In his keynote address at Northeastern’s second annual Global Leadership Summit on Tuesday, Lord Michael Hastings of KPMG International stressed the need for global corporations to foster positive social change.
Multinational firms like Barclays, UBS, and Unilever have “used their power to develop solutions to problems people care about,” added Hastings, the global head of corporate citizenship for KPMG, one of the world’s leading providers of audit, tax, and advisory services.
Sponsored by the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, the two-day summit convened more than 100 academics, business executives, and consultants from five continents to discuss the ins and outs of responsible global leadership.
The summit featured panel discussions and solo presentations by dozens of thought leaders on topics ranging from building an ethical corporate culture to debating the motivations behind corporate social responsibility. Experts included a professor of strategy from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia; the director of business ethics and compliance at Raytheon Company; and a fellow of the Global Network on Corporate Citizenship.
In his welcoming remarks, Hugh Courtney, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, underscored Northeastern’s role in strengthening the quality of global leadership. For example, he pointed to the business school’s Global Leadership Initiative, the core goal of which is to identify, support, and disseminate knowledge and research in the field.
“The summit epitomizes what a Northeastern education in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business is all about,” Courtney said. “There is a need for better research, teaching, and practice in the global leadership field,” he added, noting the university’s focus on pursuing use-inspired, interdisciplinary research. “How better to tackle this problem than by bringing people together from academia, business, and consulting?”
In his keynote address, Hastings noted the importance of convening civil society, governments, and the private sector to first identify widespread social problems and then develop “effective solutions to deliver long-term change.”
He indicated that part of the corporate push to solve global problems stems from the private sector’s need to regain the public’s trust. According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 18 percent of some 31,000 online survey respondents from 26 markets around the world trust business leaders to tell the truth.
Hastings, who referenced the trust barometer throughout his speech, explained that the rapid rise of income inequality between the rich and the poor has led to the public’s distrust of businesses and financial services. “Income disparity is a serious and complex problem that needs to be tackled,” said Hastings, adding that the wealth accumulated by the world’s top 100 billionaires in 2012 would be enough to end world poverty four times over.