E18 - Stewards of the Future: Can and Should we Count on Boards to do the Right Thing?
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.
- Jorgensen, Helle Bank (2022) Stewards of The Future: A Guide for Competent Boards. Barlow Publishing.
- Cornell, Bradford and Damodaran, Aswath (2020), Valuing ESG: Doing Good or Sounding Good? (March 20, 2020). NYU Stern School of Business, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3557432 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3557432
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30. EP30 - Reading China in the Original01:13:47Occasionally you read a book that changes the way you think about a topic or a place. The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism by Keyu Jin is just such a book and it was great to have her join me on TRIUM Connects. We discuss the consequences (both intended an unintended) of the one child policy, the combination of strong political centralisation and economic decentralisation, the ‘mayor economy’ and the combination of a super powerful yet agile state, able to act much more quickly than more democratically constrained actors. Jin argues that to understand all of this, you need to read China in the original – that is, as much as possible, not through the lens of Western, capitalistic assumptions about economic development but to see it for what it does, within its own terms. Jin is a great guide for this journey – she was born in China, educated in the USA (BA, Masters and PHD from Harvard) and now lives in London. She is an associate professor of economics at the LSE where her research focusses on global trade imbalances, global asset prices and China's economic growth model. Jin has also advised and consulted for the World Bank, the IMF and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The book ends with a discussion of the current challenges facing China. Jin argues that the reforms and policies which created the tremendous economic development over such a comparative short time must now change if China is to avoid its own version of the middle income trap. Whether China is able to do so will, in no small measure, shape the kind of world we will all live in. Jin’s background, insight and deep knowledge shine through in the book and in our conversation. I hope you enjoy the conversation! CitationsKeyu Jin (2023) The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism. Viking Press.Swerling J. and Burrows A. Guys and Dolls – First performed in 1950.
29. E29 - China in Latin America01:02:37I 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?01:08:18In 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 Heard01:03:30Upwards Influence – The Art and Science of Being HeardOver the last several decades, more and more leadership research has highlighted the need for leaders to create an environment where disparate and diverse opinions and approaches are elicited and incorporated into decision making. If leaders can manage that, they can more easily avoid premature consensus and narrative fallacies, thereby improving performance.Much of this research addresses the ‘demand’ side of the equation – how can/should leaders create environments whereby people feel that they have a permission structure to contribute to – or even openly question and contradict – a leader’s position? However, this leaves the ‘supply side’ of the equation open. That is, how do we instil in people the self-belief and confidence to make themselves heard and seen? What behaviours are most likely to increase junior members’ impact on decisions? In this episode we discuss the challenges of ‘upwards influence’. That is, what are the challenges we face when we seek to influence people with more power than we have.My guest is Connson Chou Locke – someone who has made these supply side questions a centre piece of her life’s work. In 2021, in a distillation of more than 30 years of experience, she wrote a book addressing these issues entitled, Making Your Voice Heard: How to Own Your Space, Access Your Inner Power and Become Influential.Connson is a Professorial Lecturer of Management at the LSE, where she has won multiple teaching awards for her classes on Leadership, Organisational Behaviour, and Negotiation and Decision Making. Prior to entering academia, Connson was a Regional Training and Development Manager for the Boston Consulting Group, responsible for training and development across 10 offices throughout the Asia Pacific region. She has a PhD from Berkley and did her undergraduate work at Harvard. In our conversation we discuss the role of confidence in perceived expertise, how power and influence can only be defined in the context in which they occur, how being influential is often the end point of long and carefully executed preparatory strategy, how women face specific challenges from agentic models of leadership and how to strategically think of cultural lenses when interacting with individuals.I hope you enjoy the conversation! Enders G. (2017) Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Under-Rated Organ. London: Scribe UK. Locke, C.C. (2021) Making your Voice Heard: How to Own Your Space, Access Your Inner Power and Become Influential. London: Endeavor Publishing.
26. E26 - Respect Me! The Role of Status Concerns in International Relations01:07:49Explanations 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.01:11:33Search 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 d.school"). 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.
