ESG agenda the focus of conversation at Principals Club dinner

Environment, ESG, Irish News, Principals Club | Tue 15 Nov | Author – Business & Finance
Business leaders at a dinner table
Pictured: C-suite business and political leaders ahead of the Principals Club dinner in the Constitution Room of the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin

By David Monaghan, Deputy Editor, Business & Finance

The Principals Club, an international gathering of C-suite business and political leaders, convened at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin to discuss and debate the pressing need to implement a measurable and accountable ESG agenda for the domestic and International business community.

Principals Club Chairman Ian Hyland convened business leaders on 8th November to discuss the ESG agenda across all business sectors.

The topics discussed included the importance of ESG to potential investors, the conversation between employers and employees in implementing ESG, and squaring the needs of ESG with business performance.

Attendees

Attendees were gathered from all walks of business including tech, retail, management consulting, and agriculture and farming. 

Guests included: Seamus Hand, Managing Partner, KPMG; Prof. Frances Ruane, Chair, National Competitiveness & Productivity Council, Martin Tormey, Chief Executive Officer, Goodbody; Aongus Hegarty, President, International Markets, Dell Technologies; John Jordan, CEO, Ornua; Paul Connolly Chair UNICEF Ireland, JD Buckley, Managing Director, Sky Ireland; Faye Walsh Drouillard, Founder, WakeUp Capital; Peter Power, Executive Director, UNICEF Ireland; Andrew Roscoe, Partner and Board Member, Egon Zehnder; Carl McCann, Dole PLC; Aine Flanagan, Egon Zehnder, Michael D’Arcy CEO IAIM, among others.

This year’s Principals Club dinner was organised by Business & Finance in association with Egon Zehnder, the global management consulting firm, and UNICEF Ireland.

Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, spoke to Business & Finance before proceedings: “We’re here in the historic constitution room in the Shelbourne Hotel to discuss ESG and how companies are adapting to the new dispensation. UNICEF partners with some of the biggest companies in the world to fulfil our humanitarian mission to children, and we are delighted to convene this group of companies together to discuss how big companies can discharge their corporate social responsibilities to the world.”

Andrew Roscoe, Partner and Board Member of Egon Zehnder stated: “One of the key topics we see in the 41 countries around the world where we operate is companies trying to make sense of the ESG agenda. What boards and CEOs say to us in private is that while they are keenly aware of the need to act, they actually feel ill-equipped in knowing what to do. There are some areas around ESG where there is a clear roadmap, be that environmental pollution control, or improving supply chains, recycling. It’s difficult, it’s challenging and it’s expensive, but there is a clear road map to doing things.”

John Jordan, Chief Executive of Ornua, the Irish food co-operative providing dairy products to consumers and manufacturers, noted that the ESG agenda is “driven both by consumer and customer demands.”

He continued: “Like any front-facing, consumer-facing business, how to respond to those demands is really important. It’s a massive breadth of topic and one that is a real challenge for business to grapple. On one simple level, when you look at sustainability – scope one, scope two, and scope three emissions – being Ornua and being in the dairy business, Ireland is starting from a great place.

“As a business, we are setting out some science-based targets, and the benefit of Irish dairy is close-knit business. Government-led, we actually have a stakeholder initiative looking at how we would resolve scope three targets, and there is some really good stuff going on there in terms of the science and technology that can be applied at farm level, and indeed, proposed investment support to help farmers get through that.

“Internally, we have things like circular packaging, water treatment, waste-water management, food waste, all of those hugely important criteria because they are targets you have to hit, particularly for customers who want to make statements about their own ESG targets.”

Aongus Hegarty, President, International Markets, Dell Technologies Ireland spoke about how the tech multinational is aiding the progression of ESG: “ESG is at the core of our business. It has been for a couple of decades. We set out goals for 2020 across each of the key areas of environment, social and diversity and inclusion. We’ve reset new goals for 2030. As a company we report annually in relation to those goals and objectives and how we are tracking to those ultimate goals that we want to deliver by 2030.”

Social Engagement

Conversation during the meal turned to a variety of topics under the ESG umbrella, with particular focus on the ‘social’ element of the agenda. There was a general consensus that every company has a workforce that wants to do more to facilitate a change, and there is pressure on leaders as the face of a brand or group to help usher in policies to ensure this is possible.

There was also a recognition among the C-suite attendees that, while there is pressure on CEOs, employees want to understand how their employers are not only helping to solve these problems, but how they are mitigating the effects of their companies’ production habits on the environment and the people of the world.

It was noted that employees and consumers wish to have agency in the choices they make and the money they spend, and know how these actions impact the ESG agenda.

Conversation turned to how CEOs are looking for solutions to support their ESG strategies. It was agreed that CEOs need to look both locally and internationally for strategies and should seek impact-oriented initiatives that are measurable. 

UNICEF vaccinates 42%of the world’s children, and it was noted how we have all seen the benefits of vaccination on our ability to live our lives. Those in attendance concluded that the potential to change lives through vaccination is ‘massive’.

For more information on the work undertaken by UNICEF, take a look at https://www.unicef.ie/