Editor’s note (January 12, 2024): Companies showcased their environmental and social commitments at the 2023 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. We highlighted some of the leading proponents in this article from last year and will be watching this year to see how companies are following through.
The World Economic Forum was founded on principles of stakeholder capitalism, in which a company’s corporate values drove the business, not just the pursuit of shareholder profits. This year in Davos, Techonomy and Wipro brought together leaders in the technology, finance, and manufacturing industries to share their process, progress, and vision for the future.
In some companies, corporate values are set from the top. At Dell Technologies, for example, CEO Micheal Dell has been talking about the circular economy for more than ten years. Indeed, Dell was one of the first technology companies to institute a recycling program. Even so, today, less than 17 percent of worldwide e-waste is properly recycled.
Changing that is part of Dell’s chief corporate affairs officer, Jennifer “JJ” Davis’s, mandate. “Our purpose is to create technology that drives human progress,” Davis says. “Michael was thinking about circularity before that was even in a term, and we were worrying about recycling 20-plus years ago.”
This is the right thing for any company to do, to be sure, but the action is also spurred by the fact Michael Dell’s name is on every product the company sells. As Davis says, “He doesn’t want to see his name in a landfill.”
Of course, corporate values extend beyond the environment and can include various ESG issues. Wipro, a multinational corporation that provides IT consulting and business processing services, also has a long history of promoting ESG goals and continues to devote a substantial amount of its profits to those goals through its Premji Foundation.
“The Primji Foundation works across the community, in areas of education, health care, human trafficking, and lots of other really important social issues,” according to Stephanie Trautman, Wipro’s chief growth officer. “Our sustainability program started 15 years ago, and about 66 percent of our profits go to the Primji Foundation.”
Financing Sustainability Commitments
Bank of America is another company financing sustainable capital transition. The company has committed to spending $1.5 trillion dollars by 2030 and has spent $250B so far. “Everything we do should be sustainable finance, Bank of America Global Head of Sustainable Finance, Karen Fang Says. “Everything we financed, we invest, it should contribute some in some way, shape or form to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Addressing those goals is going to require big changes in global consumption patterns and MasterCard has a plan to do just that. MasterCard has 90 million merchants in its network, 20,000 banking partners, and more than three billion card holders. The company is working to activate this entire value chain to drive more sustainable spending. “That’s a lot of consumption,” says Ellen Jackowski, chief sustainability officer at Mastercard. “That’s a lot of opportunity.”
Mastercard has been focusing on financial inclusion for the unbanked, among other ESG goals. Rather than approach the issue from a sustainability silo, the company has made sustainability a priority across its business. Perhaps more importantly, it incentivizes all of its 25,000 employees to help meet the company’s ESG goals.
“A portion of the annual compensation for every single employee is tied to whether or not MasterCard has made progress that year on our ESG targets, both environmental and social impact,” says Jackowski. “Every single employee in the company is on the sustainability team, they’re incented.”
All of the panelists agreed that technology can play a crucial role in reducing a company’s carbon footprint. At Wipro, for example, conversations with clients now involve matching projects and strategies to meet clients’ sustainability goals. “We used to just talk about top-line growth, bottom-line savings, customer experience, employee experience, says Wipro’s Traitman “Now we also talk about what this will do to help you achieve your company’s ESG goals.”
The panel showed there is no single path to building and managing a sustainable company culture. You can watch the full panel discussion, led by Worth Media CEO Josh Kampel, in the video below.