cover art for E18 - Stewards of the Future: Can and Should we Count on Boards to do the Right Thing?

TRIUM Connects

E18 - Stewards of the Future: Can and Should we Count on Boards to do the Right Thing?

Ep. 18

Increasingly, company boards are expected to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into their strategic choices and performance criteria. How, exactly, should they do this? One approach is to integrate the entire costs/benefits of the firm’s activities, including those which are currently unpaid-for externalities, into its balance sheet. But is that really possible? Or, even desirable?

In this episode I discuss this issue – and others! – with my guest, Helle Bank Jorgensen. Helle is an internationally recognized expert on sustainable business practices, with a 30-year record of turning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks into innovative and profitable business opportunities. She is the founder and chief executive of Competent Boards, which offers online climate and ESG programs that draw on the experience of over 150 renowned board members, executives, and investors.

Helle is also the author of the newly published book, Stewards of The Future: A Guide for Competent Boards. This book shows boards must have the insight and foresight to ask the right questions of management on complex issues such as climate change, ESG, corruption, cybersecurity, human trafficking and supply-chain resilience to realize long-term profits and sustainability.


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    Once in a while you come across a person who embodies, in their thoughts and deeds, a kind of archetype or ideal form of a role – the great artist, the wise philosopher, the genius physicist. Hervé Coyco, for me, is the archetype of the best of business leaders. In our conversation he shares some of the wisdom, humility and practices which have made him such a successful leader and impressive human being.Hervé spent his whole corporate career at Michelin – 30 years - where he started as an entry level engineer and rose to be the President of the Passenger Car Division – at the time, a 60,000 employee, 8 billion Euro/year business unit – before finishing as the President of Michelin Asia-Pacific Operations. In this podcast, Hervé and I discuss what he learned during that time. This includes what he sees as the three styles of leadership needed to succeed in different situations: the jet airplane pilot, the skipper of a boat and the coach. Next we turn to the leadership challenge of hitting short term performance and efficiency goals while simultaneously preparing the organisation for the future. This leads on to a discussion of the role of empowerment and managing failure – when to accept failure, the need to adopt a ‘no surprises’ policy with your own boss, and the importance of ethical and value alignment.For the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of working with Hervé in his role as Professor at HEC-Paris. We conclude our conversation here with Hervé ’s reflections on what he has learned from his role as a program director of customised executive education at HEC – both about the academy but also about how leaders in some organisations fall short in their roles.I have learned so much from Hervé about ethical and learning based leadership, I wanted to share his insights with you! I hope you enjoy the conversation!CitationsCovey, S.R. & Merrill, A.R. (1994) First Things First. Simon & Schuster.
  • 32. E32 - Re-Inventing Your Business Model

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  • 31. E31 - Becoming You

    I am delighted to be joined by Suzy Welch for this episode. Suzy has had an amazing career! After graduating from Harvard, she became a crime beat reporter for the Miami Herald but after a short time was re-assigned to the business section – a change which would set the stage for the rest of her career. She then left journalism and went back to Harvard for her MBA. After graduating with honours, Suzy launched into a successful stint at Bain and Company as a consultant working with heavy manufacturing clients in the Midwest of the USA. Suzy left a successful career in consulting to return to journalism with a job at the Harvard Business Review, where she was eventually named editor-in-chief in 2001. At HBR she conceptualised and edited articles on topics as diverse as strategy, operations and organisational behaviour and penned her own on leadership, change and crisis management, the role of boards, the proper functioning of HR and career dynamics. With her late husband, Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, Suzy co-authored two international best-selling books – Winning published in 2005 and The Real-Life MBA in 2015. An interesting little fact, during the promo tour for Winning, I interviewed Jack at the LSE at a TRIUM event! Suzy is also the sole author of the New York Times and Wallstreet Journal bestseller, 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea – which we discuss during this episode. Suzy has also been a regular contributor to the US television network CNBC and the popular program, the Today Show.In addition to her writing and media work, amongst other projects, Suzy serves on the board of ANGI as well as being a senior advisor at the Brunswick Group.And last, but not least, Suzy is currently a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, creating and teaching one of its most popular and impactful classes – ‘Becoming You: Crafting the Authentic Life You Want and Need.’ In this episode I talk to Suzy about the reasons she put this course together and the secrets to its success. Suzy Welch is a kind of force of nature with some important things to share which she has learned from a lifetime in leadership and around other leaders. I was delighted when she agreed to be on the show and I hope you enjoy our conversation!CitationsWelch, S. (2009) 10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years: A Life-Transforming Idea. Scribner.Welch, J. with Welch, S. (2005) Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book. HarperCollins.Welch, J. & Welch, S. (2018) The Real-Life MBA: The No-Nonsense Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team and Growing your Career. Harper Thorsons.Cunk on Earth (2022) Television Show starring Diane Morgon and produced by Charlie Brooker.Succession (2018-2013) Television show produced by HBO Entertainment.
  • 30. EP30 - Reading China in the Original

