“We are the last generation that still has the luxury to choose” to respond to climate change, said Ilham Kadri, chief executive of Belgian chemicals multinational Solvay.
She issued this stark warning at IMD’s annual flagship CEO Roundtable. Kadri said that time was running out to reverse course and keep global warming below catastrophic levels, in a subsequent interview with Jean-François Manzoni, the President of IMD, as part of his CEO Interview Series.
Coronavirus “has been a wakeup call”, Kadri said, in that the pandemic is forcing the world to take collective action to protect each other’s health — mirroring what is required to combat climate change.
Recently named as one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women in business, Kadri has made sustainability part of her mandate since taking the helm at Solvay in March 2019, just as financial markets plunged.
Kadri, 51, is a French-Moroccan businesswoman who led through past crises, including 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US and the 2008 global financial crash. But coronavirus created unique challenges. “I joke often that back in March, I was not chief executive officer; I was chief mask officer,” she said, about the then global shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
If the first response to the crisis was protecting employee welfare, the second was protecting the balance sheet. “Cash is king, right?” she said, adding that she had to shore up supply chains to maintain product and service delivery as border closures caused bottlenecks.
Aside from convincing the company that remote or hybrid work is the new normal, as it raised productivity, coronavirus also…