The first panel from our 2021 Signal AI Leadership Summit discussed How leaders can stay agile and innovative during turbulent times.
In our first discussion, with Rob Cox from Reuters Breakingnews, Chuka Umunna, Edelman’s ESG Lead and Signal AI Advisory Board Member, and Dr Andrea Bonime-Blan, from GEC Risk Advisory. The panel covered the challenges facing business leaders across the world at the moment through an ESG lens, from healthcare and the pandemic, to diversity, stakeholder capitalism and the greening of economies.
The panel set out the situation leaders are currently facing, with Andrea’s observation that “The geopolitical tectonic shift – not only with countries with populist movements, but also the fake news piece – is creating a whole new churn when it comes to country and international politics.”
Panelists examined how the pandemic has impacted the Environment, Social and Governance(ESG) landscape, asking, “Does the pandemic mean more conversations re: ESG at DAVOS etc, or do you think the world has thrown ESG to the side, or has it become front and center?” Andrea gave us a poignant insight around how ESG challenges are being approached.
“By paying attention to ESG risks, you get to make the most of the opportunities. We have to face greenwashing, but it’s momentum that’s not going to change. It was a wave and now it’s a tsunami.”
Referencing the opportunities and challenges surfaced in ESG, Chuka noted that broadly speaking most companies with a good ESG agenda perform better, and that your ESG rating will become as important as your credit rating. ESG is not a fad, it is here to stay, he added.
Chuka noted that he has observed “the more profitable you are, the more investors are going to expect in terms of your ESG performance.” He added that, “A strong ESG profile is a good proxy for prudent risk management” and that a company that is well set out to deal with these things takes a long term view and is therefore more resilient to external shocks. Chuka also made the point that the “S” in ESG has been brought to the front of investors minds with “the disgraceful events surrounding the murder of George Floyd last year.”
Looking into the future, we’ve seen various pledges to reach net zero targets. Thinking ahead, and holding people accountable to these pledges, is one of the greatest challenges now facing us around ESG. Chuka summed it up perfectly: “If 2020 was the year of net zero pledges, 2021 is the year of asking how are you actually going to get there? This ESG thing is not a fad, it’s not a moment, it’s here to stay.”
The panel came to a close by setting out take home learnings for leaders. Andrea commented that investors are knocking on the doors of boards, saying boards need to have more folks who are looking at ESG issues. The panel agreed there needs to be a broader footprint of gender, race and diversity at a board level.
You can read highlights from our CEO, David Benigson, here.