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  • 29. E29 - China in Latin America

    I am guessing that most of you have heard about Chinese firms and government’s large involvement and investment in Africa. For example, as part of a strategy to secure the resources needed to play a leading role in the economy of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, China has purchased mining rights, mined, and built refineries for rare earth elements in multiple locations in Africa. But did you know that the annual amount of traded goods between China and Latin America, as well as foreign direct investment is about twice as much as between China and Africa? If we look at Chinese development loans, Latin America has received more in loans than Africa.It has been clear for more than a century that to understand Latin America you must understand the involvement and intervention of the United States in the military, economic and social history of the region. It is now impossible to understand Latin American economies and politics without an understanding of the growing role of China. Looked at through the lens of US/China competition and conflict, this is a major development. Historically, the USA has reacted forcefully to what it saw as ‘interference’ in the America’s by other countries – will that continue or will the recent neglect/disinterest of the US to LA continue, creating more space/opportunity for even greater Chinese influence?To help us understand these issues and others, I am delighted to be joined in this episode by Professor Chris Alden of the London School of Economics (and a regular contributor to TRIUM). Chris is Deputy Head of the International Relations Department, the Director of LSE IDEAS, and a Research Associate with South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). Chris’s newest book (co-authored with Alvaro Mendez) China and Latin America: Development, Agency and Geopolitics was published earlier this year.  Before this book, Chris has written or co-authored of numerous books, including Apartheid’s Last Stand – the Rise and Fall of the South African Security State (Palgrave 1996), Mozambique and the Construction of the New African State (Palgrave 2003), China in Africa (Zed Books 2007)  Land, Liberation and Compromise in Southern Africa (Palgrave/Macmillan 2009) The South and World Politics (Palgrave 2010),Chris is one of the world’s leading experts of Chinese involvement in the global south and it was a real pleasure to sit down with him for a wonderful discussion of his latest work. I hope you enjoy the conversation!Citations:Podcast – China and the Global South hosted by Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden and produced by The China-Global South Project (CGSP).Alden, C. & Mendez, A. (2023) China and Latin America: Development, Agency and Geopolitics. Bloomsbury Academic
  • 28. E28 - The 2023 Banking Crisis: Can we Trust the Regulators?

    In 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, 25 US banks failed. Their combined asset value was equal to $526 billion (adjusted for inflation). In the first 5 months of 2023, three banks have failed with a total asset value of $532 billion. Let that sink in – we are in uncharted territory. What is happening and why? Why do we see a kind of slow-motion contagion effect? Will more banks fail? Has the US government practically removed the limit on deposits insured through the FDIC? What does the current situation tell us about the health of the banking sector and the regulatory framework meant to prevent such problems – in the US and around the world? In this episode I’m joined by Jean Edouard Colliard to discuss what the current crisis tells us about how and why regulatory regimes succeed and/or fail. Jean Edouard is Associate Professor of Finance at HEC Paris, which he joined in 2014.  Before joining HEC, he worked for two years as an economist in the Research department of the European Central Bank. He is a co-holder of the research chair "Analytics for Future Banking" (HEC Paris - Natixis - Polytechnique).Jean-Edouard is also a member of the Finance Theory Group and a Research Affiliate of CEPR and SUERF. He received the "Best Young Researcher in Finance and Insurance" Award of IEF / Foundation SCOR 2022, the "Young Researcher in Economics" Award of Foundation Banque de France in 2017, the Eurofidai-BEDOFIH Data Award 2017, the "Young Researcher Award" 2015 of AMF (the French Securities Markets Authority), and the 1st SUERF/Unicredit & Universities Foundation Research Prize 2013.I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did! CitationsPalmer, A. (2017) Too Like the Lightning: Book 1 of the Terra Ignota Series. Head of Zues Publishing.Calomiris, C.W. & Haber, S.H. (2014) Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of the Banking Crises and Scarce Credit: The Princeton Economic History of the Western World: 50.
  • 27. E27 - Upwards Influence – The Art and Science of Being Heard

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  • 26. E26 - Respect Me! The Role of Status Concerns in International Relations

