The emergent environmental sensibilities in today’s C-suites require new kinds of CEOs who are willing to establish far-off goals for their companies that they won’t personally accomplish—and who seek unaccustomed and sometimes uncomfortable collaboration with other business leaders.
That’s the view, anyway, of Lorna Davis, a veteran chief of consumer packaged goods brands. Davis’s most recent stint was as senior advisor to Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber to help him push the Paris-based giant to the forefront of the sustainability revolution in the food and beverage industry. Davis also is a global ambassador for the B Corp movement, a private certification of companies that endorses their embrace of broader, “purpose”-oriented objectives above pure profit and shareholder returns.
“There’s this moment now when CEOs have to realize that the important stuff is out of their control,” Davis told Chief Executive. “That expresses most obviously in climate-related goals for a company. If you do what’s in your own scope—your own factory, goals for your own office, for example—it’s easy. But everything else has got real impact upstream and downstream of that.” In Danone’s case, for instance, that’s because “cows are eating, and people are eating.