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The Curious Capitalist - Helle Bank Jørgensen (Competent Boards)
Episode 420th June 2024 • The Curious Capitalist • Conscious Business Collaborative
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Our purpose is to engage, educate, and inspire business leaders at all stages in their careers Think and work more collaboratively and sustainably. Please subscribe to this podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from. Welcome along to the latest episode of the curious capitalist brought to you by the conscious business collaborative.

ial guests today. Hella Bank [:

And a bit of sustainability as well. Now, since 2018, competent boards have upscaled more than 1, 000 board members from over 55 countries worldwide, including a huge number of global fortune 500 brands, take a bow, Hella. I am super excited to find out more about your super impactful work and your career today.

fan of her work and I deeply [:

There are so crucial today for any business leader. I myself, I'm a certified ESD professional through Competent Board, this online amazing training program that Hele leads. For me, participating in this training brought invaluable insights. I not only learned from ESD. Issues from the best of the best in this space, but I also was able to interact with peers around the world on these issues.

our, our organizations? And [:

And, and I think at that time, the program was kind of a baby two, three years old, if I'm not mistaken. And I'm so glad to see that he has grown so much. And that you continue to train board members, executives, business leaders around the world on these topics. So thank you so much for your work. For our audience here at Conscious Business Collaborative, I would love to start by them getting to know you a little bit better.

you to where you are today? [:

First of all, thank you so much for having me. And, and if anyone could see me, they will see my, my cheeks are getting red of all of those fantastic words. Thank you very much. And it's, it's, it is quite amazing to see the impact and, and yes, Comforts and Boards was born in 2018, but it's probably been something that I've been thinking about for the past, as you say, 30 years or almost.

the program, but what's that [:

It's that thing that this, this brought me a board position, but also it gave me the confidence. It gave me that insight, that foresight to see around corners, et cetera. So first of all, thank you for having me here and for all those nice words. In terms of my career, yes, you dated me over 30 years ago that I started.

the phase where we have the [:

Nowadays we know about these things back then if this was actually the first in the world that was starting to talk about it. I got very fascinated. I picked up the phone and again, dating myself, you know, the newspaper was a real newspaper where you were sitting and, and the phone was, yes, one of those big phones where you picked it up and you probably even dialed in, in, in circles to, to have the, the, the number.

elopment in a different ways [:

And this fantastic professor, Leo Alsing, he's then sent me to Danish steel work. That was the first deal worked on recycling steel and wanted to report to the world about their impact. So together with them, I got to put together their world's first green account. And that's what my master phase is actually got to be about.

guess it all got started and [:

And for some reason, this young person walking in, I was allowed to use half of my time to what later became the sustainability and climate change practice. So totally from, from, from scratch. And from there on, I was asked, you know, had the chance of work on the world first integrated report with Nova signs.

he network for good business [:

How do we have non financial as we called it at that point reporting? And how do we embed that into, to the business? What else got, got to became a partner, got to work with our global CEO and chair, Sam Piazza, Who, who asked me to move to, to the U S to New York and, and I, to lead and, and, and build the sustainability and climate change practice for America.

ong time, but it's, it's now [:

It's incredible. Do you, do you? Do you think of yourself as ahead of your time, or did you think of yourself as ahead of your time? Because it sounds incredible from little acorns and all that. I, you know, there was no doubt that everyone else, I, I did not, but others were saying, I know you're doing it, it's crazy.

point it was like, well, the [:

Yeah. You did it. You did it. You shaped it. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, this, I, I oftentimes say this, but, uh, I, I love to see the connections in everyone's journey, and I think through these experiences, opportunities that we have in life, like in my, my case was competent board talking about impact shift. I, my, my background is in, in law.

e through our, our lives. We [:

We want to fix it. We know that we can bring value and that is where our purpose comes from. Right? This is our role. That we have to play in this life to really make a change. And I think with you, Hele, you had this a long time ago. You're a pioneer on this area and you have been impacting business, the business world, and you continue to impact the business world.

