Photo by Cindy Tang / Unsplash

Long-term leadership or a total lack of imagination?

I just read a really depressing report from FCLTGlobal summarising the outcomes of its latest summit, held last week. The mission of FCLTGlobal is "to focus capital on the long term to support a sustainable and prosperous economy." An excellent objective, and one backed by an impressive member roster, with all of the big names you would expect: BlackRock, State Street, Unilever, BP, KPMG, EY, and on and on. The summit brought together leaders from all these organisations, and I was excited to read what such a powerful group could achieve when they got together.

Not a lot, apparently. There is very little sign that those present possessed either the awareness or the ambition to really step up their response to humanity's biggest challenges.

According to attendees, the clearest indicator that a company is focusing on the long term is that it shares a "3+ years" strategic roadmap with its investors. I'll leave you to ponder the notion that "long-term" means "3+ years", because I really don't know where to start on that one. Instead I'll comment on the sixth highest indicator - having a climate transition plan - which attracted just 7% of the vote.

If for no other reason than the seismic uncertainty in oil and gas markets right now, I expected much more value to be placed on companies with a credible plan to wean themselves off fossil fuels. Did those present really not grasp the climate trajectory we're on? Maybe the summit's report in 2028 will be different. By then we'll be about 3 years away from blowing through the global carbon budget, so that year's attendees might finally spot the issue on their long-term horizon.

I agree with the summit participants on one thing: the most common obstacle to long-term decision making is compensation/incentive structures (which got 39% of the vote). Spot on. But what's perplexing - given that those voting are leaders of the world's biggest asset managers, advisory firms and companies - is that there was no acknowledgement of the massive role they can play in changing those incentives. If not them, then who?

I could go on, but I don't want to appear as if I'm bashing the summit itself. I can only imagine how difficult it was to pull off an event like this, and how dispiriting it would have been to write up the results. It has been said that our greatest weakness at this critical time is a lack of imagination. The results of this summit seem to confirm that's the case. I'd love to be proved wrong if any attendees wish to get in touch.