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Focusing On: Pat Dwyer

by Su Aziz

Founder of The Purpose Business in Hong Kong and speaker of WYN thinkTALK discussing future of leadership on 28 March 2023, Pat Dwyer, talks about what shapes future leadership and fundamental traits needed to lead ESG efforts.

In 2015, Pat Dwyer founded a sustainability advisory and consulting firm in Hong Kong. It was ahead of its time in that it offered a service to guide businesses in Asia to grow responsibly and be purposeful. Today, we see many organisations globally and in Asia, speaking about purpose and stakeholder capitalism. The Purpose Business is a 26-strong team of sustainability advisors representing six nationalities based in Asia and Oceania, Europe and the Americas, with a focus on guiding leaders in Asia to evolve businesses as a force for good.

Before speaking at WYN thinkTALK on Future of Leadership: Diving into Unchartered Waters in March 2023, Pat answers some questions on leadership traits for ESG initiatives.

What new leadership models need to be developed to effectively lead ESG and sustainability initiatives?
For companies to last beyond a few years or decades, whether they want to lead or follow, the biggest transformation they will go through is the shift from business as usual that seeks the primary goal of profit maximisation at all costs. This model has served us well in the past but has also brought us wellbeing issues such as climate change, modern slavery, social inequality and many more.

What role do ethical considerations play in the future of leadership?
The only ethical consideration for businesses today is to consider who it’s serving and what unique contribution it’s making to people and planet, beyond short-term profit. This is what it means to be truly purpose-driven.

How can leaders foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within their teams today?
I would invite organisations to look inward and build meaning around your core values. Bring them to life to stay relevant not only within the team but also to your other stakeholders. What does respect mean when you are at the negotiation table with your suppliers? How does it manifest when hard decisions have to be made on rationalising resources or cutting budgets? Collaboration is only truly possible when there’s no fear of being told off. If employees can bring their full selves to work without fearing reproach, this can unleash creativity, innovation and ideas that could solve long-standing chokepoints.

What strategies can organisations use today to empower their leaders to lead effective ESG and sustainability initiatives?
Effective management of ESG issues is possible only when we understand how they are material to business operations and stakeholders we affect. This is why at The Purpose Business, we recommend companies to conduct a materiality assessment, to understand what core ESG issues they really need to focus on, given competing interests and resources. From there, leaders can be best positioned to deploy resources and meaningfully work towards not only mitigation, but aim to reduce, if not eliminate said issues, as they are risks to business growth, resilience and performance.

We also urge companies to review how they communicate and engage their stakeholders. We can’t solve ESG issues in a vacuum. The only way we can significantly move the needle is if we engage our wider value chains.

What strategies can leaders use to bridge the gap between their organisations and communities they serve?
Conducting stakeholder engagement can deepen our understanding of the sustainability issues material to the business and all stakeholders. Use insights from this exercise to reflect how you can bring them along to deliver on your ESG strategies and ambitions. We’ve seen our clients use this as a means to empower employees to contribute ideas on how they can further innovate to manage the environmental impact with responsible production practices while also attracting new talent. This then allows them to use sustainability reports effectively to communicate their sustainability approach to external stakeholders and rebuild trust.

Read the summary of the thinkTALK session on future of leadership which happened on 28 March 2023.

Read about leadership from the other two speakers of the thinkTALK session: Ganesh Kumar Bangah of Commerce.Asia and Keith Tan of Crown Digital.


20 Mar 2023
Last modified: 4 Apr 2023
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