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Trust, Vulnerability, Sustainability and Inclusion: What’s on Today’s CEO Mind

AI, reskilling a workforce of 1 billion, the future of U.S. foreign policy, protecting the Arctic and securing sustainability for the Amazon were top of mind for business leaders on day two of the World Economic Forum in Davos. CEOs convened to chart a way toward more sustainable markets and champion industry-specific transitions under the theme Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World. HRH Prince of Wales announced the 10-point plan and a Sustainable Markets Initiative to kickstart a decade of delivery.

YPO members continued those conversations at the YPO Hub, adding the topics of equality and inclusion, value chain sustainability and business innovation.

Sun Chanthol

The YPO Hub welcomed H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister for Public Works and Transport, who shared insights with business leaders into Cambodia’s successful roadmap to economic growth. “Investors are looking for growth opportunities in Cambodia due to its political and macroeconomic stability and the government’s pro-business climate,” he says. “It offers one of the most liberal investment regimes in the region and every economic sector is open to investment.”

Responsible leadership is inclusive leadership

Global business executives joined at the YPO Hub for a frank discussion on how to create changemaker companies that are inclusive, efficient and economically impactful. “People now don’t want to be associated with companies that don’t have an authentic purpose that serves society,” says YPO member António Simões, CEO of Global Private Banking at HSBC. “We need to re-humanize, and it’s not an overnight change. It takes a much deeper intervention, and we’ll face really difficult and challenging trade-offs to do so.”

Andrew White, Gina Badenoch, Antonio Simoes, Belinda Parmar

‘Diversity and inclusion’ as a label is very limiting, explains Gina Badenoch, Founder Capaxia UK. “There’s so much talent that we’re not seeing because we’re putting labels on people. I like to look at labels as an invitation to get to know the person, to be empathetic and respectful. It’s hard to overcome our biases.”

Building trust with stakeholders is a top priority

YPO CEO Scott Mordell began the conversation earlier in the week on how today’s CEOs are moving toward a people-centered leadership approach that places stakeholder trust at the top. “Nearly all (96%) chief executives rate building and maintaining trust with stakeholders a high priority, with nearly half (42%) saying that the importance they place on building trust with stakeholders has increased in the past five years.” This is among the top findings Mordell presented from the 2020 YPO Global Pulse survey on trust, which compiled the responses of 2,960 chief executives in 115 countries and 38 industry sectors.

42% of CEOs say that the importance they place on building trust with stakeholders has increased in the past five years. — Scott Mordell, CEO of YPO

The trust conversation continued Wednesday with The Empathy Business’ Belinda Parmar and Capaxia UK Founder Gina Badenoch. As work life and personal life has blended, with business objectives shared alongside personal ones, Parmar explained why CEOs need to understand and drive this behavior — to demonstrate it. “There’s strength in vulnerability and the CEO needs to lead the way,” she says. “You have to be the first one to share something personal.”

Hear more of the conversation with Parmar and Badenoch:

Consumers drive value chain sustainability

“Performance cannot be defined by financial and economic wins anymore,” says Michel Frédeau, Managing Director and Senior Partner at BCG.

Frédeau, along with Antoine Hubert, CEO and Chairman of Ÿnsect​, Ross Perot Jr., Chairman at The Perot Companies and Hillwood, and Pascal Cagni, Chairman at Business France and Ambassador for international investment​ gathered at the YPO Hub to lead a conversation on how businesses need to look beyond operations and consider opportunities to reduce their environmental footprint.

Michel Fredeau, Pascal Cagni, Ross Perot Jr., Antoine Hubert

“We need to pay attention to the Co2 print. We need to rethink how we do business, and it is important to make sure that in this process everyone is aligned,” says Frédeau.

The main driver must come from the consumer side. Behaviors need to change so that what is offered can adapt to what society wants.  “We are listening to the consumer and are doing what they want,” says Perot.

Personal resolve, personal vision

“I thought I should create a knowledge ecosystem in Japan – create a business school in Venture Capital – based on three main things: people, capital and knowledge,” says Yoshito Hori, Chairman and CEO of GLOBIS Group.

Hori explains, “Kokorozashiis the core principle of GLOBIS.” It means personal resolve, personal vision. He states that if you have strong personal resolve, with your knowledge and a small network of people, you can create anything you want.

“If you believe that anything is possible – then everything is possible,” says Hori. 

The G1 movement, which Hori is an adviser to, is about improving Japan. “In order to change Japan, you need leaders gathering, and they need roles to play. We need a shared vision, so that people will be more passionate and work for the vision.” G1 stands for the people committed to making Japan better.

Hear more from Yoshito Hori:

Cooperation, education needed to end gender inequality

According to Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance, girls leave school with less financial education than boys. “It isn’t just about geometry; it’s about compound interest, investments, loans, mortgages,” she tells a room-full of CEOs gathered at the YPO Hub, where she shared the stage with other financial industry professionals with an eye toward improving gender equality and expanding financial inclusion.

Daniel Shakhani, Catherine McGuinness, Charlotte Crosswell, Salah Goss, Paul Blanchard YPO in Davos 2020

The inequality that begins in school continues in the business world. Salah Goss, Head of Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion, commented that only 20% of loans are granted to women-run businesses.

“The problem with venture capital is that it is biased toward male investment,” adds social entrepreneur and gender lens impact investor Sophia Swire. “We need more women on the investment committees.”

The panel addressed possible solutions as well. Daniel Shakhani, Founder and CEO RDS Capital and Co-Founder of Salary Finance, said too much of the work is being done in silos. “Forming alliances is critical to building conversations about what can be done and sharing what works amongst ourselves,” Shakhani says.

Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation​, stressed there needs to be more support for women in school and the workplace, adding, “Teaching our children, setting expectations early on for what they can do is critical.”

Hope and awe

The serious challenges facing business and government leaders presented at the WEF meeting this week and at the YPO Hub are not insurmountable. Presenters, panelists and attendees alike are keeping a hopeful attitude as they absorb information and prepare to go home at the end of the week to begin to implement learnings. As Perot put it during the discussion on value chain sustainability: “If we keep the optimism, keep the vision and our freedom, we can solve problems and make the world a better place.”

Discover more insights from the YPO Hub in Davos 2020:

YPO is the global leadership community of more than 29,000 chief executives in 130 countries who are driven by the belief that the world needs better leaders. Each of our members have achieved significant leadership success at a young age. Combined, they lead businesses and organizations contributing USD 9 trillion in annual revenue. YPO members become better leaders and better people through peer learning and exceptional experiences in an inclusive community of open sharing and trust.