And you have created this amazing network of decision makers. There are the one who are going to move the needle, hopefully in the right direction. So thank you so much for sharing that. Well, thank you. And what you were just saying is like, you know, I say we need to have exponential impact and that is where.

ke and then you see, you see [:

So. Thank you. No, it's now we, it's, it's, it's such an honor to, to be interviewing you and, and I admire so work so much. And what is very interesting about you and that I, I relate with you also is that your background you study as a, you started as a corporate lawyer and you also are an accountant and I think you have an MBA.

ard members, your background [:

Because it does for us, but I'm curious to learn from you, your point of view on this. I've said, and then I have a lot of fantastic younger me, people coming to me and say, where should I start my career? And I want to be in sustainability. And I often say, well, why not be in a different function and bring that your passion to that function?

ay to this, what would sales [:

What will other parts of the business, what would be the reaction? So you actually understand the context and therefore can bring it to not only being a fantastic idea, what you get people to say, yeah, we should do that. But also really practical. How do we do it? How do we ensure that this is not just a project, but a process?

How do we ensure? That this is part of the culture. How do we really embed it into all business functions and everything starts with people, but if it also ends with that person no longer be there is really not a sustainable process. Right. So, so for me, having that law. Accounting. They're from the technical university.

of that. Don't ask me about [:

We are actually talking about sustainability is part of all of those different aspects in the business, in the value chain, think about it from not only in the supply chain, but also to, to the customers from a business point of view. And if I put my accountant hat on, well, I can have the world's best product, but if I'm not able to get the supply for that product, because of climate change issues, biodiversity issues.

or my, my goods are stuck in [:

And, and I think what you just said is so crucial and I see it a lot in the work that we do. Seeing sustainability or ESG kind of a sideshow that is not integrated within the business strategy or the organization. And as you mentioned, it's a challenge. It is business, it's just business sense. It's just understanding the evolving risk that our business is subject to according to this new ecological boundary, geopolitical issues that we're facing.


So, you know, when, when we did the cohort, uh, Claire with, with Helen, you know, when I started getting involved with sustainability and ESG, I thought on the environmental part and corporate governance. But when I looked at the whole syllabus, everything that we went through, we, we discussed tax and incentives, diversity and inclusion.

one of the, uh, I think the [:

And one of the things that connects with Conscious Business Collaborative is that Hele and her program started the whole program. With one model that was organizational purpose and it kind of build the foundation through which all the program then developed. So I would love for you to tell us a little bit more about that.

It's something that we discuss a lot with our, our group and how it relates to ESD. Love to, and I can just keep listening to you talking about all of the things that you got out of the program. And I think you, you, you said a few things where, you know, that not putting things in silo. But also the language.

we, board of directors going [:

Right. You, you would probably not understand. And even if I started shouting, you'll still not understand, but that is what we, from time to time do. We do not put ourself in the shoes of the receiver and try to understand what is the language that is, that is important there. So, so I think very, very important parts that this is not a silo.

is, is to do language. This [:

And now I totally forgot your question. Sorry. No, it was, it was about purpose because I think it's kind of foundational. We discussed this with, with our members a lot. What is, why are you doing this? Why? Why are you starting with sustainability or ESG and why does your business exist and how, what value is going to bring to your stakeholders?

pose we, we all kind of like [:

So, so you need to understand the business and that true purpose of, of, of the business. Why are we here? What will happen if we're not here? Someone else take over. Would they do it better? And so, so I think that understanding is important. It's also important that it's not just something we do once in a lifetime or once a year, but also check in and see, are we actually following that purpose?

vestments go to the purpose? [:

To what we do every day are embedded into the culture, how embedded into the marketing, how embedding into the sales process, how it embedded into how we procure our goods and services. So, so it is an integrated part of it. And it's not easy nowadays because there's so many things that coming at us as you were mentioning.

of the business, but we also [:

Because. That's going to be important to really ensure that we have an, a fit and alignment and can bring the, the, the company forward. So I think there's much more to, to unpack in that. And I'm writing this new book about the future boardroom. And so I'm looking forward to writing that book. We need a sneak preview, sneak preview.

ategy of the company and are [:

And so it's, it's, it's very relevant for board members and I'm so glad that you continue doing this work and I'm looking forward to, to reading this book. One of the things that you make me think about is, you know, yesterday, no, the day before yesterday, we were with my, with my partner in a round table with 12 CEOs talking about ESG and sustainability, these are middle market companies and how it's important to know, be informed about this.

look, we are going through a [:

So this is not a priority for me right now because the reality is that I don't see the My customer is really demanding this right now. One was in construction, the other one in construction, while the other one is in packaging industries that work. But I, I hear this a lot and I'm curious to know how do you tackle the thinking?

