A conversation with Maurizio Zollo

Nowadays, sustainability is spreading its influence in different fields of everyday life. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is changing the job market, priorities of companies, and how governance can act to link global challenges to human ones. Business is switching from its traditional form, markets as well. Mr. Maurizio Zollo, a very special guest in this Global conversation, offered an opinion on the identification of a path to supporting the transition of business towards a new constructive role; enhancing the capacity of global systems to reach a sustainable way of thinking and acting.

MaurizioZolloProfileHe is Professor of Strategy and Sustainability, Head of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship and Scientific Director of the Leonardo Centre; an initiative to explore new ways of doing business in order to regenerate economies, communities and natural zones around the world. before starting his academic career, he was a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co. and investment banker at Merrill Lynch in New York.

He is the director of two research programs: the GOLDEN(Global Organizational Learning and Development Network) and another one about neuroscience of innovation and sustainability decisions.

SDGs focus on global challenges : impact of maladies on humanity, unequal distribution of income wealth and opportunity, health issues and environmental tragedies. All these challenges are connected to each other.

What the business can do?

There are a lot of actors in the society that needs to change their behavior in order to collaborate and help the transition towards solutions to these maladies.

There are powerful actors beyond the private sector, such as governments or social enterprises, that can start thinking about a new strategy with the funding from finance system, not only the private sector but also the public one. Finally, academia has its own role in social science and business research; it is useful to explore knowledge.

All the actors need to re-think their own roles and shift their attention towards a more sustainable systematic way of acting. Here we can see a radical transition for humanity.

Taking a position to see business as a source or remedy of social maladies or both, can offer the possibility to analyze better, different attitudes around market developments. An example can be the computation of the supply chain of the top 1000 companies that generate 70% of global GDP. On one hand it is visible the power of corporations and on the other hand, it means that 1000 people, as the main source of energy and power,  can make substantial changes to make their business going on.

Today, companies have different components.

They have a purpose, revealed by their behavior in the context of governance, with a board of directors (CEO, roles of managers, shareholders) that need to communicate in the interest of the company; a personal strategy builds up their actions and the extent of their decisions.

There are more components, culture and leadership (soft ones), or control systems and operating functions (supply chain, innovation, and marketing)

The link between all these components is related to SDGs.

The impact on communities of their production and their position on the global market. The relationship between community-business can change and improve, looking at different perspectives at the same time.

How can we think about the solutions?

A new way to organize business enterprises, fulfilling expectations for financial investors needs to be elaborated.

Excluding the supremacy of financial capital, there are other forms of capital: human (employees), social (relationship the company with the external environment), natural (air, land, water).

In a traditional way of acting, a company operates on a natural capital landscape and receives some licenses to authorize some levels of pollution in exchanges of expectations or a positive contribution to the quality of life of a particular community; no exacerbations of the mixture of these four kinds of capitals are allowed.

Business is trying to put aside the monetary value of action, transforming it in a functional and innovative process to listen to stakeholder needs, control environmental impacts, and being aware of the relationship with employees.

The “soft aspects”, culture and leadership, are the hardest aspects that need change.

Anyway, there are some ways to approach a business evolution for an evident social impact, a fundamental re-thinking in practical terms on how to realize this transition. A combination of three assets can prove to be useful: organizational experiments (analysis, work made by companies), collaborative networks, large scale behavioral insights.

Putting again in practice the correlation between SDGs, sustainability, and business evolution, it is clear that a new strategy has been made up: SDGs centered model, reshape of actions of portfolio management, organizational experiments, and collaboration of leaders to create new solutions. In particular leaders have a huge responsibility to move forward sustainable stages, triggering a soft aspect transition. (Cultural soft-skills)

The difference between the “Today” and “Tomorrow” visions is made up of finding a perfect balance between risk-cost efficiency and revenues creation towards a social value for a better life. The transition is here: from the stakeholder orientation to a different way of living for society.

ZOLLI

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