Angela Paulk is The Climate Board’s CEO, overseeing all strategic elements of the business including content development, client relationship management and commercials. She brings a broad range of global leadership and industry experience including having led large scale regulatory-driven governance & transformational initiatives (Deutsche Bank) and strategy consulting & business intelligence teams (at start-ups acquired by BCG and S&P). She began her corporate career at Citi contributing to thought leadership with the Institutional Investor #1 ranked Electrical Equipment/Multi-industry equity research team and with the firm's industry leading Economic & Political Strategies advisory team. In parallel to her corporate career, Ms. Paulk has taught finance and economics courses at Columbia University and brings a long track record of non-for-profit engagement and volunteerism including two years of service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Russia (2000-2002). Angela holds dual MBAs from Columbia University's School of Business and London Business School as well as a BA in Political Science from The University of Georgia. She also holds multiple certifications in sustainability, climate change, artificial intelligence, and cyber security from leading universities and industry associations.
Rightsizing teams is a persistent issue for corporates – particularly in economic downturns. Regardless of resourcing, a critical component to governance – and any strategic initiative – is the importance of relevant sponsor/leader. Given the regulatory and financial risk implications of sustainability (e.g., SEC disclosures, rising insurance risk premia, etc.), sponsorship at the senior most levels of an organization shouldn’t be a challenge – and a good sponsor is key to execution. If not a COO, I would look for a sponsor who has cross-functional influence and a seat ‘at the decision-making table,’ – perhaps a Head of Risk or Finance. Aside from sponsorship, when choosing a strategic program lead there are a few things to consider: 1) subject matter expertise 2) organizational know-how 3) humility that facilitates broader stakeholder management and 4) project management skillset From my experience, for considerations two through four there is often considerable internal talent that can be developed within an organization, if there is not already a change management function in place. However, for the first consideration there is some industry nuance to climate- and sustainability-related activities that businesses will need to address. For some industries this means more than internal training and development – it means bringing external talent into an organization. External talent can be achieved by hiring an individual or working with an industry body or a consultancy that can share cross-industry best practices, decision-making frameworks, and/or technical solutions.
Multi-stakeholder engagement (across functions, regions, etc.) is critical to the efficiency and efficacy of a change program and should be considered from an initial impact assessment to understand how and where an organization will be impacted by the foreseeable change. The RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Communicated, Informed) matrix is a basic project management framework that is worth developing (and maintaining). Plotting this framework gives leaders a robust view of their stakeholders, where and how they may be accessed for information and decisions, and insights to communications to more broadly. Furthermore, it is essential to build an understanding of the various internal governance mapping of meetings (e.g. Risk Committee), their attendees, and agendas as one can liaise with meeting organizers to provide content and make requests. Another proactive approach towards communications is understanding key external events (e.g., company earnings, key regulations, and conferences) as these too provide sustainability leadership opportunities to benefit from broader momentum and/or anticipate when informational updates will be required.
For companies operating with a large regional footprint, diverse set of businesses, or inorganic growth strategy, the short answer would simply be to think strategically and consider holistically the– long-term implications of decisions made now, rather than operating reactively. Often, the unintended consequence of reactive and siloed strategies is a costly cacophony of reporting, rather than an embedded, active ownership of risk and/or strategy. It is critical to understand existing decision-making bodies across various functional activities and to plug into those bodies as much as possible. Back to the earlier question of sponsorship – corporates need to ensure that the sponsor of a sustainability issue has a breadth of remit, oversight, and/or influence to the degree in which a holistic perspective is guaranteed to be considered.
In resourcing a strategic initiative, it’s important to think about the skills and input needed at various stages – spanning from the impact assessment and set up of the initiative to the cross-functional working groups (which feed into existing/newly designated operating committees, steering committees, and organizational communications), - for the implementation of a given initiative as integral to business operations, i.e., a ‘RTB’ run-the-business activity. There is a pragmatic approach to spend, efficiency, and effectiveness when the activities and skill sets required to execute the activities are determined before money is ‘thrown at the problem.’ The answer is to think strategically about what already exists (and can be leveraged), what is needed, who should be involved, and what skill sets and managerial support is required to ensure execution.
A regulatory registry from which the various working groups, project teams, and programs can trace their deliverables and outcomes to is critical. Even if an organization brings in an accounting firm (which will likely be inevitable given financial disclosures are the intended outcome of OECD initiatives), understanding the impact on one’s organization based on the relevant existing (and pending) regulations, will not only minimize consulting spend but also ensure senior level strategic decision-making is well-informed for bigger picture direction. Aside from a regulatory mapping and an understanding of industry and company specific implications, regulators will at some point to be interested in the controls related to the regulation. As an initiative is set up, I would consider not only how to measure and keep track of decision-making (e.g., meeting minutes inclusive of attendees) but also how to control activity and decision-making
Similar to the suggestion of creating a formal RACI to ensure organizational engagement, I would suggest some clear articulation of roles and responsibilities for the change management team (including sponsors) spearheading implementing any sustainability strategic initiative and/or climate risk related initiative. This level of transparency provides clarity to organizations which may not be accustomed to change and/or where individuals need organizational and managerial influence to ensure their efficacy. I expect that at some point in the near-to-medium-term future regulators are going to be asking who was involved in managing climate-related risk. If so, this level of organization and proactive documentation will be an extremely effective cost mitigating strategy.
From my experience leading large scale transformation programmes and managing large portfolios of change projects, I have learned that there is a benefit to having external consultants manage aspects of impact assessments, set up programs, and/or provide strategic input to initiatives and programs of work. Organizations can benefit from consultants’ understanding of external best practices – or even just an impartial/independent recommendation of what should be done and how it should be prioritized. A key caveat is that it is critical to be prescriptive in terms of scope and forthcoming as soon as possible with artifacts and resources that can help inform the consultants’ strategic frameworks, benchmarks, and understanding of organizational limitations. The latter point is my way of advising organizations to ensure that a breadth of cross-functional representatives is included in discussions with consultants – particularly those supporting impact assessments and/or recommendations which affect various regions, entities, functions etc.
There will likely be some nuance by industry in understanding the level of sustainability maturity, but there are a few key characteristics that indicate a shift from CTB to RTB: 1) subject matter policies and training are commonplace throughout the organization 2) KPIs and artifacts to measure sustainability effectiveness are integrated into organizational performance reviews 3) routine risk assessments and scenario planning capture aspects of sustainability competitiveness and climate related business viability. These three factors in conjunction serve as a good litmus test as to an organization’s progress from CTB towards RTB, a transition that is essential to competitiveness is today’s economic and regulatory environment.