24. E24 - Keeping Safe in a Digital World57:59We have all become aware how important data is as everything becomes more digitalised. Data is everywhere – nearly our every moment and movement is recorded and stored. Connected devices offer more and more convenience. Our cars exchange information with our phones, which exchange information with our smart houses, which exchange information with our home computers,… and on and on. Without the digital exchange of information our personal and professional lives have become practically impossible. To be ‘disconnected’ is not really an option for most. But, the more connected we are, the more nodes in our network, the more we rely on digital exchanges, the more we are susceptible to cybercrimes.My guest for this episode, to discuss all things cybersecurity, is Todd Wade. Todd is a chief information security officer with over 20 years of experience working with cybersecurity and technology and the author of the recently published book, Cybercrime: Protecting your business, your family and yourself.He has led the information security departments for multiple financial services and technology organisations. He is passionate about championing cyber risk governance and empowering organisations to protect themselves against cybercriminals.Todd has worked with leading information security organisations like the Information Security Forum and Chartered Institute of Information Security and is currently an advisor to several cybersecurity start-ups, including the Cyber Risk Management Group and Scapien. And last, but certainly not least, he is a member of the Class of 2009 of TRIUM!Cited Work:Wade, T. (2022) Cybercrime: Protecting Your Business, Your Family and Yourself. London: BCS Learning and DevelopmentWhite, G. (2022) The Lazarus Heist: Based on the No 1 Hit Podcast. London: Penguin Business
23. E23 - Synthetic Biology: We Need to Talk…01:07:38We are at the start of a time when humans will be able to program cells and organisms in analogous ways to which we now program computers. Our technology and understanding of the basic structures of life, augmented by computer simulations driven by AI, are driving breakthrough innovations at an ever-increasing rate.What will this mean for us all? It could mean the end of most diseases and the actual process of aging. I could mean that the current existential risks of climate change and bio-diversity collapse could be removed. It could also mean that our exposure to the existential risks of bioterrorism grows exponentially. I could mean a radical new social class structure based on different access to, and use of human ability enhancements will generate political upheaval and violence. What is inarguably true, is that advances in our understanding and ability to manipulate biological systems will disrupt business, governance, culture and geopolitics in fundamental ways. This may not happen this year, or next, but make no mistake, the challenges are coming.Amy Webb, my guest for this episode, believes we desperately need to start these conversations now, while we still have some time to shape what the future will hold. Amy’s, and her co-author Andrew Hessel’s book, The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Ague of Synthetic Biology, is a wonderful, guided tour of synthetic biology’s past, present, and likely future. It is also a catalyst to the discussion about how we balance the risks and amazing promise of these innovations. As Amy says, the best way to understand this technology is that it gives us options which we have never had – how we choose amongst those options is what we need to think about now.Amy is a quantitative futurist and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business. Her research focuses on strategic foresight and using data to model probable, plausible and possible scenarios for the future. She was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and won the prestigious 2017 Thinkers50 RADAR Award for her research and work in strategic foresight. She is also the CEO and founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading strategic foresight and future forecasting firm that researches emerging technology on behalf of Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, government agencies and financial institutions around the world. In addition to being a best-selling author of multiple books, Amy’s future forecasting work has been featured in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review and more.It was an absolute pleasure to discuss with Amy the issues raised in her book. It is unsurprising that so many people and organisations turn to her when they want a view of what our possible futures may be! Her knowledge is deep and her ability to communicate is exceptional – I hope you enjoy the conversation! Citations Bostrom, N. (2019) ‘The Vulnerable World Hypothesis,’ Global Policy 10:4.The Boys. Developed the Amazon Prime Video by Eric Kripke, based on a comic book of the same name, written by Garth Ennis and Darick Roberson.Huxley, A. (1932) Brave New World. Chatto and Windus.Niccol, A.(Director) (1998) Gattaca. Columbia Pictures and Jersey Films.Severance. Created by Dan Erickson, Apple TV+Webb, A. (2019) The Big Nine: How Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity. New York: Public Affairs.Webb, A. (2022) The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology. New York: Public Affairs.
22. E22 - It’s All About the People01:08:16What does being a fabulously successful, early stage VC investor have in common with being a world class CEO? The answer, according to Jihoon Rim, my guest for this episode, is the ability to select the right people and then, largely get out of their way and let them do their jobs.Jihoon, after a stint at Softbank, founded his own VC firm – Kcube Ventures – in 2012 with an initial fund of USD 10M. In 2021, when the fund was liquidated, it returned more than USD 1B. In 2015, Jihoon was appointed the CEO of Kakao. In the 2.5 years of his leadership, Kakao’s revenues and operating profits more than doubled (from USD 932M to USD 1.972B and USD 88M to USD 165M, respectively). Such successes led to Jihoon being recognised in 2017 Korea’s number 1 CEO (by Insight Korea), and in 2018 as one of Korea’s Top Ten Heros (by Maeil Broadcasting Network).He joined NYU’s Stern School of Business as an Adjunct Professor in 2019 where he teaches some of the most highly regarded elective courses in the entire School. Between 2018 and 2022, he completed his Doctorate degree. This was all completed before he turned 43 years old.In this episode we discuss what Jihoon looked for when investing in founders and how he took the lessons from that world and applied them in his role as CEO of Kakao. We also discuss how people routinely misunderstand the nature and scope of tech companies’ powers – which he believes is too great, and how transparency will play a crucial role if we ever want to do something about this problem. Finally, we explore why Korean content has been so successful on the international entertainment stage.Jihoon is smart, articulate, highly accomplished and wonderfully humble. His candour and honesty in our discussion was refreshing. He is proof that wisdom does not need to rely on age. This episode is, in my mind, an exemplar of how a good leader sees the world and their role in it. Enjoy the conversation!CitationsFrans Johansson (2014) The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World. Penguin