Melissa Juried Kriebel
“The old systems are being challenged. They’re being proven to not be worthy anymore. They’re not working….It’s overwhelming…It’s a moment of transition. And, when things start to break down, that’s when new things start emerging.” That’s the observation of Justin Winters, Executive Director and Cofounder of One Earth, and former Executive Director of Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation. “I think in this moment of breakdown, we should not let go of the fact that that is the opportunity for new systems, new economic models, new governance models to emerge,” she added, and “there’s the potential of creating systems that are much more in alignment with supporting a healthy planet and healthy people.”
The old systems are being challenged by climate change, energy security, covid, Ukraine, challenges to democracy, water scarcity, food security, the demand for equitable opportunity and compensation, for more sustainably-produced products and more people-friendly work environments and policies. Legislative and regulatory frameworks like the SEC are adapting, too.
Welcome to the rise of the purpose-led economy, also known as the environment-social- governance – ESG – paradigm. It’s evident across the economy, promising to be more dominant in 2023, and to drive innovation.
What lessons can we glean from 2022 to innovate this purpose-led economy in 2023?
Here are five insights from 2022 courtesy of women leading the way going forward:
1. Have a vision for what you want anew: Natalie Jaresko, former finance minister of Ukraine who also led efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, said, “There are definitely lessons to be learned, so many, in fact. One of them is that you need a vision for what you want to rebuild. We need to have a vision for the Ukraine of the 21st century….What we have an opportunity to do is not to rebuild what was destroyed, but instead to renew and revitalize a country and make it the 21st century, use of green technologies, we can have green steel….where we are building healthy, nurturing communities …We don’t just rebuild the roads that they’ve bombed, we rebuild roads that have electric vehicle recharging stations throughout and bicycle lanes…We can rethink this using the best 21st century technologies to be greener, to be cleaner, to be more community oriented.”
2. Start from scratch: Ford Chief Marketing Officer Suzy Deering said that what enabled her to drive innovation that responded to the current customer at companies as different as Verizon, eBay and Ford was that she would “start from scratch” to get to know and serve customers with fresh eyes. “I started this meeting every Friday that was called Marketing Modernization…I had teams come in and they could make a choice as to what topics (we would talk about). I’d say, ‘What is it you feel that we’re not doing that we should be doing? Or what’s holding you back from making some of the changes we need to make?’ It’s my favorite meeting of the week….It’s not just my team, it’s multiple different people across the organization.”
3. Challenge the status quo: “We just have to be able to challenge that status quo,” Sue Ozdemir said about how to drive innovation. When she was an executive at GE, she said some of her ideas were rejected as “tried before.” But, she said, “there’s so much new innovation in the market, maybe by piecing something together, the part that didn’t test the way you wanted it to 10 years ago might test differently today because we have a different type of semiconductor chip or because we have a different micro controller, a different battery chemistry.” Ozdemir said. She’s now CEO and Cofounder of Exro Technologies, which provides technologies for the electric vehicle industry.
4. Keep people and planet at the center: Growing the purpose-led economy is about putting people and planet at the center, according to Sandrine Dixson, Co-President of the prestigious Club of Rome. She calls it “transformational economics,” and calls for a revamping of metrics too, including the GDP. “So transformational economics is about shaping our future. It is about people shaping our future in sympathy and in alignment with the climate crisis we have to solve today. …We know we’re in a race against time for the planet, but we want to make sure that the trust is there, the cooperation is there, to build a future where people feel included.”
5. Reassess the talent you need: This new purpose-led, planet-protecting economy requires different skills being used in different ways. Telva McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer of General Motors said, “We are acquiring talent that has different capabilities at a much faster rate than we ever have….The types of skill sets we need are multi-variable now, like they never have been before…When we think about the talent that we need, what we really have to think about is what is it that we’re going to be doing three years from now, four years from now, and what type of talent should we bring in today that we’re confident can evolve with us that can grow with us and grow really quickly. So we’re not only looking for the skillset, but we’re looking for adaptability.”
This new purpose-led economy that is likely to drive 2023 also calls for more women in leadership, because women inherently make decisions based on values as well as financials and business strategies, and are natural innovators. Women have had to innovate, since they have not traditionally had access to the power, authority and budget to make things happen. That means, women had to find another way, which ultimately meant building influence and innovation muscles.
We’ll see what emerges.