UBS hosts ‘master class’ in sustainability with their UBS Q-Series

Zürich Corporate Responsibility

Global thought leaders joined nearly 200 clients and investors on October 3 at Bloomberg Headquarters in New York City for the annual UBS Q-Series® conference, which focused this year on “Inflection Points Towards Sustainability.”

The conference featured 40 speakers from some of the world’s leading academic and business institutions, who identified inflection points and discussed how these can impact a company’s business objectives and ultimate profitability. Inflection points that were discussed ranged from current environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to the impact of changing dynamics – everything from natural resource scarcity and emerging technological trends to drastic changes in population demographics that are expected in the 21st century.

Sustainability has emerged as arguably the largest growing consideration as companies look to achieve long-term viability and profitability. The conference aimed to set the stage for the robust discussions around this imperative and identify concrete examples of inflection points which must be addressed. According to the first group of panelists, we are currently at a major inflection point in history. The next 20 years could prove to be the most precarious time in human history, as complex global issues including climate change, natural and made-made disasters, changing political ideologies (e.g. Arab Spring which affected Northern Africa and the Middle East) and resource scarcity are coming to a head, producing a perfect storm which will mandate doing things differently and more sustainably.

In providing insight into the changing face of capitalism, John Mackey discussed how the world is changing and how human beings are changing with it. Because we are better educated, more connected and our collective ethics are evolving, Mackey predicts that the 21st century will be dominated by conscious capitalism - business that puts social responsibility at the core of why it exists. In addition to stakeholder integration, other elements of conscious capitalism are conscious leadership and conscious culture management.

In his keynote address, Professor Michael E. Porter agreed that a change in approach, one based on creating shared value, is needed for businesses to achieve long-term success.

The shared value approach is a natural extension of traditional investment analysis, and it considers a company’s purpose-based strategic positioning, which weaves social needs into economic value. Because of inflection points defined by the stage setting panelists, Porter insists that this is wise investing because “social needs represent the largest market opportunities.”