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‘As innovators we have a responsibility to lead by example’

Members of the Fast Company Impact Council offer insights on building back society and companies with humanity at the core.

‘As innovators we have a responsibility to lead by example’
[Illustration: FC]

We asked members of the Fast Company Impact Council to share their insights on what it will take to build society, companies, and communities with impact in mind. We will continue to share their perspectives and predictions in the coming weeks, and readers may find all viewpoints from Impact Council members here.

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What’s one change or adjustment your industry can make to ensure that the post-pandemic economic and/or social recovery is more sustainable or equitable?

Jennifer Johnson, CEO, Franklin Templeton: Franklin Templeton, through our mutual funds and other investment strategies, deploys capital to the innovative companies that are building tomorrow—companies that are driving new technologies, advancing medical breakthroughs, and creating jobs. For our world to prosper, we must place further emphasis on companies that are expanding strategies to increase the attraction, recruitment, and development of underrepresented communities.

Cristiano Amon, president and CEO, Qualcomm: 5G has shown great economic resilience during the pandemic, an IHS’s 5G Economy Study put 5G Capex at 10.8% higher than previously forecasted. This is important, because if there is one thing that we learned during the pandemic it was that connectivity is essential, it kept us moving. The 5G rollout is happening and we are encouraged to see that governments and companies around the world understand its broad value and are moving rapidly to invest in digital infrastructure. The promise of 5G is about closing the digital divide, democratizing computing power, enabling work from anywhere, driving digital transformation, growth, innovation, jobs, and a more sustainable economy.

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What is one pandemic-instigated change or accommodation in your workplace or operations that you have made permanent?  

Melanie Goldey, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, TMRW Life Sciences: We have taken a whole different approach to workplace design. We recently signed a lease for a much larger office space, and are in the process of designing a work environment that incorporates flexibility, engagement, effective collaboration, and fun. Given that so many people have found new ways of working, we’re designing a “home” that happens to be an office—discoverable spaces, quiet areas to work or meditate, central areas for gathering, rooms for private calls or working sessions with colleagues, and of course, amenities.

Gail Becker, founder and CEO, Caulipower: We always allowed people to work remotely and flexibly and we will formalize this over the coming weeks and months. For the first 365 days of the pandemic, I wrote a nightly email to staff filled with news, examples of stellar work, or sharing a note of appreciation from our consumers. Since then, I turned it into a weekly staff email full of good news and celebration. Our job as leaders is to unite and motivate people. Never has this been more true . . . or more necessary.

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Looking five or more years to the future, what’s a major improvement you’d like to see that could be attributed to the lessons of 2020 and 2021? (This improvement can be your company, to business practices, to your community, to government, to the economy, or to the planet.)

Kathryn Guarini, chief information officer, IBM: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how important flexibility is to the employee experience. Work and life are more integrated than ever before and that means we need to embrace a new model of collaboration, built on empathy, shared experiences, and an understanding that we are more than just our day jobs. This new level of authenticity and understanding will unlock greater employee satisfaction and lead to stronger outcomes, for both business and society.

Niren Chaudhary, CEO, Panera: My hope is that the tenacity and agility with which many approached the pandemic and its effects will translate to decisive action and bold innovation to address the humanitarian crises of discrimination and the climate emergency.

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Guru Gowrappan, former CEO, Verizon Media: One of my biggest lessons from 2020 and 2021 is that innovation wins every time.  Having an owner’s mindset with the speed and agility to problem solve, will be key to building any successful business of the future. Media companies will need to continue to pivot and evolve to create impact for the community, economy and the planet. As innovators, we have a responsibility to lead by example, and use our technology to keep the world connected and constantly create ways that deepen that connection for consumers to the people and things that they love.

Jerilan Greene, chief communications and public affairs officer, Yum! Brands: The watershed moments of 2020 and 2021 have made it even clearer that one of the most pressing issues we face together in society is inequality and the lack of access and opportunity that goes with it. I’m optimistic that an increasing number of C-Suites and boards of directors are taking transformative steps to address the social and environmental inequities we see in communities around the world, and my hope is we continue to evolve in that space. Recent events are still teaching us all that businesses, governments, and institutions must fully participate together to create the kind of resilient economy, planet and society that can positively serve people from all walks of life and the next generation.

Brad Lukanic, CEO, CannonDesign: The topic around infrastructure—social and physical—has a great significance as we begin to see the rise of natural phenomena like increased strength of hurricanes, droughts, or fires changing physical environments and impacting all our communities. The 1930s Works Progress Administration (WPA) focused on federally driven public works projects, with many of their aspects enduring to this day. The 2020–2021 vaccine deployment highlights positive outcomes when industry and government work together for a singular purpose. Climate change will be the focused endeavor for this decade and the next. As we think about how infrastructure is being defined today, we should not lose sight of past successes or the opportunities for solving even greater challenges in the years ahead.

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How can investors support purpose-driven companies, especially when living up to values may impact profitability?

Rakesh Narayana, global head, Reckitt Ventures: Profit in consumer businesses usually comes with scale and efficiency—and I think most purpose-led brands are at their tipping point with regards to affordability and profits. If you look at companies like Oatly or Beyond Meat, they are getting bigger by the day as more consumers make the switch, which is helping them move out of the red. It was the same trend we saw with electric cars and Tesla. My advice would be to look at these investments as savings for the future which will pay out in the long term, vs. short-term profits.

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