A longtime environmentalist, Paul Zofnass (MBA 1973) founded the Environmental Financial Consulting Group (EFCG) in 1990, after 17 years in finance at Citibank and at Oppenheimer (where he was managing director of investment banking). EFCG provides financial and strategic advice to the environmental and transportation engineering and consulting industry.
Perhaps just as important for Zofnass, EFCG allows him to “merge my vocational interests with my avocational passions, particularly with regard to the environment and conservation.” Those “off-duty” passions have spurred him, among other accomplishments, to spearhead the creation of a 250-acre nature preserve (with a 10-mile walking trail) in Pound Ridge, New York; initiate and finance the identification of, and publish a brochure about, all trees, shrubs, and plantings around the Central Park Reservoir; fund a permanent New England Forest Exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History; and establish an environmental scholarship at Harvard College, his undergraduate alma mater.
Another Zofnass project in the news recently is the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (HGSD). HGSD professor Spiro Pollalis serves as the program’s director and HGSD lecturer Andreas Georgoulias as its lead researcher, with faculty from across several other Harvard schools, including HBS, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard University Center on the Environment, making important contributions. In April, after four years of research, the Program released “Envision,” a rating system for major government infrastructure projects that helps define the sometimes-elusive term “sustainability” in quantifiable terms. As Zofnass explains, Envision is “based on the simple premise that you can’t improve something unless you have the means to measure it.”
Envision considers five key areas of large civic infrastructure projects, criteria that were developed in consultation with dozens of students and faculty from several different Harvard departments, as well as public officials and engineering firms. The criteria are: quality of life, leadership, resources allocation, natural world, and climate and risk. It’s a rare project that can score high in all these categories but Envision offers a way to assess the impact of a project in a big-picture yet pragmatic way. The three primary US engineering professional organizations have adopted the system, and some 100 city, state, and regional authorities have visited the Program at Harvard to learn more. After it played a key facilitating role at a March White House conference on environmental quality that convened engineering firms and federal procurement officials, both the Defense Department and the EPA approached the Zofnass Program to learn more about Envision.
Zofnass Program director Pollalis has called it a model for collaboration within Harvard and beyond. The initiative’s interdisciplinary approach has benefited from the input of some 30 faculty experts from the participating Harvard schools, with dozens of graduate students pitching in as well. From HBS, faculty who have contributed to the program’s success include University Professor Rebecca Henderson, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, John Macomber, and Amy Edmondson.
For his part, Zofnass views the Program’s achievements as “an example of the good things that HBS is providing in the world, and an excellent example of how HBS alumni can work with their alma mater to promote and advance worthy societal goals.”