And when you talked with, I'm sure you get very similar questions from some executives around the world when they talk about this, maybe short term making it to the next quarter and how to, why is this a priority right now? It's so true. And I think it goes back to what I said before in terms of, of how do we speak?

ncertainties. And there's no [:

In, in that respect, what's the goals and how do we align that? And that's where we're go back. And of course, from, from the law and, and from the accounting side, that might be the first thing that pop up to mind. What, what are, what are the issues we have at hand here? Because we are also in, in a world that is more and more regulated and it might be that the smaller companies are not part of the.

ir, their customers are, are [:

And, and what I'm really excited about is that when I have those kind of, you know, talk to people about the things that, that you were saying now, and you start turning it a little bit around, some are already doing a lot, they might not call it the same as what you're called. Yep. I agree. Yes, definitely.

on, yeah, you need to cut or [:

Might be a bad idea, right? And I think, yeah, please go ahead. No, no, go. Sorry. I, I can go on. No, please. I feel it's so related to one of the things that we discussed for like I think two weeks during the, the, the program that was this stakeholder communication and stakeholder engagement, how important it is to connect, be in tune, listen to your stakeholders, your investors, your customers, employees.

gement. Do you have any tips [:

I think many companies actually already doing it. We might, again, just call it something else. But clearly when you start looking at it, what we can call materiality assessment in our world, but that is, others just would say, okay, what are our customers to our customers like our products, what kind of feedback are we getting, what are we hearing, what are the pain points of our suppliers, can we actually get the supply we want in the future, what's in our insurance company saying.

o one thing is to, to listen [:

Look, three, five, 10, 15 years from now, who will be your customers? Will they care more and less about sustainability matters? If you look at the younger generation, I think you'll see they will care more. So, um, you know, if you look at finance institutions and they're starting to stress test, they have to report, will they be asking you more or less questions about what are you doing in terms of transition?

years from now, [:

To find out more, visit the website conscious Business It's not rock or, yeah, it's just look forward more long term. Yeah. It's shortsighted, isn't it? It's a shortsighted approach to a dollar bill today. Maybe a 10 bill tomorrow, but actually if you're looking years ahead, if your customers are making educated decisions, which all the data is telling us they are, that they are going to make decisions based on how you choose to do business.

now, you can see it and, and [:

So, okay, let's, let's look at this and what are, what are the short term and long term impacts off it? And, and as you're saying, fill it out. I keep saying, you can't make informed decisions if you're not informed. And I'm not going to tell people what kind of decisions they do to make. I can tell you when they're informed they are making better decisions for themselves.

Their own career, the business, and by that also those stakeholders that are otherwise impacting the business in a negative way is again, there's no, there's no kind of like magic to this. It's simply being a good business leader and understanding what kind of environment are you, are you operating in today and tomorrow and asking the right questions.

that. Asking questions, not [:

It was before then it was vinyl. We're never going to not have vinyl. And then wallop came the cassette and now how many mini discs, zip drives, all of the old technology and. We look back now and we laugh about a rotary dial telephone and look at where we are now. You have to be forward, forward thinking if you're in business today, massively.

t business environment, what [:

So what are those changes that we are going to see? And what impact will that have on, on the business where we operate is going to be so warm that you don't have any employees that in that area is a good, you know, it's not so it's just looking a little bit ahead and, and yeah, asking, asking those questions.

ought, but it's still a big, [:

And, and this is coming and it's. And it's coming in these different industries, as you mentioned, we need to be looking at all these pressure points that are happening now. With regards to this, I, I've seen, you know, when I started. With ESG, nobody in my circle was really talking about it. I mean, lawyers, private equities, hedge funds after covid here in the US it seemed like everybody was talking about it.

