Technology is ever-changing and it’s time that people use it for the sustainability of the planet. Brand new technologies have the power to impact supply chain problems, climate change, and even product innovation. Join your host, Dr. Diane Hamilton, as she talks to her guest Gwen Murphy on how people can achieve sustainability today. Gwen is the CEO of Athena Advisory and their SCERTIFY platform. Learn how Gwen is using technology to help find the anomalies in supply chains whether it be human trafficking or wrong environmental practices. Learn about greenwashing and how companies use it in marketing. Also, find out how companies are communicating in regards to these big problems like climate change. Learn all this and more today!
I’m glad you joined us because we have Gwen Murphy here. She is the CEO and Cofounder of Athena Advisory and Athena SCERTIFY. She’s also had 25 years with roles at IBM, EY, KPMG. You name it. She’s really interesting and deals with many areas of sustainability and so much more.
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Using Technology In The Supply Chain To Meet Sustainability Goals With Gwen Murphy
I am here with Gwen Murphy. She is the CEO and Cofounder of Athena Advisory and Athena SCERTIFY. Athena was established to help companies drive digital transformation and innovate their products and services with emerging technology. SCERTIFY helps corporations and fund investment managers as a third-party data verification solution to achieve a sustainability-driven digital transformation. That’s a lot to talk about. I’m very excited to have you here, Gwen. Welcome.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
I was looking forward to this. You deal with many interesting things and this is not easy stuff to talk about. A lot of people need to learn more about what you deal with, but I want to get a backstory on you to find out how you got interested in all this stuff.
The background story is interesting. I was working at a Big Four several years ago and. I went to speak at one of the W20 events, which is an extension of the G20 events where all the presidents get together. W stands for Women 20. They look at women’s economic issues. My background is in Global Technology Executive. At the time, there was this massive and there still is a digital divide in the number of women in executive positions in technology, and women graduating in the tech space.
In the forum that I went to speak at, the topic was on closing that digital divide. There were people like the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, the State Department, you name it. There were people from government agencies all over the world. It was Dame Jenny Shipley, and I always give her credit for it. We were talking after the session and she asked if we could write a paper and do an innovation program looking at the impacts of technology on the lives of women and girls. We looked at robotics, artificial intelligence and blockchain. I was blown away.
That’s what got me interested in sustainability because these technologies could have amazing impacts to bring a much more enchanted world that helps our lives. They make us all interact together and be better people, but they also can have devastating impacts. We’re seeing a lot of that now. That was the beginning of my journey. After that, I started to work with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. They’ve done a lot of work on the impact of technology on human well-being and that led to broader work in sustainability and asking the question, “How’s technology going to impact and transform our world?” Technology is now trying to address the climate challenge, and so the further study of sustainability took off from there.
Roya Mahboob was on my show. She was such an amazing person to interview. She was TIME Magazine’s most influential person on that list years back for her work in Afghanistan. She created a company. Women in Afghanistan don’t usually do this, but she created a company to help women learn how to work with technology so they understand computers to get online jobs. She had to have her brothers be the face of the company because women didn’t do that. That’s the only way she could have the company.
It’s interesting to see all over the world the impact of women in technology and making things more equal. She was an amazing person. When you’re talking about the passion you have for this and what you saw for all this, there is a lot of what you deal with that. I’ve had bits and pieces of people talk about on the show like how you talk about certified blockchain agnostic. I was reading your bio and some of the stuff you sent me. Blockchain, sustainability and all these things are deep topics, and you cover all of them. How do you do that?People need to simplify sustainability because it is so complicated when you look at it. Click To Tweet
I should step back and give credit to my cofounder, Robert Taub. He’s an amazing technologist and business transformation executive. Also to Carsten Primdal on our team. He’s written several books. He wrote a book on the roadmap to modern slavery and the impacts of modern slavery and supply chains around the world. It’s interesting because our overarching motto is, “We need to simplify sustainability.”
It is so complicated. As a technologist myself, when you look at all the technology solutions and innovation that’s out there. If I was a CEO or a Sustainability Chief Executive, or a Chief Marketing Officer, I would think my head would be spinning. I recommend to a lot of companies to just get started. We have a program for companies where they can get started on the blockchain, doing tracking and tracing, and using advanced analytics and a little bit of machine learning to start to track and verify the data in your supply chains.
