Sustainability isn’t just good business – it’s a huge recruitment tool, these execs say

Insider's Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform, during an Insider virtual event on June 29, 2021
Insider’s Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

  • Corporations want to be more sustainable, and the pandemic has shown we need to all work together.
  • Competing with tech giants for talent can be hard, but working for a sustainable business is a draw.
  • This was part of Insider’s virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, on Tuesday.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto, believes that the biggest misconception related to sustainability is that people can’t change.

“The other misperception is that we can take our time,” he said during Insider’s recent virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, which took place June 29.

The panel, titled “Accelerating the green transformation to drive growth and sustainability,” was moderated by Karen Ho, senior reporter for the business of sustainability at Insider, and featured Frohnmayer and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

Both speakers agreed that the pandemic has shown how people can come together to tackle a global problem. For Traasdahl, whose company is using data to stop food waste, corporate sustainability is the art of the possible.

“Most people believe that large, small, medium-sized companies do not want to share the data because there can be some competitive information, pricing information,” he said. “They want to share – there just haven’t been any tools in place to share this data.”

Traasdahl is trying to solve the “huge paradox” of a world where 750 million to two billion people live with moderate to severe food insecurity, while nearly one-third of all food produced goes to waste.

“The pandemic forced everybody in this industry to actually start breaking open supply chains that they haven’t touched in 30 years and understanding how they can be much more proactive,” he said.

Frohnmayer said the disruption to supply chains affected Arcimoto’s manufacturing, but he believes the benefits of everyone traveling less during lockdowns are a long-term positive.

“Many areas in the world saw clean skies for the first time in some people’s lives during the beginning of the pandemic as industries shuttered operations,” he said. “What we’re building really is at the confluence of autonomy, lightweight electric platforms, shared mobility, and that’s a really key piece of driving a solution to carbon emissions.”

Competing with giants such as Facebook and Amazon for talent presents its challenges, but working for a sustainable business can be a strong recruiting tool.

“Everybody who joins Crisp feels like they have a connection to the mission that we have as a company,” Traasdahl said. He pointed to an internal survey which showed that 46% of employees have an “idealistic focus” in terms of their career, some three times the market average.

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A software CEO reveals how she used the lessons of the pandemic to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace

Panel at Insider's Future of Work virtual event, June 29, 2021, featuring Insider's Rebecca Knight and Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm DreamBox
Insider’s Rebecca Knight (l) interviews Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm, DreamBox

  • DreamBox CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson says diversity should be leveraged for success.
  • Employers must understand what workers want and need, as they now have the upper hand.
  • This was part of Insider’s event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation,” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, on June 29.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

There’s a wealth of evidence that suggests diverse, equal, and inclusive workplaces are more successful – but the pandemic and death of George Floyd forced leaders to truly reckon with this reality.

“Instead of focusing on how to manage diversity, we need to pivot to focus on how to leverage diversity,” Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of educational-software firm DreamBox, said during Insider’s recent virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge from PwC, which took place June 29. “If you really believe that diversity is something to be leveraged and it doesn’t feel like just another project or another obligation, it feels like an opportunity.”

The conversation, titled “Diversity and innovation define the future of work,” was between Woolley-Wilson and Rebecca Knight, senior correspondent for careers and the workplace at Insider.

“Starting out as a woman of color in financial services, the expectations for excellence were either really high or really low,” Woolley-Wilson said. “We believe at DreamBox that diversity is required in order to build empathetic and relevant learning experiences.”

At the height of the pandemic, Woolley-Wilson said she took the unusual step of making the DreamBox digital platform free to help families, students, and teachers combat the equity gaps in education exacerbated by COVID-19.

Internally, she also oriented DreamBox to be guided by three simple principles: take care of each other, take care of our customers, and then by definition, we’ll be taking care of the company.

“We’re at an inflection point,” she said, referring to low unemployment and the changing job market. “The pendulum is swinging, and the leverage is swinging more in the employee camp.”

Woolley-Wilson said the last year highlighted that workplaces need to be more adaptive to the needs of women and racial minorities. Some women might need to work from home more, while others might not have a home environment that’s conducive to work and need to spend more time in the office.

“It’s about being intelligently adaptive, it’s about metabolizing new data, new stimuli from the environment, and meeting people where they are – just like we do with the platform and every individual learner,” she said.

DreamBox also hosts a monthly meeting – the most well-attended meeting company-wide, Woolley-Wilson said – to talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.

“We talked about hard topics like racial bias or white privilege, we talk about things that happen in the current news cycle,” she said. “All those are dealt with in a very open and authentic way.”

She added that MBA programs of the future are going to have to teach leaders how to create “positive gravity” so the best talent chooses them.

“We’re going to have to make sure that organizations are overt and explicit about what they value, because employees now – from the first day of the interview to the first day of onboarding to their first anniversary and beyond – are unapologetic and very courageous and very intentional about what they want and what they need in their professional environment,” she said.

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How major PR firms Ogilvy and Weber Shandwick are preparing for the new hybrid workplace

A panel discussion at Insider's Future of Work Event, June 29, 2021, featuring Insider's Tanya Dua, Gail Heimann, CEO of Weber Shandwick, and Devika Bulchandani, North America CEO of Ogilvy.
Insider’s Tanya Dua (L) interviews Gail Heimann (C), CEO of Weber Shandwick, and Devika Bulchandani (R), North America CEO of Ogilvy.

  • Businesses are investing in processes and technologies to manage the new normal.
  • Two CEOs said now is an opportunity to foster inclusion and positive well-being in the workplace.
  • This was part of Insider’s “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

As the US opens up, more and more employees are telling their bosses they want flexible and hybrid working arrangements.

“Three-quarters of our individuals around the world said flexibility is what they want,” Devika Bulchandani, North America CEO of Ogilvy, said.

Bulchandani said that Ogilvy, like many other firms, is also looking at a 3/2 working model and considering other positive changes it can introduce.

“We also shrunk our real-estate footprint because that allows us to reinvest into different areas of the business and reinvest into our people and what they need going forward,” she said.

She added that they’re instituting three compulsory days off per quarter for each employee to manage burnout.

“Just because we did it doesn’t mean we’re going to do it again,” she said. “Things like, do people need to travel to a meeting? Let’s ask ourselves why.”

Bulchandani said that she’s telling her staff to question whether there’s a perspective missing from the room in terms of gender, race, or disability, as well as capability.

“I have a different skillset, would this team do better? And then my question is, ‘Am I just thinking about New York, or should I be thinking about somebody from our Minneapolis office?'” she said.

In a similar vein, Heimann said that the “democratic” and inclusive nature of the virtual world is something her firm is trying to maintain as employees return to work.

Office space, she said, “will be a creative nexus, it will be a collaboration nexus, it will be a team nexus.” As for remote offices, Heimann said that they’re looking at a broad range of technologies that do more than simply combat “Zoom fatigue.”

“I think that the new age is going to be a little more immersive, more gaming-like, and those are the ones we’re testing,” she said. Weber Shandwick also hired a chief workforce innovation officer and a chief impact officer to push leadership toward “transformation that puts inclusion at the heart.”

“We talked to client after client about the need to solve at the intersections and therefore put together agile, cross-functional teams to bring that ability to clients again,” she said.

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