Jacqueline Corbelli: Warrior for Social Change, Mother, and Media + Tech Entrepreneur
By Layla Kanaan
A few weeks ago I sat down with tech entrepreneur and CEO Jacqueline Corbelli to discuss her experience in the fields of business and technology. Corbelli is the CEO, Founder, and Chairman of BrightLine, a company focused on creating “advanced TV”, as well as the CEO and Founder of the US Coalition on Sustainability. Throughout her lengthy experience in the world of business, Corbelli has strived to be a “part of the solution” in everything she has done.
L: To start, tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Jacqueline Corbelli and I’m a mom, media and tech entrepreneur, sustainability and social change warrior, runner, golfer, art and theater lover, film producer, and painter. I’m CEO, Founder and Chairman of BrightLine, as well as CEO and Founder of a nonprofit organization called the US Coalition on Sustainability.
L: How did you get to where you are now? What has your career trajectory been like?
I’ve spent my entire career operating at the intersection of business, technology and change management. I spent over a decade leading corporate-wide change management efforts in the financial services industry, followed by two decades building my technology company, BrightLine, the market leader for connected TV ad solutions.
I’ve always had a passion for approaching life as a piece of art, created over time, guided by my truth. At some point in my career, I felt compelled to re-engage with my calling to be “part of the solution.” I was deeply inspired by Jeffrey Sachs’ book, The End of Poverty, which was the first time I came to know about the Millennium Villages Project, an integrated economic development program designed to address extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Jeff’s conviction around breaking the cycle of poverty through a top-down and bottom-up approach literally mirrored my personal experiences and prior successes with tackling the challenge of driving holistic and highly complex organizational change in the private sector.
Through a series of fortunate events, I had the opportunity to work side by side with Jeff and eventually had the privilege of overseeing the Millennium Villages Project during its final five years of implementation (2011-2016). Through this work I developed a ground-level understanding of the vast complexities involved in effecting world change – and directly observed the basic disconnect that exists between what those considered leaders on the world stage were asking of the private sector to change its ways and businesses’ lack of clarity on how to translate that operationally in order to deliver those outcomes.
Altogether, these experiences created the impetus for me to create the US Coalition on Sustainability and SustainChain.
L: What inspired you to create the US Coalition on Sustainability?
Through the Millennium Villages Project, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet Amina Mohammed, who is now Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Having both worked in the private sector and spent time together in the trenches of African development, we connected on the necessary ingredients to creating a more economically and just world, especially the essential role of business in being a force for good.
As someone who has been operating at the intersection of business, technology and change management for decades, I realized the “template” already exists to create a capability for the private sector to accelerate their progress on sustainable development. At the urging of Jennifer Gross and the Blue Chip Foundation, Amina, Jeff and others, I created the US Coalition on Sustainability and SustainChain™.
Built during the height of the global pandemic and launched in 2021, SustainChain uses advanced digital technologies to bring together the innovation, investment, and public-private sector alliances needed to rebuild business supply chains and achieve sustainability.
L: What do you see as the role of the private sector/businesses in sustainability?
It’s easy to blame the private sector as the biggest part of the problem. But I believe there’s a powerful way that businesses can come together based on a common desire to contribute to the solution, and a different clarity on ‘how’ to do so.
As we continue to see unprecedented growth in organizations that are making sustainability a priority, there needs to be a neutral place where the integration of dialogue and action can occur outside the day-to-day silos. That’s what SustainChain is all about.
In just a year since its launch, more than 1,200 users have joined SustainChain, which validates our core hypothesis: that organizations need and value access to each other, relevant opportunities to combine or learn from other initiatives, new partners, and innovative solutions that can further their individual and our collective progress.
L: What do you think is the role of technology to drive change across supply chains?
J: We’re continuing to see the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across consumer and industrial applications – things like electric vehicles, smart cities, agricultural production and so much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
At the US Coalition on Sustainability, we’re harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to unite sustainability efforts across industries, sectors, and organizations of all types and sizes. What if these players had instant visibility into the actions, products, solutions, and partners best aligned with their priorities and goals? The technology behind SustainChain enables us to do just that. In short, it creates a ‘smart’ automated way to go farther, faster, together.
L: What are the keys to success for system-based change?
It’s about acknowledging and seeing that there’s an interconnected system to the way things work, which means it can be modified. Like all big and complicated things that need to be solved, it starts with breaking down the system into individual components to then isolate the blockers to change – then focusing on not just ‘what’ is a blocker but also the process behind ‘how’ to neutralize or eliminate that blocker. SustainChain was designed to bring stakeholders of all types together and standardize key attributes (like industry, priority, role) to zero in on the blockages and use machine learning to help guide the ‘how’.
L: Why do you think it is important to give back?
What drives me – and what has driven me since I was young – is that the world can be made better if we’re intentional about how each of us can contribute our talents and skills toward changing what’s not working. I’ve figured out over these years that I have a knack for taking on big problems, allowing myself to believe I can improve them, and producing outcomes that are considered ‘additive’. I feel deeply that we receive blessings like this in order to give back.
L: What is a piece of advice you would give to your younger self and to Gen Z?
You can stay true to who you are while enduring what feels painful or against what you believe, for a time. Most of my biggest learnings have come from enduring some pain – for example, working long hours is unhealthy if we’re not conscious of how long we’re allowing ourselves to endure them, but hard work also equates to a commitment to mastery and building your practice. Growth comes with a little pain sometimes, so don’t reject it outright and actively reflect on what it gives you the opportunity to build upon.