The blockchain is a pass-through. It improves the security of the data, but it’s machine learning and innovation that confine anomalies in supply chain data. It would suggest that somebody’s slopping fish out or there are sundry activities around environmental things that people may abuse or people might be doing. Maybe they’re not paying people fairly for their wages. Technology can solve every single one of these problems.
To your point, we work with many partners too. We offer these platforms, but then we looked around and said to ourselves, “What’s the most complicated supply chain use case?” It might include land rights. Regarding the guest you had previously, there’s a company called Cadasta. We love working with them. They’ve gotten more than five million people land rights because, in some of these countries, they don’t digitize their titles for land and leasing rights.
They let people farm on them and then they let the gangsters take the land away. When they’re about to farm the crop and get their money, all these bad things happen in the world. Cadasta developed technology using GPS and drones to track the land space and to help countries digitize it and start holding them accountable. There’s Bluenumber for identity tracking.
For product tracing, you can use DNA to trace the source of cotton. Did it come from farm A, farm B or Uzbekistan? There are many ways to make sure you’re not buying cotton from regions of Western China or somewhere where they’re not paying people or enslaving people to work. We can then divide them into administration and countries. The EU and Australia are now enacting laws and regulations.
Companies need to explore these technologies. The end-to-end architecture, even for the more complicated use case, we just put it on a single page. We said, “This is what it would look like if you had even the most complicated use case.” It doesn’t matter if you’re sourcing cocoa, coffee or sugar. A lot of those supply chains are rife with child labor and slavery to this day.
You don’t think of that though. When you think of blood diamonds, you think of certain things, but you don’t think of cotton and those kinds of items.
People don’t know and even myself. There are some companies that are innovating like crazy. There’s a company called Tony’s Chocolonely. Anytime you put chocolate in your mouth, I suggest you Google the brand because I think people should be more aware. Tony’s Chocolonely now, we hand their candy bars out. They’re making strides and making sure that their supply chains are transparent.
There’s a company that I just love. I’ve never spoken to them but they’re out of Australia. They’re called Who Gives A Crap. They’re making toilet paper out of bamboo, but they’re also taking portions of that money and building sanitation systems in developing countries. These are the companies of the future. It’s not just about creating a brand. Maybe bamboo isn’t the most sustainable product, but it’s still better than other things used in other types of toilet paper.
Other companies are starting to say, “You’ve had a trusted brand since you’re a kid,” and I don’t want to start naming brands because I don’t want people calling me, but you know the brands you’ve been using since you’re a kid. You go to the grocery store and you bring home your detergent for laundry. What type of container is it in? Why aren’t people solving these plastic problems? These are solvable problems. We just need to get together and work on them together.
I think his name was Eben Bayer. He had created that instead of Styrofoam, he use mushrooms to create this whole new product. It was great. It was a Forbes Summit I was at. A lot of these people come up with these amazing ideas. I taught a lot of courses in ethics and I still do. I know you deal with helping clients with artificial intelligence, ethics and some of the stuff that’s out there. I don’t think that a lot of people are aware of so much of the ethics behind all this stuff. What do you do to help people with that?
When we go into a customer and we work with clients, we’re trying to get companies to work together, not just separately. Companies that source chocolate, some of them share the same supply chains. If you can get four beverage companies that use cocoa, coffee, sugar or other things to partner together to digitize their supply chain, you can have more of an impact. When we talk to companies, we look in terms of three areas.
One is when it comes to sustainability, what are you doing in terms of your company facilities and business activities? Kia is doing amazing work to put solar panels on their stores globally. They put an insane amount of money in solar to power their operations. The other piece is product innovation. We try to work with clients to help align them to some of these innovations that are coming out of think tanks and other groups. There are amazing innovations like Lycra, the stretchy pants that women wear, is made out of petroleum. There’s been work put into making it out of spider DNA, which is bizarre. That’s the product piece, and then the third piece is the supply chain.
