How 4 Young Global Leaders balance short-term success with long-term sustainability

Leadership in today's world means balancing social and environmental sustainability with the need to generate value and succeed.
Leadership in today's world means balancing social and environmental sustainability with the need to generate value and succeed.
Image: Getty Images
  • In today's world, leaders must find a balance between short-term success and long-term sustainability.
  • To do so, it's important they recognise the interdependence of economic, environmental and social factors at play.
  • The World Economic Forum spoke with four Young Global Leaders on how they manage this delicate balancing act.

Leaders are constantly faced with the task of balancing short-term and long-term pressures in an ethical manner that benefits all stakeholders. This is especially prevalent — and important — in today's world, where environmental, economic and social issues are pressing concerns.

To promote long-term sustainability practices, leaders must focus on environmental stewardship, social responsibility, resource efficiency, risk mitigation and stakeholder relations. By incorporating these practices into economic decision-making, leaders can encourage innovation and cost savings, ultimately improving long-term competitiveness.

It's essential that organizations in the private sector balance short-term economic gains with long-term social sustainability, to ensure economic growth benefits society as a whole. By implementing long-term sustainability practices into decision-making, organizations can mitigate risks and build strong relationships with stakeholders, while also enhancing their reputation.

This approach aims to deliver a balanced and responsible approach to development, recognising the interdependence of economic, environmental and social factors.

How Young Global Leaders make the balance work

Young Global Leaders, who lead their communities and organizations, are well versed on the challenges that arise with navigating the tightrope between immediate economic gains and long-term sustainability.

We asked four Young Global Leaders to share specific strategies or initiatives that they have implemented to achieve this balance between short-term success and long-term sustainability successfully. Here’s what they had to say:

'Corporate social responsibility is integral to our operations'

Dr Vibin Joseph, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, BiOZEEN

The drive to better societies helped us align stakeholder expectations and create a purpose-driven ecosystem. Network effects were further amplified through transparent decision-making that emphasised the achievement of purpose over short-term economic priority.

Furthermore, corporate social responsibility is integral to our operations and helps us saturate our purpose. For instance, people strategy to source manpower leverages our educational initiatives for the not-so-fortunate. Similarly, initiatives to support individuals wanting to be entrepreneurs and efforts to raise vendor skills through financial investments have contributed to robust supply chains. Such dynamics built on mutual welfare have helped us achieve sustainability in the long term.

'Put private sector development at the centre of the development agenda'

Aissata Lam, Director-General, Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritania

We consider Mauritania as a frontier market with tremendous opportunities. While we are all navigating uncertain and complex dynamics, we are geared towards recovery and the outlook is promising.

The agency I lead is focusing on improving the business environment through the implementation of different reforms. H.E. President Ghazouani is a great champion for the cause, putting private sector development at the centre of the development agenda of the country. A High Investment Council was put in place last year, chaired by the President himself, which gives the investors a sense of confidence in the political will.

'We need a balanced energy transition'

Zhang Yaoyu, General Manager, Global LNG and New Energies

In the last years, we have seen more fragility and increased interdependence of the energy system. This contributed to the rising cost-of-living globally. These challenges have highlighted the need for a balanced energy transition: one in which the world achieves net-zero emissions, while still providing a secure and affordable supply of energy.

As one of the world’s largest energy provider, at PetroChina International we have transformed our portfolio with increasing supply of low carbon energy sources such as natural gas and bio-fuel, while working with our customers across different sectors to decarbonise their use of energy. We have built a world-class carbon portfolio that helped our global customers offset emissions. Since 2021, we have delivered more than 10 carbon neutral LNG cargoes which has made PetroChina International one of the top carbon neutral LNG suppliers globally

'National economic growth cannot be realised without global economic growth'

Sahar Albazar, President of the Forum of Young MPs, Inter-Parliamentary Union

Achieving a balance between short-term economic priorities and long-term sustainability objectives is a complex endeavor. As a young parliamentarian representing Egypt on the global stage, I have devised a strategic approach that begins at the national level and expands to address interconnected issues on a global scale.

In the short term, I have been actively pursuing quick wins on a national level by implementing comprehensive economic reforms that prioritise sustainable development. This includes a dedicated focus on areas such as renewable energy, efficient water management and sustainable agriculture. However, it is essential to recognise that national economic growth cannot be realised without global economic growth. Consequently, I am spearheading a global initiative alongside young parliamentarians from over 30 countries and civil society organizations. Our primary objective is to advocate for the reform of the international debt architecture within international financial institutions. To achieve this, we propose an increase in debt swaps for climate purposes, with a particular emphasis on adaptation.

Furthermore, we aim to establish a common framework for debt relief among lower middle-income countries, akin to the existing G20 common framework for lower-income countries. Additionally, we strongly urge the immediate suspension and ultimate elimination of surcharges policies imposed on vulnerable countries. This inclusive and far-reaching initiative has garnered the endorsement of young parliamentarians and civil society representatives.

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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.

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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/

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