Marcos Eguiguren

Sustainability expert and co-director of the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Development in Sustainable Business UPF-Barcelona School of Management and Agbar Water School.

Q: So far we have been talking about sustainability as a competitive advantage and now we are evolving with sustainability as a megatrend. What is your vision in this regard?

A: It seems obvious that the megatrend concept, which is widely used in strategic management, is a concept that basically identifies those situations, those evidences, that you visualize today, that are happening now. They are examples of how things are changing in the world and that you perceive that these examples, these situations of change, are going to persist in the future.

Megatrends would be artificial intelligence applied to production activities, megatrends would be aging in Western societies and of course a megatrend is sustainability. It is something that has been in vogue for a few years now and is certainly here to stay.

Megatrends are not a fad, they are realities that are growing and that companies and their managers either adapt or they will have some difficulties. But it is clear that, if megatrends are real evidence that occur and that point to the fact that in the future they will have even more weight, it seems that no company is immune to this paradigm shift, neither large nor small.

Q: The way in which sustainability implies or participates is a success factor within organizations, how should they integrate it into their day-to-day work?

A: Oil companies, for example, have started to become aware of the problems that sustainability may entail in the medium or long term due to the phenomenon of assets being worthless, or on the verge of being worthless. Companies are realizing that, if you look at their balance sheet, a good part of it in 5-10 years may radically decrease in value, and in response to this they have decided that something has to be done.

But to truly integrate sustainability into the DNA of a company, beyond mitigating risks, as might be the case for companies of this type, the issue is culture. Companies that in the future have integrated sustainability in a clear way, in their day to day, are companies in which governance, management, boards of directors and anyone who works there really understand that the paradigm of sustainability is essential. I think this is the right line to take.

Q: How do you see the evolution of managers and corporate management?

A: Soft skills (such as leadership, empathy) are fundamental but, as we are actually facing a change in which there are already many companies that are already making it, and many more that are going to get involved, we have very clear evidence that certain elements are already being embraced in the field of sustainability: we can mention the food sector, the case of Mercadona, in the field of finance, with Triodos Bank.

All these managers, who are already working in these companies, are managers who, in addition to these soft skills, add a whole series of specific skills: technical skills in the field of sustainability, data reporting to stakeholders... how I explain and transmit to them that our company is truly in the field of sustainability, how from a technical point of view we make decisions on logistics, production, I really see them, I make them from this perspective of sustainability or how from a financial point of view I work on sustainability, therefore, there are a lot of hard skills of a manager that also have to be developed, without any doubt.

Q: In this time of change, a time of accelerating uncertainty, how are megatrends developing?

A: After this year of covid-19, what is happening in many trends is an acceleration of these, we are seeing it in issues such as the use of artificial intelligence or the fact of teleworking. Therefore, for this and many other reasons, it is clear that sustainability is here to stay. For a company to adopt ethics or sustainability as a holistic umbrella, in the way it managed its business, was something "expensive", they make less money and this perception has long been installed in the culture of many organizations. Gradually, studies and analyses have begun to emerge in sectors that lead us to think just the opposite. The fact is that companies that embrace the sustainability paradigm usually have a better financial performance. That is, if there is still anyone who believes that sustainability is expensive, it is not, and there are many reasons: sustainability is km0, sustainability is trying to reduce the carbon footprint, therefore, optimizing the logistics of manufacturing and distribution, sustainability is basically cheap, it is a lower cost.

Q: During your recent career, you have advised and been an executive of several organizations in management positions. What are some examples of sectors that are making the transition or are facing sustainability challenges?

A: It would be a mistake to subscribe sustainability to a trend that only affects some specific sectors because they seem to be the most obvious. It is affecting all sectors in a transversal way, the only difference is that some sectors are affected faster because the need to react due to regulatory aspects, social pressure or even costs is faster. Other sectors, on the other hand, are arriving with a little more delay. Sectors such as food, where the supply chain is being reconsidered to make it more efficient and also ecologically much more sustainable, sectors that have to do with distribution, closely linked to food and that are doing the same, in a battle from the ecological and cost point of view, in the end both are linked. Sectors such as the financial sector, which seems to be far removed from these issues, because you can tell me what an insurance company, a fund manager or a bank has to do with all this. It has a lot to do because they are the ones that finance the productive activity of small, medium or large companies. All sectors are involved in this issue.

Q: Given the need to train leaders for the green transition, what would you highlight about the postgraduate course in Management Development in sustainable business?

A: The postgraduate program that UPF-BSM and Agbar offer responds very well to the combination of softskills tools (which you need to have) with a whole series of hardskills. We give tools to integrate a sustainability strategy in an efficient way on topics such as, for example, sustainable finance: how to link the financial decisions of a company with the adaptation to the challenge of the SDGs or how monitoring tools on the adequacy to sustainability or the importance of transparency in a sustainability strategy.

Thank you very much.


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