We try to talk to them about having an end-to-end roadmap and aligning those three areas, their facilities, product innovation, and supply chains to the United Nations’ goals in terms of social justice, child labor, diversity inclusiveness and underwater life. If you’re a restaurant company and you’re sourcing fish, there are a lot of shenanigans in that industry. Aligning to those goals and then working with your competitors to what’s called coopetition. There was a book called Co-Opetition. It was written in the late ’90s. They compete in terms of their products and services, but competitors don’t have to compete in terms of their supply chain. They could actually collaborate and probably even further reduce cost. That’s what we do or the approach that we try to take.Plastic problems are solvable problems. People just need to get together and work on them together. Click To Tweet
It’s going to be challenging because, in all the courses I teach, we go over some of the big companies that have had sweatshop scandals or whatever they’ve had. I’ve asked students, “Will you still shop at whatever store?” They all almost always say they will because price matters. How do you compete and how do you do the right thing if your consumer rewards you for doing the wrong thing?
That’s a huge challenge, and it’s funny because the data is conflicting. There are a couple of old stats out there that says 78% of Millennials and Gen Zs, and even a higher number in another study said that they would pay more for a product. There’s also other research that shows that when they get to the store, those kids don’t have that much money, so they reach for the cheaper product. It’s a challenge for firms and for firms to take the approach of, “We’ll pass that cost on to consumers,” that’s a race to the bottom for them. That’s not the right strategy.
If they start to look at how they can innovate at a lower cost and do other things within how they digitize their business or other acts that they could take, we’d be much more successful. We do need that younger generation to buy those more sustainable products. Most Chief Marketing Officers agree, and we work with a lot of them. On one hand, they are trying to make sure that their messaging around those products that are coming out of their organization is getting out there and people are adopting it. Also, that it’s being done ethically and there’s no greenwashing.
Explain greenwashing. A lot of people aren’t familiar with that phrase. I know we were going to talk about that, so I’m excited you brought it up.
Greenwashing is the act of saying that your product is achieving certain sustainable benefits but it’s really not. Greenwashing also has to do with the capital markets. A lot of fund managers and asset managers are getting accused of greenwashing because they’re not removing some of those stranded assets from their portfolio like oil, gas, coal and whatnot. There was an article that says that $1 trillion- something in investments have been added to coal, oil and gas since the Paris Agreement.
That’s disturbing because research shows that these energy companies, that’s what they’re calling themselves now from oil and gas companies, if they moved to these cleaner technologies, then they can drive more revenue and will be more profitable. The ones that are moving more quickly, it’s a question of extinction. It’s an existential threat for them, but they’re not quite moving as fast as a lot of people would look like.
Greenwashing is when a fund manager states that their portfolios have certain levels of addressing social justice, which is the modern slavery, child labor, human trafficking and fair pay, and their environmental practices are not destroying the planet. That’s people, planet, and also ethics such as governance. Those three categories are what the ESG targets or is aligned around largely. First of all, those assets are what folks call stranded assets.
Let’s say you’re a fund manager and you have several companies within your portfolio, and those companies are at risk of being stranded assets in your portfolio, then your risk is going up. Let’s say that the companies within your portfolio are sitting in certain geographies and those geographies are more right to see climate change in the future, the insurers won’t insure those portfolios, then a fund or an investment manager doesn’t want to invest in them.
If I was as a fund manager and my business was tied to all these companies, I’d be going to them saying, “Here’s how you need to make some of these changes.” Instead, some of them have been caught and not quite telling the truth about how well their portfolio is achieving some of that change. That’s called greenwashing.
I talk in a lot of my courses with students about some of the things that go on. I teach a lot of marketing courses too. You had mentioned CMOs being stressed to figure all this out. In one of the talks I was supposed to give at a Forbes CMO Summit, one of the things that the CMOs there were stressed out about was getting their messages out at scale, to make them feel personalized and to share what you’re doing with the corporations. They say they’re doing these great things and they want certain people to be reached with these messages.
We’re talking about it’s so complicated here but then also, they’re dealing with all of these products and services that combined to get these messages out that don’t communicate to each other, and they’re so frustrated. Not only do they have to know the technology behind what you’re talking about, but they also have to know the technology of the different providers of the software and all those things that need to connect to one another. What type of a degree would you tell kids these days to get to know what you know and be a CMO? Who’s giving all this education?
A lot of folks are graduating with a Master’s Degree in Sustainability Science. In general, this is a real growth area. CMOs now have a very tough job. It starts with the board and the CMO management or the people above them. We can talk about that in a minute but to answer your question about education, I’m pleased to say for the first time ever on this call that SCERTIFY is now an official delivery partner for Competent Boards’ climate and ESG education. Competent Boards has been around for a couple of years.
