Putting Purpose Into Action
June 28, 2021
Aligning companies’ purpose to public value is a top priority for today’s leaders. Consumers and global stakeholders across supply chains are now more informed and motivated to act on environmental, social and governance issues than ever before. Thus, simply paying lip service to issues of crucial public importance such as climate change, diversity and inclusion and technology for good is not enough. It is up to leadership teams within companies to transform positive intent and language into meaningful action.
This virtual roundtable convened a cross-section of C-suite leaders who all share a common purpose – to drive their businesses forward in the best possible public interest. These leaders discussed specific areas that their businesses are prioritizing, including greener policies and broader social inclusion, in order to give back to their colleagues, clients and communities.
- Claudio Facchin, CEO, Hitachi ABB Power Grids
- Alan Haywood, SVP ESG Transformation, BP
- Kara Helander, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Carlyle Group
- Catherine Lenson, Managing Partner, CHRO & Head of Social Impact, Softbank Vision Fund
- Alex Liu, Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board, Kearney
- Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen
- Jane Toogood, Sector Chief Executive, Efficient Natural Resources, Johnson Matthey
- Enrico Viale, Head of North America, Enel Group
MODERATOR: Sonali Basak, Financial Correspondent, Bloomberg
Click here to view the video of the full discussion.
The conversation opened with Alex Liu, Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board, Kearney, saying that there have been – particularly in the last year – higher expectations of leadership. “Our stakeholders are asking us what we stand for and how do we know that your belief system is true and authentic?” Liu stressed that tangible and concrete ideas that could translate into actions are still missing. “This is a purpose gap.” He continued to say to close this gap a business should ask a number of questions, including: How activist do you want to be?, How do we inspire the next generation of talent? and how we get the customer promise right? He also said that the theme of culture is very important: “As leaders, we need to care what our talent cares about – which are social issues – and it’s a challenge to know what the right boundaries are to lead but not to overstep as we are serving a broad community.”
On how to define purpose, Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen, said, “Purpose is our why and the reason for being.” She continued to say we shouldn’t wait for the purpose to come to us but rather we should be proactive, “Look around at the problems you want to solve and take a step towards it.” Novogratz also said that she felt hopeful as she could see that corporations want to partner not just with other businesses, but with social enterprises and also governments. “Corporations are interested in what it takes to create transparency in pricing along the supply chain and how it will ultimately impact the consumer.”
The conversation then turned to how renewable energy is changing the future of the energy sector and how energy companies define purpose from the business perspective. Enrico Viale, Head of North America, Enel Group, admitted that the sense of purpose has evolved for his business, adding that understanding what your purpose is is very important, but how to pursue your purpose is even more important for a business. Viale admitted that the challenges in the energy transition sector are big, adding that, “We have realized we won’t be able to tackle those challenges alone.”
Conversation then veered to the role of sustainability and energy transition. Claudio Facchin, CEO, Hitachi ABB Power Grids, said that they have created a new company with two strong shareholders to support sustainability and innovation efforts. “We put sustainability at the heart of our purpose, and we engage with our customers, partners and all stakeholders.” Facchin continued, “as we are all driven by the same goal of making efforts to create a sustainable energy future, we need to join forces,” adding that in order to accelerate the deployment of technology collaboration across all stakeholders, customers and competitors have to be of essence.
Alan Haywood, SVP ESG Transformation, BP, said that in February 2020 BP’s CEO defined their purpose, adding that, “It needs to be meaningful and endurable so I would say our purpose is to reimagine energy.” He also discussed that there is a need for real disclosure and transparency in terms of setting out milestones and metrics so people could see, “Not only the talk, but that the talk is walking strategically –otherwise the purpose is meaningless.”
The question was then asked how consumers could impact the natural resources industry. Jane Toogood, Sector Chief Executive, Efficient Natural Resources, Johnson Matthey, agreed with the other participants that purpose needs to be enduring in the business. Toogood thought that the pandemic has engendered a huge acceleration in trends around sustainability and real awareness by consumers, which has directly affected the business. “In order for us to achieve the pace of the change that’s needed, we have to work with other companies; never has it been so important to understand who it is you are working with: suppliers, your customers, your partners and how they approach their purpose and values.”
On the role of technology and how new start-ups could be helpful to the world and also give a good return on investment to Softbank Vision Fund. Catherine Lenson, Managing Partner, CHRO & Head of Social Impact, Softbank Vision Fund, said Softbank Vision Fund in not an impact investment fund, adding, “However, what has been interesting for me to watch is the sheer number of commercial investments we have made, have been made into businesses which we believe will have a positive impact on the world and climate.”
Kara Helander, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Carlyle Group, believes that ESG metrics create tangible values in investment. Helander stated that Carlyle has 250 portfolio companies, adding, “We set goals: having 30% of board members in portfolio companies to be diverse by 2023, and we are tracking it.” She continued, saying that Carlyle supports both their employees and employees in portfolio companies who want to take concrete actions to make the world more equitable and inclusive.
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