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Responsible leadership is crucial for business transformation

Executives from Merck, the Caser Group and CHEP agree that gender equality and the aging of the population are the main challenges of responsible leadership

‘You can’t begin the journey towards corporate responsibility without the commitment of the leader.’ With these words, Ana Sainz, Director General of the SERES Foundation, summarised the main conclusion of the latest session of the ESADE–SERES Foundation lecture series, entitled ‘How to Transform Companies Responsibly’. The guest speakers – executives from Merck, the Caser Group and CHEP – agreed that gender equality and the aging of the population are the main challenges of responsible leadership, and that these issues arise in multiple contexts, including business activity, people management and research.

‘At Merck, we approach responsible leadership from the standpoint of innovation,’ commented Marieta Jiménez, President and General Manager of Merck Spain. ‘We do this by developing products and services that improve people’s lives, but our actions are not limited to business; we also work to address social demands in every location where we operate.’ Ms. Jiménez highlighted Merck’s top three priorities in Spain: ‘Attracting talent, technology transfer and gender diversity.’ She added: ‘The aging of the population is another of our major concerns. We are working on ways to improve the birth rate – through our fertility products – but also carrying out research to see how to subvert this trend.’

‘It would be unwise for an insurance company like us not to be working on solutions to the problem of Spain’s aging population,’ observed Ignacio Eyriès, General Manager of the Caser Group. ‘We need to raise society’s awareness of the consequences of this trend, which affects not only retirement and pensions but also lifestyles, needs and consumption.’ He added: ‘To face this and other challenges such as gender diversity, there is a growing need for responsible leadership that takes into account not only the shareholders’ wishes but also the needs of society at large.’

Innovation and talent

The next speaker was Enrique Montañés, Senior Vice President for Southern Europe at CHEP, a company specialised in innovative supply-chain solutions. ‘Society’s demands are accelerating,’ he commented. ‘Technology is advancing very quickly. We must remember that it is our responsibility to develop it in a way that has less and less of an impact over time, and this is something that doesn’t always happen. Many companies risk of dying of success, of resting on their laurels.’ He added: ‘To address this situation, we need to work on three areas – human capital, gender diversity and innovation – under the motto of better planet, better community, better business.

‘For companies, the journey towards responsibility is slow, so ongoing leadership is necessary,’ commented Ignasi Carreras, Lecturer and Director of Executive Education Programmes for NGOs at the Institute for Social Innovation at ESADE. ‘And this leadership has to be capable of influencing others to achieve a common objective responsibly, which can only be reached through talent and integrity.’