They developed their education with the University of Oxford and Arizona State University. They have amazing climate programs. The CEO of Competent Boards is Helle Bank Jorgensen. She’s such an amazing woman. I’ve listened to her talk and she amazes me every day. She developed with these universities. There are 100 renowned international members on their board like researchers and executives from humongous companies and very senior leadership that helped put this together and are supporting it. It’s education by board members and executives, for board members and executives, with the research institutes providing the curriculum and therefore, the certification.
It’s got 100% recommendation by the alumni, the people who have taken it. I highly recommend that if you’re a CMO, a Chief Sustainability Officer, a Senior Executive or a board member in a firm, some of those advanced certifications are really good. My number one advice for boards is to make sure your entire board and your senior management team are educated. There was a study, I think it was Stern School of Business, so I’ll give them credit even though I’m just 99% sure it was them. They did a study on several hundred board members and less than 4% had any background in ESG and sustainability.
I’m not surprised. I’ve served on a lot of different boards and different things. You see groups that you’re either a financial guru or whatever it is. People have their backgrounds. That’s why you get so many people on the board. You hope that everything’s covered. You very rarely see culture experts and a lot of different aspects of what you would hope would be covered.
I’m always surprised when you see these major companies or even the Theranos kind of thing. I’m like, “What were you guys thinking?” There are a lot of not educated people sometimes. I’m glad you brought up certifications because I deal a lot with that in the education field. The name of your company is SCERTIFY but with an S before certify. I want to know why you have an S. Why do you spell SCERTIFY with SC?
It’s a little strange. SCERTIFY.co is our website address. We initially started with S for the supply chain, so SC. It was my cofounder, Robert Taub. He’s really talented. When it comes to marketing and branding, he’s pretty clever. We knew we were going to evolve the business. S also stands for sustainability. We have offerings where we talk about the supply chains.
Carsten Primdal on our team is a 30-year expert. He’s worked in more than 300 factories throughout China and Asia looking at these challenges of human rights, social justice and modern slavery very directly, and how to make supply chains free of those things. That was this SC certified initially, but sustainability more broadly allowed us to now launch some of the programs we’re piloting with fund managers. Fund managers and insurers now are struggling, because they’ve done a really good job or a pretty good job in most cases looking at, “How is the climate going to impact my portfolio?”
There’s an estimated 37% of the global population who live in coastal cities and 570 coastal cities are supposed to be affected by sea-level rise by 2050. If your company that’s in your portfolio is in any of those cities or located in certain geographies where billions of people are going to be displaced because of environmental things. This risk is bigger. The environmental stuff and their risk modeling have improved a lot, but the area that they’re struggling with is, “How do we measure slavery and fair pay?”
Poverty further drives the climate challenge. More people in poverty causes more urbanization, more waste, more greenhouse gases, and more issues with CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s a cyclical thing. This growing inequality globally, it’s not just a political thing that people are fighting over. This is a real challenge when things are so imbalanced and it’s driving this climate change.
No matter who someone is, it doesn’t matter where you live, what you do and how rich you are, climate change is going to affect you. Sometimes there are days where I’m so involved in this stuff that I don’t understand how anyone leading a corporation now could look at their descendants or their children and not realize that this is beyond becoming a problem.
How much do you blame the media on that?
I blame the politicians. To your point about AI ethics before, I probably didn’t even answer your question very good. You can open any newspaper to see the trouble that Facebook, Instagram and some of these companies are in with whistleblowers coming out and saying that these algorithms are actually driving people into these camps, and politicians are taking advantage of people.
Refugees are arriving from Central America to the US. They’re coming because of soaring temperatures and droughts that are pushing farmers off their land and they can’t make a living. That leads to conflict and conflict leads to war. You can’t even live safely in your community, so that’s why they come to America. You’ve got one party saying, “It’s the Democrats.” The Democrats are saying, “It’s the Republicans.” This is not tenable anymore. Our government has to start functioning for us so they can fix that problem.The best advice for boards is to make sure your entire board and your senior management team are educated. Click To Tweet
It seems like we’re getting farther apart on everything. How much of it is being hidden from us of what’s really happening? Are they all moving from Silicon Valley to Texas because they think of global warming or is it the taxes? How much do we hear of the true story?
You got to wonder. Having lived in the West, I grew up in Utah and I’ve watched after earthquakes in the ’80s, people tend to move. That’s what happens, but the cost of living then later became a big issue. The fires, we know people are moving into Utah and Arizona, and the taxes. The climate situation is fixable. Have you ever seen the Netflix series Kiss the Ground?
