As a convener, Concordia is deeply conscious of the fact that to maximize our impact, we need to strive not just for one-off conversations on important topics, but create a more continuous effort that explores different aspects of that topic, brings in both new and returning participants and speakers, and evolves over time to reflect changing—or stagnating—progress on the ground. A near-consistent mantra across the organization is “no one-off programming”.
The partnerships we develop with other institutions, whether private sector companies, NGOs, or otherwise, are largely designed to ensure we can lean into those strategies. Our partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) over the course of 2019 and 2020 provides a strong example of continuity mixed with evolution, guided by BCG’s engagement goals and the growing global footprint of Concordia.
As part of our emphasis on effective public-private collaboration, we see great value in private sector companies engaging openly in dialogue about some of the most pressing issues we face. And to do that, we know that companies have to make social impact—most consistently evaluated through environmental, social, or government (ESG) metrics—a priority. BCG has been a leader in working directly with corporations to do exactly that: ensuring that ESG is not just a peripheral aspect of their operational priorities, but a central, and profitable, element of their strategy.
Every major global corporation these days has a corporate responsibility element, but not every company has been equal in transforming their core business strategies to prioritize social impact and ESG. This is a result of differing corporate will, policy and enabling environments, and inconsistency in strategy and evaluation.
Working together, we felt that Concordia and BCG could help address these internal and external challenges and accelerate positive changes through Concordia’s summit programming. To do so, we strategized on ways to elevate BCG’s pertinent thought leadership around current ESG trends globally and in specific regional settings. Simultaneously, we collaborated to build a call to action for key industries to start making those operational reappraisals.
Starting with the programming we co-developed at the 2019 Concordia Americas Summit, we wanted to look at sustainable financing trends in Latin America, with an emphasis on implications for investors and corporations with a presence in the region. Our vision had three parts. First, we would leverage the Concordia convening platform to explore the role of institutional investors in sustainable investing. Second, we would identify the pressures on publicly-owned companies to enhance the sustainability of their businesses. And third, we would facilitate dialogue on the best ways to responsibly invest while encouraging portfolio companies to improve their ESG practices.
As the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit—with its global focus—approached, Concordia and BCG discussed the best ways to extend and adapt the conversation. We coalesced around highlighting the need for executive leadership within companies to drive multi-stakeholder frameworks for sustainability, supply chain transparency, and corporate responsibility. Specifically, based on BCG’s expertise and Concordia’s network, we saw an opportunity to engage corporate executives from the consumer goods industry through a 10-12 person Strategic Dialogue on “Action-Oriented, Meaningful, and Profitable Sustainability Efforts.”
This topic resonates across the Concordia community, creating a natural pathway to engage companies like Ikea, Microsoft, and Novozymes. Meanwhile, BCG brought considerable thought leadership in helping to frame the conversation in a substantive, actionable way, while contributing valuable insights on broader industry trends. The session helped unveil ways that some of the top companies and investors in the world are looking at ESG as an instrument for value creation. And it highlighted how that agenda should not be siloed off within the portfolio of the “Chief Sustainability Officer”’s of multinational corporations; it should be weighed and directed by CEOs, COOs, and CFOs, too.
In 2020, with COVID-19 putting the health and economic impacts of structural racism and inequity on full display, Concordia and BCG worked together to dive into one key aspect of ESG further: the “S” or “Social” factors. Guided by some of BCG’s recent thought leadership initiatives, we wanted to bring forward a call to action for one particular industry with an outsized potential to usher in societal equity and inclusivity: finance. Financial institutions—whether banks, investors, or insurers—are uniquely positioned to accelerate social equity, transform economic realities, and enable long-term wealth development for underserved communities.
Through two pieces of programming—one Concordia Live Webinar and one Strategic Dialogue at the 2020 Annual Summit—we highlighted what the financial industry is currently doing, what it can be doing more of or doing better, and which approaches might inspire future change. During the webinar, BCG’s experts presented their perspectives on the power of finance to improve racial equity. The Strategic Dialogue then followed up with a broader conversation on the “Social” dimension of ESG, moderated by FT’s Gillian Tett, and featuring BCG CEO Rich Lesser, Grameen America CEO Andrea Jung, and Citi Vice Chairman Jay Collins.
“Our partnership with Concordia has advanced our work helping businesses build a more equitable and inclusive society. The Concordia team tackled the challenges of 2020 and the shift to digital nimbly and effectively, without sacrificing the high quality of their programming. We look forward to continuing to engage with Concordia throughout 2021.”
– Boston Consulting Group
In reflecting on the past two years of programming we developed in partnership with BCG, we are pleased to have been able to raise awareness—whether regarding social injustice or sustainability challenges—and point to tangible ways that industries can make an environmental and societal impact in a way that is ultimately profitable.
Big questions in the ESG space still remain, and Concordia is committed to providing a platform to share research, strategy, and collaboration opportunities towards further social impact. We look forward to continuing to promote proactive private sector engagement with the most pressing environmental and social issues of the day, while empowering thought leaders in our community like BCG to shine a spotlight on ways that other companies can lead the way.