Why 2020 will be the year of sustainable business
Jonquil Hackenberg, Head of C-Suite Advisory at Infosys Consulting, discusses the topic of sustainability in 2020.
As the start of a new decade peers over the horizon, many business leaders will be looking back on how much has changed over the last ten years. The smartphone has transformed everything, AI and automation have begun to take hold, Brexit and wider geopolitics have overwhelmed decision-making – there’s a lot to reflect on.
While technology was definitely the game-changer in the 2010s, next year heralds a new focus for business leaders around the world: sustainability. Sustainability isn’t just about recycling or fair trade practices, as important as these are. It touches every part of a company, from its supply chain operations, to its talent practices, to the physical workspace itself. In 2020 and in the years beyond, this shift to sustainable business will take shape in several major and transformational ways.
Supply chains: Going circular
The first fundamental shift we will see in the next year will be some of the world’s biggest companies actively transforming their supply chains to become ‘circular’, under pressure from ethically-minded consumers. With consumers now looking to the corporate world to help them reduce their carbon emissions and cut down on the plastic filling our oceans, in 2020, the onus is firmly on businesses.
To start making the right moves before it’s too late, businesses need to move from an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ production model to being accountable for their whole end-to-end supply chain. This means no longer simply making shampoo and shipping it out in a plastic bottle, but being responsible for where that bottle ends up and how it gets there.
In 2020 we are likely to see at least one major global CPG strike up a deal with retailers for ‘refill stations’, where consumers can get discounts on their shampoo by taking old bottles back to be refilled, drastically cutting plastic waste and reducing carbon emissions. But circularity is not just about returns. Big companies will take more responsibility for the front end of their supply chain too, with ethical sourcing and provenance of product also an important part of the puzzle.
Workforces: Gig Economy gone good
To truly make circular talent models stick, however, businesses need to think about how best to ensure sustainability in their roles. This means giving people the ability to work anywhere, anytime. Flexibility is a cornerstone of sustainable business, and nowhere is this more championed than in the gig economy.
In 2020 we’ll see the gig economy becoming integrated into large corporates, whereas previously they were restricted to digital natives. This will be possible through a focus on process changes and mindset which accepts that flexible working is part of the future and it is here to stay. At its core, the gig economy enables businesses to tap into talent pools that are hard to reach: those with caring needs, disabled people, or those outside of major cities. As almost every industry is now facing a major skills shortage, bringing the gig economy out of the shadows and into the corporate enterprise world will mean that in 2020, we will see previously untapped talent adding new or forgotten skills to the workforce.
The onus will be on big corporates to make the move to these sustainable talent models, enabling employees to come and go as they please, while ultimately helping drive the bottom line.
Workplaces: Enter the Trust Economy
All of the above relies on a huge degree of trust, both between suppliers and corporates, and employers and employees. Trust will enable transparency. And with transparency comes a whole world of possibilities, both within workplaces and across circular supply chains. Good job, then, that we will see the birth of the Trust Economy in 2020.
Making the Trust Economy a reality will rely on transforming corporate mentalities. In circular supply chains, having trust across the whole ecosystem is crucial for sustainability and ethical practices. Businesses must be trusted to source products ethically, and treat every worker in that supply chain fairly. Meanwhile, consumers place their trust in businesses who are doing all they can to be sustainable – through actions, not just words.
From an employer and employee perspective, Microsoft recently trialled a 4-day working week in Japan, which saw increased productivity. The transition for corporates should be from a model that measures by time spent to one measuring by outcome. This enables productivity with purpose, rather than just being busy: this comes as much from the physical workspace itself as from an employee’s to-do list. It also relies on employers implicitly trusting their employees to get the job done, and then rewarding those employees for the work they complete.
Circularity might sound like a wishy-washy term to those who don’t see its impact. But within the next year, we will see all of the above start to take shape in some of the world’s biggest businesses. For the C-Suite, 2020 should be the year that sustainability is brought out from the darkness and into the light.
For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.