerial perspective. I knew I wanted to make a more meaningful impact in the field of sustainability, and the SUMA program was a way to refine the technical skills required to achieve this goal.

What were some of the highlights from your time in the SUMA Program?

Through the SUMA program, I developed a wider base of knowledge in corporate sustainability. I took classes on financial analysis and product lifecycle research and was consistently surprised by the breadth of graduate coursework offered each semester. A highlight of the program was connecting with fellow students who were intellectually curious and challenged me to think critically about corporate environmentalism.

Do you have any advice for current or incoming students?

As students of climate science, there’s a historic obligation to respond boldly, creatively, and meaningfully to build a more sustainable and vibrant future (no pressure!). I think it’s crucial to incorporate environmental justice and social sustainability into the narrative as much as possible. No matter what area of sustainability management you ultimately focus on, I recommend continually applying an intersectional lens to your research and work.

On a more personal note, I highly advise students to get involved in the multitude of clubs and student groups on Columbia’s campus. I served as president of SUMA’s Women & Sustainability club, and I still keep in touch with many fellow members.

What are some of the projects that you have worked on after graduating?

Immediately after my master’s graduation, I worked in corporate sustainability consulting, initially for Storyroot, a firm whose founder was also a SUMA graduate, and later for HXE Partners. In these consulting roles, I aided the incorporation of ESG strategy at companies in the consumer goods, real estate, financial services, and technology sectors. I recently transitioned from sustainability consulting to an in-house role on Johnson & Johnson’s ESG strategy and reporting team. I look forward to applying my SUMA program coursework to goal setting and ESG disclosures at J&J.

How has the program been applicable to your work? What is a project that you are excited to be working on and why?

In my ESG strategy work to advance Johnson & Johnson’s Health for Humanity 2025 Goals, I’m reminded of professor Celine Ruben-Salama’s course, Corporate Sustainability: Reporting and Strategy, and learning about the importance of corporate stakeholder engagement and shared value creation. J&J’s credo, published initially in 1943, serves as the company’s moral compass, addressing “corporate social responsibility” well before that term became widely used. I’m incredibly inspired and feel privileged to be working at a company with a strong commitment to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.

What did you find most meaningful about your time at SUMA?

As professor George Sarrinikolaou mentioned in the course Introduction to Sustainability Management, “Sustainability is a process, not an endpoint.” That mindset, that there’s always a conceivable improvement to be found, was continually touched on during my time at SUMA and is something I try to apply to my current work. Amidst daunting global climate change predictions, any one of us can spark an advancement that makes a positive impact.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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