It was in the media, in the news. All the business leaders thought it was a priority and, and everybody was. It was kind of a, I don't know, like a trend it seemed here in the US and then here. We had with the new administration and the new federal regulation, kind of a backlash on ESG and a whole anti ESG movement.

politicized, but now I feel [:

I'm curious to see, how do you see this evolution and where we are today with regards to, to, to these issues? Thanks. It's, it's, it's funny because if I look back over 30 years and saw the issues at that point, you know, health and safety issues, reputational issues, we were aware in terms of, of, of climate issues, but there was, you know, it was very much what are the issues at that point?

h on different terms. But we [:

As such, it was from an investor point of view saying, okay, we'll need to break this down. We can see there are risks out here. They can cost us money. We need to make sure that we understand those risks and we, we can either mitigate or, or adapt to those risks. So yes, there's, I don't think there are many companies that, that will say it's not important to know.

my supply to do my products [:

There's not many that says it's not important if our customers will keep buying our products. It's, it's again, so many, so many drivers. Yeah, I might not be going out with the same big statements. That I did a few years ago also, because we're starting to see greenwashing actually into litigation, you know, you know, that, right.

good thing to start looking. [:

Let's get the process in place clearly on the backside of what is also called green hushing is that we also now have artificial intelligence. We have fake where I put an article out on. No, you can have this company deciding, okay, I'm not going to go out and, and take a stand or, or, or talk about these different matters, but the voice, the, the image of the CEO or board member out there, so someone can go in and then do the fake version.


It's, it's back from all of the companies I've, I ever worked with, right? You talk about reputation, you talk about the resilience, you talk about the critical business aspects, you talk about the critical supply. You talk about how you're going to, to capture the best brains is nothing strange. It's just, we're getting all of these so many more risks at us now that [00:42:00] we were not fully aware of.

And I think we are starting to realize that when you can't get your house insured and in California or, or other places. Well, that not only a consequence of that individual that might have a couple of whatever that might have tied their retirement to that because they can't sell it in a later stage for whatever they had hoped for.

If you can't get insurance on a house, what are the wider consequences of that? What's that? Moving away. Yes. Moving away from semantic. I like that. It's not, call it whatever you want to call it. But these are risks and opportunities that are out there within our current business environment. And we are so interconnected.

focus on and call it EST as [:

Really understand going back to purpose and to your values, where your company stand in terms of these issues to make and have the processes in place already prepared. When this situation, if there's a situation like the one that you mentioned happens that we know how are we going to deal with this.

according to our values, according to what we stand for, right? Gives you the opportunity to respond and not react to her current trend. I've got a question for you, if I may. When you look back over your career, and I guess you have experienced more than most when you've been so acutely focused in this area.

he world and the environment [:

And, and. When I look at actually did that recently, looked at my master's thesis from over, over 30, I think actually it's 30 years ago that I actually finally put it in the things in there, it go like, Oh, I'm still running around and saying exactly the same. Uh, and that's a bit. Okay. But then, then you have an on other fronts where it's, it's fantastic to see how companies in terms of innovation.

Yeah. How a lot of [:

Can we do things in a smarter way? So, I would say we're far from where we, we ought to be, and, but we also, we also closer because you have leaders around the world that are starting to see the bigger picture, if I can put it like that, and, and, uh, um, acting as stewards of the future, which is what, [00:46:00] what I called my, my, my first book.

And that is, you know, to understand both today, but also tomorrow and, and act in a, in a way that is good for both the business and, and for the individual and for the society team we work in. No business, no business leader can succeed in a world that fails. So we need to figure out what, what, what kind of world is it that we We want to go towards and, and how, how are we doing that in, in, in the best possible way for all, all of these different stakeholders that, that will influence the road towards success.

want to go everywhere else. [:

Where I think it's, it's important that we think about what does that future look like and how do we ensure that we have the leaders to guide us to that future. And. Well, I mean, the, the board of directors, the, the leadership in, in, in companies have tremendous opportunity and responsibility huge and power to, to move this forward to, to a world where we, we hopefully will have people that thrive and, and, and are happy.

ime you have built a network [:

Do you know, when I was at school, I had a geography teacher who taught me about the world and basically the abridged version was that my generation and my parents generation have, have messed it all up. And I remember I was about 13, she said, kid, it's, it's your job. Your generation has to fix what we did.

And here I am, semi grown up adult. And I look now at my son, I'm like, wow, kid, I'm really sorry. I didn't find the answers for you. And in primary schools in, in Europe, for six and seven year olds in my local area, I looked at the curriculum and they have a subject on recycling, the environment and sustainability.

g to be the boardroom of the [:

I am. If we have enough voices and enough people choosing to work for companies who are making a difference. and stand it up for what they believe in. I think we're going to be all right. We are. I think we are. You know, we, we do an exercise at, at, at the conscious, we have a conscious leaders network and we think we are like this vision of ourselves and how we do we see ourselves in five to 10 years.