I don’t think I have. That’s on my list now.
It’s one for people to watch. I grew up in a farm country. My family are farmers, although I don’t know much of anything about farming from my childhood, but I know a little bit more about regenerative farming now. Kiss the Ground does a good job of talking about climate change because of the way we farm. Over the years, we’ve separated ranchers and farmers. People who grow things like corn and soybeans from the cattle themselves, and there’s this factory farming with cattle.
Regenerative farming means that separation caused the tilling of the land, and then the addition of the pesticides. When that happens, it destroys the environment and our ecological system. There are people who can articulate this so much better than me. Kiss the Ground does a good job. When animals roam on land and they roam in different regions, it’s a controlled type of farming. Their hooves actually reinvigorate the ground. You don’t need to till. They eat the land and you don’t need all those pesticides. All that stuff has made it so it has worsened our CO2 situation and the climate.
Kiss the Ground does a good job of showing you the big pieces of land in different regions of the world. If we just draw those down and change the way we farm, we could reverse this in a generation in the next 20 to 30 years. There is a book called Drawdown. I forgot the author’s name who talks about this. We could reverse this challenge, but I don’t know if it’s still the situation. I haven’t looked into this in a while, but the regulations out of our government incentivize farmers to not change that pattern. They’d rather pay them not to farm.
One farmer in Kiss the Ground says, “I want off welfare.” That’s a welfare strategy. They’re saying, “I don’t want to do that. Show me how to farm in a regenerative way.” People didn’t know. These pesticides were used in World War II in Germany and other countries. Corporations brought them to America and said, “That would be a great way to get rid of bugs. I could grow more crops.” That had an unintended outcome, so let’s fix it.
You bring up many of the industries I’ve worked with in the past. I noticed that you’ve held roles at IBM, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and all the different things I was looking at where you’ve worked. I was a VAR with IBM in the ’80s. Before that, I worked for an ad cam office, which looking back, you’re just a secretary. You’re not thinking anything about what they’re doing. You look back and you go, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
I don’t know if everybody thought about it back then because it was so long ago. My husband’s a physician and he reads all the books. He’s going to definitely want to watch this Netflix thing because he’s very much into all the natural pasture-fed stuff that he eats anyway. I’m going to have to tell him about this because he likes to hear all these kinds of things.
A lot of people either just want to put their head down and not hear about it because it’s too much, or it’s above their pay grade and thinking, “Somebody else has to deal with it.” These companies can give a lot back to their customers if they could just do it the right way. I don’t know how we could change the government aspect of it though. You’ve got so many lobbyists for these big companies. Is that your biggest issue? The lobbyists?
In a lot of discussions, the government continue to be so dysfunctional that we’re hoping, relying on and putting faith in Corporate America to do this. We’re seeing them take action. A wise professor said, “A profit-positive business will depend on a people-positive and planet-positive environment.” Businesses cannot operate if 500 million farmers are driven out of their land or can’t feed people. One in four people is going to face dire water shortages by 2050.
They say as much as 50% of the population are going to undergo or be subjected to water shortages by 2050. Businesses know they cannot operate in this environment. This is an existential threat to businesses. I’m always forgetting statistics, so I’m not good at remembering them very well. I think there’s a number that over 50% of the S&P 500 or something has gone out of business in a twenty-year period of time. It’s just extraordinary numbers.
I’ve quoted that one before. I’m trying to remember it. It was a pretty high number like 80%. I know what you’re talking about.
If you’re in a business, then all you’re thinking about is the word consume. I have these things that I talk with people about consume. Consume is a word of Wall Street. Let’s get people to consume stuff and throw it out. Marketers need to stop marketing things to consumers and market things to citizens. People are citizens. They’re starting to look at what they’re buying. They’re starting to get aware.
Is it generationally or do you think it’s more younger generations?
It’s very much the younger generation. There’s a new word that’s emerged. I heard it the other day. Pandemial like a Millennial.
I knew there was going to be a name. I haven’t heard what it was. Is that Z now that they are calling Pandemials?
They’re so disillusioned. They’re seeing the erosion of social cohesion in their livelihoods. They’re not seeing a future. Nobody wants to be called that. It sounds awful, but the younger women are deciding to forego children because they’re not getting the response to the situation. They’ve lost their trust in the government. We’re seeing this and I think it’s impacting them a lot more than the older generation according to most of the data.
