Developing-Leaders-issue-31-2019

42 | Developing Leaders Issue 31: 2019 Executive DEVELOPMENT Sitting behind these kinds of eye-catching public statements sits the growing trend of business leaders integrating social challenges into the heart of their commercial strategies and corporate goal-setting. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is a well known example – in 2010 the company launched a ten year strategy to double the size of the business by 2020 by achieving goals such as improving the health and wellbeing of a billion people, halving the environmental footprint of their products across their lifecycle, and sourcing 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably. And Unilever is not alone – the proportion of the 200 largest corporations in the world setting themselves corporate sustainability goals rose from 77% to 94% between 2012 and 2017. Why is this happening now? A number of forces are converging to drive these new actions from business leaders. Public attitudes are shifting. Millennials have higher expectations of CEO activism than older generations – research by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research shows 47% of Millennials (age 18-36) believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to society, compared with just 28% of Gen Xers (age 37- 52) and Boomers (age 53-71). Investor attitudes are shifting too. Larry Fink, chairman of Blackrock, the largest asset manager in the world, raised eyebrows in January 2018 with his letter to CEOs. In it, he stated: “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”

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