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Globe and Mail Events Content

Event summary produced by The Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

As business leaders guide their teams through the challenges of the global pandemic they’re also focusing on transformation. The Globe and Mail hosted a panel discussion on November 4 to bring corporate leaders together to share insights on four transformation priorities: racial inclusion and diversity, sustainability, digital strategy and social purpose.

The panel featured Beth Wilson, CEO of Dentons Canada; Jaqui Parchment, CEO of Mercer Canada Ltd.; Ray Reddy, co-founder and CEO of Ritual Technologies Inc.; and Tim Faveri, vice-president of sustainability and shared value with Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

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View the full panel discussion below. Highlights from the conversation appear below the recording.

Highlights from the conversation:

1). The pandemic has changed the business-society relationship

The global pandemic has had far-reaching effects on business, said Carol Wilding, president and CEO of CPA Ontario, during an introduction before the panel. Corporate leaders are recognizing they must now navigate a new relationship with society, and play a larger role in issues such as equality. They also require new approaches to corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven leadership focused on people, the environment and the economy. It’s essential for leaders to move away from a binary mode of thinking in favour of creativity and agility as they navigate through disruption, she said.

2). Social purpose is more important than ever

Social purpose was important before the pandemic, but it’s even more valuable during the current crisis, said Beth Wilson, CEO of Dentons Canada. The pandemic has created a sense of helplessness among employees and the longer remote working continues, the harder it can be to maintain a feeling of teamwork and corporate culture. Opportunities for colleagues to give back to the community, organize food drives or participate in pro bono work helps bring everyone together and alleviates isolation, Ms. Wilson added.

3). Sustainability and social purpose are related

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It was Maple Leaf Foods' own social purpose journey in 2017 that put it on the path to become the world’s first major carbon-neutral food company, said Tim Faveri, vice-president of sustainability and shared value. He advised business leaders to focus on purposes that align with corporate risks and opportunities. Maple Leaf recognized agriculture accounts for one-third of the world’s water consumption and one-third of global greenhouse gases. As a major food company with impact and scale, leaders at Maple Leaf decided sustainability was an area where they could make a meaningful difference, Mr. Faveri said.

4). Changes to recruitment and culture will drive diversity

For too long, businesses have used a meritocracy approach to hiring and recruiting, based on the assumption the best candidate will get the job, said Jaqui Parchment, CEO of Mercer Canada. Yet, Black candidates and women may view job opportunities differently, taking themselves out of the running if they feel they aren’t qualified. Ms. Parchment advised business leaders to avoid job descriptions with a long list of qualifications. They should focus instead on the few criteria that are essential to the job, to attract a wider pool of diverse candidates, she noted.

5). Digital strategy is no longer an add-on

Before the pandemic many businesses viewed e-commerce and digital strategy as an optional add-on to their traditional business model, said Ray Reddy, co-founder and CEO of Ritual Technologies. The mindset has changed rapidly as business leaders in sectors such as retail and restaurants realize they must engage with customers through online channels. The shift to digital also creates new opportunities to assess business performance metrics, such as the ratio of new customers to returning customers. Businesses using these new data streams will have an advantage over those who don’t, Mr. Reddy added, provided the data is used properly. Instead of blindly following data-driven indicators, he advised leaders to use the information to confirm or corroborate hunches or intuition.

View the full webcast above.

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The webcast was presented with support from CPA Canada.

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