These young, global leaders are building a sustainable and inclusive future

Young global leaders of 2022 -- all for inclusivity
Prioritizing inclusivity and diversity in the workplace is increasingly being seen not only as the right thing to do, but also the smart thing.
Image: Unsplash

Each year, the Forum of Young Global Leaders goes through a rigorous selection process to identify, select and celebrate remarkable leaders under-40 from different communities and industries worldwide. These young leaders exemplify what we need most today: hope, empathy, authenticity and driving solutions that change the world for the better.

This kind of effective leadership has never been needed more: The latest UN report on climate change warned that it is “now or never” to reverse human-induced global warming from carbon emissions. And, after two years of a global pandemic, growing geopolitical tensions and deepening social fractures demand scalable and coordinated action.

These challenging times are an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their role in responsibly improving the state of the world.

Our Young Global Leaders (YGLs) class of 2022 is gender-equal and has representatives from 42 countries. We asked 10 of them to share their thoughts on how leaders can use their influence to build a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Find the full class here.

'Involve everyone in the effort'

Miku Hirano, Chief Executive Officer, Cinnamon, Japan

A sustainable and inclusive future can only be realized if all of us make the effort. Leaders must utilize their influence in their communities to spearhead this change. Since our establishment, Cinnamon AI has sought out top talent across borders to create a diverse work environment and focused on educating and developing all employees. While it is a small step, connecting developed and developing countries, and encouraging cross-cultural exchange, gives space to diverse perspectives and creates an inclusive environment that has changed how our employees engage with and drive the globalization of society.

'Reach across silos'

Venetia Bell, Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Gulf International Bank (UK) Limited

Leaders must challenge themselves to cross traditional sector boundaries, looking outside their usual circles to identify and mobilise mutual support for sustainable development. In Gulf International Bank's humanitarian and resilience investing initiative, coordinated by the World Economic Forum, we have worked with colleagues from the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, USAID and others to tackle barriers to resilience investing. Open-minded engagement was critical, as we had very different perspectives on the issue; it took time to build trust and ensure we had a common language.

'Make it a business imperative'

Caroline Blanch Israel, Managing Director and Partner, Boston Consulting Group, Australia

Diversity, equity and inclusion are high on the agenda of most leaders and are a mainstay of company values and ethics statements. Yet there’s work still to be done in getting inclusion out of the realm of HR and into the core of the c-suite.

Multiple studies have shown the correlation between diverse teams and business performance. For example, our own research shows that LGBTQ+ employees who are out at work feel more empowered, more productive and more willing to take creative risks.

The payoffs for performance and innovation are clear. I try to make this link salient with my teams, clients and board colleagues — by creating space for diverse voices, celebrating successes borne of unconventional teaming and calling it out when culture gets in the way of high performance.

As leaders, the more clear we make the nexus between inclusion and impact, the better our chances for a truly equitable corporate future.

'Unlock the full potential of human capital'

Hamad Al Mahmeed, Undersecretary for Research & Projects, Prime Minister's Office, Bahrain

Doing so requires government and business leaders to empower their respective constituents because an inclusive and sustainable future is not only a moral imperative — it’s an existential one, too. As a member of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s COVID-19 Taskforce, a focus on inclusivity in many instances meant the difference between life and death. Equitable access to healthcare and vaccines were foundational organizing principles of the Taskforce. Inclusivity, therefore, should outlive the pandemic to inform our approach to the remaining challenges we face. Inclusivity is a prerequisite for a sustainable future.

'Define desired outcomes and implementation plans'

James Mnyupe Presidential Economic Adviser; Green Hydrogen Commissioner, Office of the President of Namibia

As I contributed to President Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan II, I learned that as a leader aspires to engender a sustainable and inclusive socio-economic reality, they must envision and craft an appropriately challenging portfolio of complimentary desired outcomes. That vision should be enabled by a robust implementation plan, team and a monitoring and evaluation framework. The ideation process and the ensuing journey should be an inclusive one in and of itself. But, to be truly influential, an infusion of compassion, empathy and vulnerability into the narrative is an essential ingredient, for, at the end of it all, we are sentient beings.

'Empower youth'

Eva Otieno, Principal Africa Strategy, Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya

Africa’s youthful population can be viewed as either a problem or an opportunity. Sustainability can be enhanced when Africa’s youth are actively engaged, and it is our responsibility as leaders to make this happen.

At Standard Chartered, we have invested in a world-class international graduate programme, which I was part of. The programme offers opportunities to young graduates and propels them to future leadership positions.

At Filamujuani Foundation, where I am a co-founder, we have invested in skills training for underprivileged youth. These young people are now in gainful employment in the creative industry, thereby improving the inclusivity of economic growth.

'Walk the talk'

Zuriel Naiker, Managing Director: Industry (Middle East & Africa), and Sales (Africa), Marsh McLennan, South Africa

Our leadership role extends beyond taking a stance in conversation and policy development. We must personify a sustainable, inclusive future. By harnessing the power of a diverse collective, we create, build and sustain momentum for future generations. Our actions can create a force for good and help to solve the complex problems our world now faces. I have modelled this in a corporate environment by building diverse, high-performance teams, and these experiences have helped when addressing larger-scale problems like climate change, sustainability, diversity and poverty alleviation — issues that affect us all.

Forum Foundations

What is a YGL?

The YGL community is made up of more than 1,300 members and alumni, including public officials, business innovators, artists, educators, technology developers, journalists and activists.

The mission of the Forum of Young Global Leaders is to create a dynamic global community of exceptional people with the vision, courage and influence to drive positive change in the world.

Aligned with the World Economic Forum’s mission, they seek to spur public-private cooperation amongst these unique actors to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest.

Representing more than 100 nationalities, Young Global Leaders are united by the belief that the urgent problems of today present an opportunity to forge a better future across sectors, generations and borders.

Visit the YGL website at: https://www.younggloballeaders.org/

'Modernize trade'

Natalie Black, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, Department for International Trade, United Kingdom

As leaders struggle with the plethora of international economic issues we now face, international trade has never been higher up the agenda of Board Rooms and Government Cabinets. A modernised approach to trade, that leverages the opportunities of technology for the benefit of all, is necessary to realise a sustainable and inclusive future. COP26 showed that a net-zero future is within reach, and, in this pursuit, digitising trade has a significant role to play. In the Asia Pacific, we launched the world’s first Digital Trade Network and secured Europe’s first Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore. And this is just the beginning.

'Demonstrate the value of inclusivity'

Carlo Pérez-Arizti Morales, Partner, Baker & McKenzie, Mexico

If they frame discussions effectively, leaders can help their organizations to adopt changes that will create sustainability and inclusiveness. To do this, they must demonstrate that the changes they make will represent future benefits, profits or returns to that group.

At various times, I have seen pitches received more favourably when inclusive teams have been at the forefront. And when the work has been awarded, these diverse teams — which helped to bring in the business in the first place — have shown additional creativity, brought a higher return on investment, and displayed more effective decision-making.

When leaders show the value internally and externally of inclusiveness and sustainability, their organization’s reputation improves, opening the door to additional business.

"Lead by example"

Anne-Laure Malauzat, Partner, Chief DEI Officer Middle East, Bain & Company, United Arab Emirates

We are in the era of purpose-driven organizations. Leaders must use their influence to create a more sustainable and inclusive future. They can do this by focusing on long-term impact over short-term gains and partnering with different stakeholders to be a force for positive change.

It is also critical to lead by example starting with putting people first. At Bain, we aim to reflect the diversity of the societies we work in, treat our employees with empathy, and aspire to have an impact on our teams, clients, and communities. It is about the legacy we want to have collectively.

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