Our latest ‘Critical Conversation’ podcast features an exclusive interview with Chad Holliday, discussing the lessons senior executives can draw from a turbulent 2020 and the key ESG and socio-political issues businesses should be alert to going forward, including the need for forceful action on climate change and addressing global inequality.
Chad Holliday is a leading industry figure and a progressive voice in sustainable development. He has been Chair of Royal Dutch Shell since 2015, and previously Chair of Bank of America, as well as CEO and Chair of DuPont. Chad previously led the executive committee of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative and chaired the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD). He is also a member of Critical Resource’s Senior Advisory Panel.
In this 30-minute conversation, recorded on 8 January 2021, Chad shares thoughts on building resilience in the face of interlinked crises, the need for impactful corporate action on climate change, addressing inequality and strengthening board capabilities on ESG issues.
The discussion was moderated by Daniel Litvin, Founder and Managing Partner of Critical Resource.
Please note that Chad is speaking in a strictly personal capacity and his views do not necessarily reflect those of the organisations he is affiliated with.
Among the key points raised by Chad:
- The various crises during 2020 showed that the world is not fair – one blow followed the next, and countries, as well as companies, had to dig deep to find even more resilience.
- Boards are having to wake up and better understand their responsibilities on ESG – but this can become complicated by the sheer volume of issues to address under this umbrella. Companies that try to do too many things, instead of focusing on key priorities, will struggle to get much done.
- Action in this decade will be crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – even if we are only taking one step at a time, it is critical that we make progress.
- Some boards have been better at managing climate and ESG issues than others – it is an acquired skill and boards need more training and engagement on these issues. This includes taking time to really understand the science around climate change, and to effectively communicate on this issue with the public.
- The election of President Biden bodes well for global climate action – he will take a pragmatic stance and find workable solutions in collaboration with diverse stakeholders.
- Competition between companies on climate change – by implying their specific approaches are better than others – is counter-productive and confuses the debate. Everyone needs to do more, but society should not insist on every company addressing the energy transition in the same way. There is space for oil and gas companies to take different paths.
- Inequality will turn out to be the major issue of our time, alongside climate change. The key question becomes: how do we bring people along during periods of rapid change? We cannot leave massive portions of society behind. Countries that avoid this pitfall will succeed – those who do not, will pay a price.
- There are certain crises that are so important that we need to act now as companies. For example, on hunger, companies cannot simply walk away from people starving in the areas they operate.