No Borders When It Comes to Trust, Impact, Inclusion

WEF 2020 welcomed German Chancellor Angel Merkel as well as Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, who joined the conversation on tech progress and equitable globalization. There was also much discussion around strategies to achieve gender parity by 2030.

The YPO Hub in Davos was also abuzz with two high-profile member CEOs, Yann Borgstedt, Founder of The Womanity Foundation and Willy Foote, Founder and CEO of Root Capital, who shared with business leaders how they have been creating impact that is both sustainable and scalable. Both are YPO members and global honorees of YPO’s Global Impact Award.

Yann Borgstedt and Willy Foote

A plea for help making impact

YPO members Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Fleur Heyns, Proof of Impact Co-Founder, have decades of experience bringing communities together and championing economic development, education, health and humanitarian assistance. Their current objective is empowering young people and women across the globe. They paired up at the YPO Hub to address this topic and to encourage other successful, driven business leaders intending to make impact to look for ways to assist.

Fore, who has been leading the 70-year-old UNICEF since January 2018, says her organization serves 3 billion children around the world, which is only half the number she believes they should be helping. “Our challenge is financing,” she explains. While UNICEF’s efforts have reduced childhood deaths by more than 50% since 1990, the number dying from preventable causes is still 16,000 a day.

Through Proof of Impact, Heyns uses technology and real-time data to connect donors to the impact they make on whatever causes they choose to help and to ensure money is spent efficiently.

Both women encourage corporate leaders to partner with their organizations to find innovative solutions to the problems the world is facing. “If you have patience, if you have great interest to do good, you can be a partner of UNICEF,” says Fore.

The solutions are not just financial. Both spoke of the need for mentors, internships and apprenticeships, as well as professional guidance for the business side of their organizations.

“Corporations are at the center point of moving the impact needle,” Heyns says.

The trust factor

For the first time, businesses are now more trusted than NGOs. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year — people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.

Globally, 75% of people trust their employers to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57%), business (56%) and media (47%).

“We must understand the magnitude of the need for businesses to lead,” says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman and one of the world’s foremost authorities on trust. “People are expecting us to help them be competitive.” Edelman says this help extends through better pay and retraining as well as through businesses practicing sustainability, even if it is through small steps like reducing plastic bottles in the workplace.

“CEOs have to invest in retraining to help their people compete in the future,” says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman

What can business leaders do to drive trust? First, calm people’s fear about losing their job to technology. “CEOs have to invest in retraining to help their people compete in the future.”

Secondly, there’s a credibility gap. “As businesses, we’ll be seen as ethical players if we cut the nonsense. Transparency is critical.”

More on trust with Richard Edelman: 

One country, two systems

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong and a prominent global leader attending the 2020 WEF annual meeting sat down for a conversation at the YPO Hub in Davos. She spoke on topics impacting Hong Kong, leading with a nod to a concept often misunderstood. Hong Kong is part of The People’s Republic of China, which is a socialist government, yet Hong Kong itself remains capitalist. “One country, two systems,” explains Lam.

Carrie Lam

Strengthening the relationship between China and Hong Kong, especially for young people, is a priority. “If you go into Shenzhen or the Greater Bay area, together with Guangdong, we have developed a large number of youth entrepreneurial bases – coworking spaces for young people from Hong Kong and mainland China to work together,” says Lam.  “We are determined in two areas: technology and the creative industry. These two areas will provide more opportunities for young people.”

Impact investing driving Afghanistan’s transformation

Ashraf GhaniAshraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, intends to transform his country through investment in the economy – and more importantly – in human capital.  With access to wind, hydro and solar energy, and the fact the country is one of the largest unexplored island mines in the world, Ghani laments, “The natural capital is useless if you don’t have human capital.”

Afghanistan is experiencing a generation and gender shift, with 75% of the population under the age of 25 and with greater female representation in business and government. Ghani points out that the ambassador to the U.S. is a woman for the first time in history. Another outcome of the shift is that a recent survey showed that the economy and the environment were more important to Afghanis than peace.

