Module 2 insights from 2023 Leadership Program

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17 June, 2023


WBCSD insights



Josh VanDeWalle, North America Lead of Global Food Chain Partnerships, Bayer

Yale University and the United Nations in New York City provided a stimulating backdrop for the collaboration and learning in Module 2 for the WBCSD Leadership Program. This module builds upon the lessons learned in the previous one and focuses on developing leadership skills and promoting collaboration. One of the highlights was connecting with colleagues from diverse industries and geographies, including oil, construction, plastics, agriculture, and fashion.

Like many other colleagues, my calendar tends to control me.  The session on “Your Unique Path” by Peter Boyd was particularly insightful as it forced me to consider my purpose, followed by my priorities.  The “rocks” are the top priorities that require your attention, consisting of 3-4 crucial tasks that demand your time. In reflection, I realized that I don’t always set my work or personal calendars to focus on the “rocks” and instead am more reactive.  I plan to take this learning and apply it to my calendar to set aside time for the “rocks” in my life that mean the most to me.

Thinking about sustainability, it is important to focus on change management, perhaps more than climate change.  Most people are resistant to change so there must be a compelling reason and it needs to be relatively easy to accomplish.  Dr. Zoe Chance discussed prospect theory which holds that individuals are more influenced by the possibility of a loss than the prospect of an equivalent gain.  This holds true for farmers as they want to ensure that their farm is economically and environmentally sustainable so that they pass it along to their children. However, they are concerned about potential losses and costs in the short term by implementing new practices such as covering crops.

This week was also the kickoff for the group projects that will be undertaken over the next four months.  The groups were able to put together their high-level game plan to take their projects forward and I am looking forward to the results of our work later in the year. 

The topics are:

  • Corporate Plastic Pollution Accountability
  • Mainstreaming Circularity
  • Executive Education on Sustainability in Business
  • Regenerative Agriculture
  • Non-Market Strategy Playbook

While in New York City, we had the opportunity to visit the United Nations (UN).  The UN was founded in 1945 and is now made up of 193 member states and shows that the world can work together to tackle the most challenging issues.  It is inspiring to see that diverse nations can come together in the UN and gives me hope for the future.   In fact, the UN General Assembly was in session during our visit.  A key component of the work in the UN is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which encompass 17 goals that represent a call for action.  Many businesses, such as those represented in this course, have sustainability goals that align with the UN SDGs and help to advance them. 

The next stop is in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates) in November, where the final module and the WBCSD Council Meeting will be held.  I look forward to further collaboration with this diverse group of business leaders and have confidence we can work together to change the world.  

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

― Margaret Mead