The first talk I ever gave for Forbes was about the future of the workplace based on generations and what’s going to happen with them. That was before Gen Z even was in the workplace. When you’re talking to Millennials and they talk about these young kids, and you’re talking about Gen Zs and Millennials seem young to me still. very generation has its impact, whether the Millennials had 9/11, and now the Pandemials or whatever they’re calling them have the pandemic. That has totally altered their path. It is fascinating to look at what will happen because of that. There are a lot of people who you’re working with. Is it still a lot of Gen X and above in the top-level positions, or are they getting younger?
I’m not seeing the younger show up at these senior positions so much yet. I could probably say it’s not a data point that I know that much about. I hired a new employee and she told me in the interview that she won’t be coming to the office. They’ve said they’re not going to do it. I think the pandemic was the nail in the coffin for many of them.
We’ve re-examined what we want. A lot of people, do they want to go back? How is that going to change the whole workplace in general? I would like to see more sustainability talk though. I’ve had a few experts on the show. A lot more than in the past. Being proactive to disaster and preparation is also another unfortunately hot topic, but who comes to you for help with this? Is this usually the CEO? I’m curious. Is it the CMOs? Who comes to you?
It’s interesting because different areas of the company have come to this challenge from a completely different vantage point. Board-level folks are attending these educations like I mentioned and starting to have those conversations. It all starts with them because if you and I sat here and talked about, “What are the five challenges to the marketer?” The marketer leading an organization cannot be sure what he or she is writing about their products and services to the marketplace unless they know that the supply chain team and the procurement team is delivering on this in a way that’s not going to backfire on them.
At the same time, they can’t be sure of anything if the board and C-level management haven’t set their strategy and space. Board and C-level management would come to us for exercise to take their strategy and align it to these ESG targets and talk about how to better measure these things so that the marketing team can help them communicate to Wall Street. When they come to us, that’s the angle of how we’re going to measure sustainability more concretely.
A story on the side, and then I’ll finish answering your question. We saw a marketing research group did some work. They noticed that three almost identical products that clean your house has certain ingredients and come in similar containers from three entirely different companies. The marketing group in the organization aligned it to entirely different sustainability goals. One was aligned to diversity, gender messaging, and marketing programs.It doesn't matter where you live, what you do, how rich you are. Climate change is going to affect you. Click To Tweet
One was aligned to not having pesticides, and one was aligned to a social justice program in terms of marketing. That goes to show what’s important to a company and how they want to build a sustainability strategy from their C-level and their marketing team. It requires a lot of thoughtfulness because you could come up with completely different ideas based on what your company’s values are. There’s that upper side of people that have a need to set the strategy and direction. Do techniques like scenario planning on how you predict uncertainties and plausible solutions for the future, so that you can address climate change and better communicate to your insurers and whatnot.
We’re presenting at the Business Transformation Conference in Orlando in December 2021. It’s a supply chain event. It’s a digital transformation conference. A lot of the people will be there that we talk to in the supply chain and procurement teams. They’re coming for the supply chain automation and bringing IT leaders with them in a completely different camp. They want to talk about the technology and how do they audit suppliers better, and how do they get away from old-fashioned auditing practices that are pretty manual.
Whenever there’s a human involved in auditing a factory in China or somewhere, we have seen cases where they audit a factory and 30 days later, it burns down. Why did it burn down? What happened with the auditing? Where’s the gap? Is the gap really that you need more innovation and technology to do that? People can come from the digital transformation side with the sustainability need to include digital sustainability, the strategy, and how they design their firm.
People can come to us on the CEO, CMO, Chief Sustainability Officer side to make sure that the Chief Sustainability Officer and the Chief Marketing Lead has a clear message from the board and senior management on the goals of what they’re going to achieve. Also, how they’re going to communicate that message either to their employees, the marketplace, or regarding their products and services, and how they take them individually to market.
It’s complex. To your point earlier, marketers are extremely frustrated because, in some organizations, the Chief Sustainably Officers are reporting to finance or to procurement. There’s no consistency in where this role operates, so if the message is clear from the board, they’ve set their goals around sustainability and they know how they’re going to measure it. Hopefully, the management group would be bringing these disciplines together more than ever.