In a chat with the 2018-2019 YPO Chairman Pascal Gerken, Ghani said he hopes to increase the country’s current USD1 billion in exports to USD5 billion in three years, and that he’d like to see 50% of that come from women entrepreneurs.

The kids are alright

Times, they are a-changing, and according to Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team, corporations that don’t change with the times – when it comes to gender equity, listening to stakeholders, protecting the planet – will become obsolete. She was on hand at the YPO Hub in Davos, sharing that, “Business as usual is no longer an option.”

Halla Tomasdottir at YPO Davos 2020

Tómasdóttir credits today’s ‘woke’ youth for transforming the 2020 WEF annual meeting. “The next generation has taken to the street and asked us, are you taking care of our future? Whether it was through climate strikes, or voting, or on what they consume, or where they choose where to work: Our kids are asking challenging questions.”

Even those who still believe the No. 1 purpose of their company is to maximize return to shareholders, she advises, “The only way to serve the shareholders now is to take care of your employees, your customers, your planet.”


The inclusion delusion

“There is an inclusion delusion in this world,” says Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, an organization promoting disability inclusion in business.

“I can buy people with my wallet. I can stimulate them with my brain,”says Andrew Liveris, Former Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company. “But heart and passion is what’s needed for future of business success. EQ is the inclusion of the best kind,”

Caroline Casey

Liveris and Casey brought the topic of disability and inclusion front and center during a fireside chat at the YPO Hub. “While 90% of companies claim to be inclusive, only 4% include disability in that definition,” says Casey.

“We are segregating humanity,” says Liveris.  And the danger of not including ‘all of us’ in our markets and talent search is that not doing so means we will fail in our quest to build opportunities for all in the 21st century. According to Casey, what’s needed is data and story. “We need head and heart.”


Lithuania: One big digital hub

Why care about Lithuania? With Brexit, climate change, geopolitical challenges and the economic recession underway, the northern European country of Lithuania celebrates being the fastest growing economy and the most-wanted state to settle regulated fintechs. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauséda shared the country’s master-plan and how it’s finding new investors and attracting businesses. His goal for Lithuania: “Green, peaceful and innovative in five to 10 years.”

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauséda

For those looking to grow their fintech business, Nauséda says Lithuania provides the consultancy needed for newcomers to connect to whole EU payment systems. “We offer great decision making, we are able to issue investment licenses in three months compared to one year in the EU.” With a good taxation system, one of the lowest tax rates in the region, Nauséda says that the labor force is another plus for new companies with a talented pool of young workers who are international, speaking three to four languages. “They are ready, flexible and hungry for opportunities.”

Hear more from Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauséda:

Digital Africa

According to Paula Ingabire, Rwanda Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, the Smart Africa Alliance, a continent-wide initiative, wants to bring the public and private sector together to co-create digital solutions.  “That’s important because for the digital transformation agenda for the whole continent, it is not a role that a single player in the ecosystem can fulfill. We want to bring the public and private sectors together to co-create digital solutions,” says Ingabire.

Paula Ingabire

Ingabire says that Rwanda looks to technology as being a key driver of growth. “We want to be a pan-African hub for the continent,” says Ingabire. “We need to attract talent to do that.”

The leadership we need now

Sir Martin Sorrel, British businessman and the founder of WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising and PR group, shared the stage at the end of the day with Anthony Scaramucci, financier, entrepreneur and political consultant for a frank conversation. Scaramucci, who served as the U.S. White House Director of Communications for the Trump administration in July 2017, paralleled the need for transformative leadership both in business and in geopolitics. “We’ve created a tribal split in the country [U.S.] … and just like everything in life, your business, they need to re-engineer, re-tweak, reset and be reminded of the virtue of country and the values of country.

“Let’s figure out a way to heal the world – we need leadership like that.”


Discover more insights from the YPO Hub in Davos 2020:


YPO is the global leadership community of more than 29,000 chief executives in 130 countries who are driven by the belief that the world needs better leaders. Each of our members have achieved significant leadership success at a young age. Combined, they lead businesses and organizations contributing USD9 trillion in annual revenue. YPO members become better leaders and better people through peer learning and exceptional experiences in an inclusive community of open sharing and trust.