Daniella Russo
McCone Building
(831) 647-4155

Daniella Dimitrova Russo is the CEO and Founder of Think Beyond Plastictm, an innovation accelerator with focus on plastic pollution. Daniella Russo believes that intractable global challenges can be addressed by harnessing the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the power of the markets to do good. Since 2009, she has led the development of an innovation eco-system to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and public health, with special focus on ocean plastic. Daniella Russo is a serial entrepreneur: Her experience includes executive management of businesses from start-up phase through an IPO, as well as within Fortune-500 companies such as Frame Technology, Infoseek, Sun Microsystems, and Xerox PARC. Daniella Russo is a member of the Founders Board of Advisors at StartX Standford Student Startup Accelerator: She is an Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies Graduate Program in International Policy and Management. Daniella Russo co-founded and led Plastic Pollution Coalition to become world’s largest NGO dedicated uniquely to ending plastic pollution. She serves on the Board of numerous NGOs and Businesses.

Courses Taught

Course Description

Achieving the UN sustainable Development goals requires massive technological changes in energy, mobility, construction, housing and agriculture (to name a few). SDGs by 2030 open up 60 market “hot spots” worth $12 trillion in market opportunities, where business leaders can capture their share building new business models and developing and deploying disruptive technologies. Innovation is the engine that enables the transition towards a circular economy and supports the structural changes on the way towards sustainable development. A key driver of economic growth, innovation will fill the technology, design and business model gaps in the current value chain of multiple industries, to accelerate a transition into a circular system.

Meeting the innovation needs of sustainable development requires a thriving pipeline with hundreds, then thousands of innovators who compete, grow and outperform each other, gradually increasing in quality and breadth. In fact, “Business as usual will not achieve this market transformation. Nor will disruptive innovation by a few sustainable pioneers be enough to drive the shift: the whole sector has to move.” Support for such innovations requires a well-understood portfolio-management process in place to evaluate (adequacy, opportunity, risks and probability of success) and prioritize projects, access to capital that is aligned with the innovation stage and global policy support to create favourable economic conditions for growth. Investment capital and interest are both available, but what is lacking is the innovation pipeline. Given the slow pace of industry innovation, the engine for change will inevitably come from early stage innovators and entrepreneurs.

Business & Sustainable Development Commission, 2017

McKinsey&Company, 2013

Business & Sustainable Development Commission, 2017

UN Global Compact, 2019Plastic pollution is an economic, environmental, human health and aesthetic problem posing a multi-dimensional challenge to humanity, often compared to climate change in terms of impact, breadth and complexity.

A problem of this magnitude cannot be solved with a single linear policy or technological innovation. It needs a cohesive solutions eco-system supported by appropriate investment, economic policies creating an enabling environment and multi-governmental collaboration.

The sustainable development innovation eco-system is a complex dynamic system that depends on the healthy interactions of its multiple components – demand creation, fulfilment, investment and financial support, policy portfolios, and global growth and scale-up of implementations. A business -friendly landscape and fruitful collaboration between the private sector and governments is key.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2023 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

  • Marine plastics and pollution
  • Entrepreneurship for waste management solutions