What today’s CEOs need to know to attract and retain tomorrow’s leaders

Yesterday, some of the most powerful CEOs in corporate America declared that driving shareholder value can no longer be their sole business objective. A group of 181 CEOs representing the Business Roundtable claimed that corporations have a responsibility to balance the needs of all their stakeholders – from employees to local communities.

Several societal trends have pushed corporations to look beyond their fiduciary responsibilities and consider their impact on society, including pressure from employees.

Nearly 40% of millennials – now the largest generation in the American workforce – report choosing a job because of the employer’s approach to corporate sustainability. Five years of statistics from EDF Climate Corps reflect this trend: Demand for climate-related jobs has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Millennials are different from previous generations in their preference for purpose over paycheck. They want to bring change.

Here are three insights I’ve identified from EDF Climate Corps’ pool of graduate student applicants that should matter to any CEO seeking to recruit and retain talent. The program receives over 1,000 applications each year and has an acceptance rate of 10%.

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Activist CEOs: A new reality for corporate America

The days when business leaders could dodge social or political issues are coming to an end. CEO engagement on issues such as health care, sexual harassment, gun control and immigration have been steadily on the rise.

In a U.S. House committee meeting just last week, lawmakers “grilled [bank] executives more on social issues than business fundamentals,” according to Reuters, and probed them about fossil fuel investments. 

And as a recent Axios Trends piece suggests, pressure on CEOs to address social issues is increasing ahead of the 2020 political campaigns. In particular, demands that they act on climate change are heating up.

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WAYB car seats designed by former Patagonia CEO put safety – and sustainability – first

In July, I’ll become a first-time mom, which means the next four months of my life are going to be spent preparing for what’s to come. In my attempt to navigate the baby-care industry, I’ve started researching the options for toxic-free, eco-friendly, safe and affordable products. To say the process is ‘overwhelming’ is an understatement.

Lucky for me, I’m not alone in asking for products that are good for the health of my kids and the planet, and companies are starting to meet this demand.

I recently spoke with Tracy Liu, the Chief Operating Officer of WAYB, a new company co-founded by former Patagonia CEO Michael Crooke alongside manufacturing experts Tio Jung and his father I.S. Jung that aims to deliver safe, well-designed and sustainable products to families with young children.  Tracy (who’s also expecting) shares how the company is bringing its experience in the outdoor gear industry to design its first product, a next generation car seat. Tracy is also an EDF Climate Corps alumna.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

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