And now under You know, if you close your eyes and then you open a newspaper, your favorite newspaper, Helle, maybe, I don't know, The Wall Street, or whatever newspaper or magazine, and then you see bold letters there, Helle, your name, whatever company you're working with, you have quotes from people. What do you see?

lean. Keep it vaguely clean. [:

And then they, honestly, they don't need to put anything about my, me, uh, in there, but nice, but, but, but, you know, I, it's really to have that movement of leaders that are curious, that are competent, that are have the, the, the confidence, but also the conscious continuous learning that are those those leaders that are courageous and, and.

countries, so [:

So that's another part I really want to make sure that, that we, that we have that global understanding because whatever we want to do from local, local part of point of view, we are impacted by the global and neither climate change or pollution or anything else respect borders. Yeah. So we need, we need to have that cross border collaboration, that understanding, that respect and drive our self and our businesses and the societies we live in towards that state where we say, well, [00:52:00] yeah.

You don't need to sit and say, Oh, I hope my son will do this. And the end, end of the day, we are in, you know, when we had the sustainable development goals coming up or saying, well, we only need this because we F up. Right. And so, so at, at some point it's, it's just to make sure that we understand. That we're now living in a world where we're not have abundant resources that we thought we had that we using them in a wise way that we understand the consequences of what we're doing.

s again, it's pretty simple, [:

And as we're globally, we're all connected and, and I think we lost kind of how that connection and we're going back, I think with your training, we are insights. People like you are going to help this happen. I am hopeful for the new generation. I have kids and I think I, and I see too, I see they have just a different wiring.

l that they will bring these [:

I like the two C's that Hela said, sorry, I really like the two C's that Hela said, which was about being conscious and being courageous. If we can create a generation who are both of those things, yeah, we're definitely stand a good chance for sure. Yeah. And I, I agree with you both, but I'm hopeful that all of us, you know, are, and, and again, the, the power I see of all of those that have gone through the Compassion Board program, when I see.

oing what, but sorry, we, we [:

Now. Yeah. It's now. We need to be the difference that we want to see. Yeah. Yes. That's a really fair point, actually. It's, it's, it's in session right now, and you're actually a massive part of changing minds and concepts. And one of the things I really liked that you said was, it's a process, not a project.

And if we keep that in mind, we can actually make a difference tomorrow, not in a generation. It's actually a nice way of looking at it. Yeah. And, and, and again, part of this is awareness and then it is to take to action. Zola, do you, you might remember where in terms of, of modern slavery? When Andrew Wallace, one of our faculty members, so we have these over 180 fantastic faculty members of board, board directors and leaders, et cetera.

ion and you understand that, [:

So, so that, that awareness is part of it. And then what we do is saying, okay, so how can you also do something about how can you become that, that leader that is seen as the most successful leader, that leader that is really taking things forward, a leader that is there for both the short, but also the longterm, that leader that understand the implications of all of these.

business and, and, you know, [:

That's what good looks like. That's what I would like to have on the front page of whatever, whatever article or newspaper you're thinking. Online, online, probably. Online version. Not paper. Behind the playwheels. In the metaverse. Okay. In the metaverse. Guys, it's been such an incredible conversation today.

I wish, I wish we actually had more time. We definitely need to come and speak with you again once you've written this book. I want the sneak preview on this one, for sure. Where can we get it? Where can we get, when can our audience get your book when I know the stories of the future and then you mentioned a new book that is going to be published soon?

yes, Amazon, you know, it's [:

Thank you so, so much. So if you're listening to this now. I wanna find out more about competent boards, you need to do the right thing. Jump on the internet now and have a look at competent boards com. That's competent boards com. What an experience. Solidad, thank you for firing the questions and being, uh, our wonderful chair and hella just incredible.

we stand a fighting chance. [:

I will do my absolute best. That's as good as I can say.

We're trying, we're trying. I think, yes, all of our organizations different, I think. And, and it's also what you mentioned, Helena, progress, not for perfection. It's not that you need to do everything, but where, where try to get this awareness of what is your impact and start from there. Yeah, for sure. Small step, small step, big impact.


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