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Balancing Business & Politics While “Improving the State of the World” | Mainstage

Programming Sponsor:

Salesforce e1635275616438 - Balancing Business & Politics While “Improving the State of the World” | Mainstage

Eric Loeb, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Salesforce, Inc. LLC
Kathryn Kross, Executive Director, Communications, United Nations Foundation
Richard Edelman, President and CEO, Edelman
Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

Mirroring the week’s UN General Assembly, Kathryn Kross, Executive Director of Communications at the United Nations Foundation, opened a timely discussion on how business, government, and civil society would work together. 

The critical nature of partnership, said Eric Loeb, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for Salesforce, Inc. LLC, became exceptionally clear during the pandemic. His company recognized its power to make change in areas close to its core competencies and beyond. Businesses, he continued, shouldn’t be afraid to try something new, as Salesforce did when it worked with partners to deliver personal protective equipment around the world. For the first time in more than 20 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer listed business as the most trusted institution in the world. Companies are expected to be both effective and ethical, explained Richard Edelman, President & CEO of Edelman. CEOs are expected to speak up on important issues in the way governments historically did. With so many businesses talking about building back better, Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, expressed her hope for an opening to reconfigure the role of business in societal transformation. It is possible, she explained, for business to be purposeful and still prosperous.

Kross asked the panelists how companies can best maximize their investment in change. Edelman promoted the idea of full circle leadership, where companies do the right thing first and attract employees, funders, and customers through their example. Trust is good for business, Loeb explained: companies must balance and prioritize what’s good for the company, the planet, and its customers. Ojiambo highlighted the challenge of financing during a time when so many resources have been devoted to fighting the pandemic. With divisions rising around the world, partnerships can help drive positive impact in addressing global challenges. Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals will take effort at all levels.

At the end of the discussion, Kross asked the panelists what they believe to be the most important ingredient for cross-sector partnership. Ojiambo said that people should be put at the center, Loeb highlighted the need for alignment, and Edelman implored businesses to try something new and not to be constrained by what has been.

There are those areas that are very close to your core competencies as a business and you can focus on areas of change there. But at the same time, you shouldn’t be fearful of doing other things when you see the opportunity.

Eric Loeb

We’ve seen businesses, governments, and civil society rush to support their customers and constituents in new and innovative ways, partnering across sectors in the process.

Kathryn Kross

Business was seen as effective and ethical, and that’s the key moment.

Richard Edelman

There are great opportunities for business and great opportunities to rethink what partnership should look like, because no one sector, no one entity can really solve the challenges that we have to face today.

Sanda Ojiambo

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Business is the world’s most trusted institution, more than the government. This creates a historic opportunity for businesses to maximize their investments in change.
  • Cross-sector partnerships remain a tested way to drive positive impact.