    Explanations of individual’s political affiliations which do not take non-material into account are fatally flawed. We simply cannot explain or predict people’s political behaviour without thinking about how support for individuals/parties are affected by, and shape people’s identities, felt exclusion/inclusion, legitimacy, and recognition.However, when it comes to trying to explain how states will behave in the international system, our theories mostly ignore these factors. Traditionally, scholars have focused on how particular actions are driven by states’ perceptions of their own material interests (or at least their elites). In that context, if/when a state will undermine, challenge, ignore or support the current international order is simply a matter of exploring the costs/benefits it perceives will flow from a specific action.Using this framework, many scholars and commentators now believe that conflict between the ‘West’ and China is inevitable. China, or any ascending power, will increasingly see it in their material interest to exert their increasing power to challenge an international political order – an order which it did not have a hand in creating and that it sees as being purposely designed to entrench the powers of and enrich the founders of the order. The powerful states which benefit from the existing order, will struggle to accommodate the new power into the old structure, leading to an increasing chance of conflict.My guest for this episode is Dr Rohan Mukherjee. Rohan thinks that this type of analysis misses a key factor in determining state behaviour – perceived recognition, increases and decreases in a state’s status. Like in domestic politics, explanations which ignore these elements will fail in its predictions. In his excellent new book, Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions, he argues that whether rising powers cooperate with, challenge, or try to reform, an international order depends on the extent to which its core institutions facilitate symbolic equality with the great-power club.Rohan is in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Prior to joining the LSE, he was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He received his PhD from Princeton and holds a Masters in Public Administration from its School of Public and International Affairs. He is also a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at MIT’s Security Studies Program, and a non-resident Visiting Fellow at the UN’s University of Tokyo.Rohan is a thoughtful and creative scholar, and it was a great pleasure to explore how his approach can be applied to understand that the behaviour of China, India, the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where we should expect cooperation, reform or conflict in the international political order, and many other elements in our world today. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!CitationsEveret, P. (2022) The Trees. Influx Press.The Expanse TV show produced by the Syfy Network (Series 1-3) and Amazon (Series 4-6) based on novels by James CoreyLucy Dacus, musician. See Lucy DacusMukherjee, R. (2022) Ascending Order: Rising Powers and Politics of Status in International Institutions (Cambridge Studies in International Relations). Cambridge University Press.
  • 25. E25 - The key to successful innovation = lots and lots of ideas.

    Search Amazon for the word ‘innovation’ in its ‘Business, Finance & Accounting’ book section, and you will find more than 60,000 volumes. The trick is finding stuff worth reading in this deep and wide ocean of material. The new book, Ideaflow: Why Creative Businesses Win, by Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn is just such a book. I welcomed Jeremy to this episode of TRIUM Connects to discuss the book as well as his general views on creativity and innovation. In the book, Jeremy and Perry argue that we shouldn’t think of innovation as an event, a workshop, a sprint or a hackathon…but rather as a more general capability that can be learnt and is relevant to everyone. Their core principle is that you need ideas to solve problems – in contrast to completing tasks where you just need to get on with the work. But, instead of obsessing over quality, successful innovators focus on the generation of many ideas. Volume is key. Once you have a sufficient volume, then you run quick and cheap experiments to gather more information, revise and test again. Jeremy knows what he is talking about. He is one of the world's leading experts in innovation. As the Director of Executive Education at Stanford's renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka "the"). His courses [K1] have been experienced by nearly a million students of innovation worldwide. He advises corporate leaders on how to embed[K2]  the methods and mindsets of design thinking into their organizations, and works with professionals to cultivate a robust personal creative practice. He also co-hosts the "Stanford Masters of Creativity," program where Jeremy shines the spotlight on exemplars of creative practice across disciplinary boundaries.What makes Ideaflow a great book, and what I really enjoyed in my conversation with Jeremy, is the concrete, actionable innovation practices described and the fact that they are backed up by solid research and evidence. I hope you enjoy the conversation!Cited WorkMcKeown, Greg (2015) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Virgin Books.Koestler, A. (2014) The Act of Creation. One 70 Press.Lotto, B. (2017) Deviate: The Creative Power of Transforming your Perception. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.Lucas, B.J. & Nordgren, L.F. (2020) ‘The creative cliff illusion,’ Psychological and Cognitive Sciences: Volume 117 (33), pp 19830-19836.Mackinnon, D. W. (1962). The personality correlates of creativity: A study of American architects. In G. Nielson (Ed.), Proceedings of the XIV International Congress of Applied Psychology. Vol. 2. Personality research (pp. 11–39). Munksgaard.Randolph, M. (2021) That will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life on an Idea. Endeavour.