The product engineering innovation, how they’re innovating and how the marketer’s going to translate that into new messaging. How the supply chains and procurement teams are going to make sure that the marketer doesn’t get greenwashed because somebody found slavery in a second-tier supply chain. That’s mattering to people now.
It’s not enough to say, “My supply chain, I don’t have any slavery, but I can’t control all these other people.” They come from all those different angles. Some from digital transformation and C-level more, “How do I grow my brand through these marketing communication strategies and talk to Wall Street and set a better ESG strategy in place?”
A lot of this ties into the work I do with building curiosity because a lot of companies think they have a culture built on promoting curiosity. They know it ties into innovation and engagement, but there’s a difference in how their employees perceive how much curiosity is encouraged. If you could build a culture built on people exploring, looking into these things, asking these questions, finding out why or why not, then you can have a lot of better sustainability programs and better engagement.
You get all these things. For me, that’s what was so interesting in researching the whole aspect of what holds people back because people are afraid to ask questions. They’re afraid of things that have happened from their past, especially older generations that had bosses who told them, “Don’t ask questions.” It was fun having Francesca Gino on the show who had that great HBR article, The Business Case for Curiosity. I could see how it ties so well into what you’re trying to do here. Get people to look at some of this stuff, ask questions and find out who’s supplying this, or who’s in our supply chain, and do we want that? Where do you think curiosity plays a role?
I think that’s fabulous because when we talk about how do you implement this strategy, we talk about trust. You’re talking about curiosity and things that drive the right behaviors. When you think about driving the right behaviors, what does that mean? There’s one company L.L.Bean. I admire what they’re doing. The reason I admire it is not because I know that much about what they’re doing. I don’t work directly with them, but they’re so transparent. They’re like, “This product we know is 15% or 20% sustainable but we’re on a journey. It’s part of the journey.”
They’re building that culture of trust. Trust and curiosity are quite different. From a behavior’s perspective, and you’re the behavior expert so you tell me, but it seems to me you’re giving people the freedom to be honest and trustworthy. Also on the other end, when I go to a website and I see that their marketing message says that, “We’re going to do this and achieve the sustainability goal by 2030.” I think like, “What marketer wants to put a message on their website that they’re going to achieve a goal by 2030?” It’s the deadline the Paris Agreement and these other UN goals gave us. That’s like saying, “I’m a C student.” Don’t advertise that you’re a C student. Drive the behaviors to incent your product innovators to be curious and your marketers to be honest. Incent your employees to collaborate in that.
When people ask me what I mean by curiosity, a lot of it is getting out of status quo thinking and status quo behaviors of doing things because they worked in the past, just because we’ve always done it that way. We all know that didn’t work well for Kodak, Blockbuster, and a lot of others who aren’t here anymore. This is an important conversation, and this has been really interesting. I’m so glad that I had a chance to talk to you about this. Is there any website or anything you want to share before we go? I want to make sure everybody has a chance to follow you or reach you. I want to them see how they could do that.A profit positive business will depend on a people and planet positive environment. Click To Tweet
If people are interested in any of our education or workshops, they can email us at CompetentBoards@Scertify.co. Our website is Scertify.co. You can go there and click on any link. Send us an email and check out the site. We’re adding some additional programs so people can sign up for our newsletter and we can start to interact with them.
That’s a great start. You have so much great information there. This was so timely. I enjoyed having you on the show. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
I’d like to thank Gwen for being our guest on the show. We get so many great people on the show. She’s got some very fascinating areas that we hadn’t delved into before. There’s so much that can be very complicated in learning and she does make everything seem so much easier. I could see why she’s so successful. We get so many great guests. If you’ve missed any past guests, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com. All the information on perception and curiosity can be found there. Make sure you drop down the menus at the top to look at some of that. Also, go to the bottom because we got some great testimonials and other assessment information there. We’d love to hear from you. I enjoyed this topic. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Athena Advisory
- Athena SCERTIFY
- Gwen Murphy
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- Roya Mahboob – Previous episode
- The Business Case for Curiosity – Article
About Gwen Murphy
Gwen Murphy is the CEO and Co-Founder of Athena Advisory and Athena SCERTIFY. Athena was established to help companies drive digital transformation and innovate their products and services with emerging technology. Scertify helps corporations and Fund/Investment managers, as a third-party data verification solution, achieve sustainaiblity-driven digital transformation.
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