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What the CEOs of Walgreens, Hilton and Progressive think about the Great Resignation

November 18, 2021, 11:12 AM UTC

Good morning.

Lots of people are talking about the “Great Resignation” these days. But Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer sees it as something much bigger: “The Great Rephrasing of corporate America.” Brewer was one of a dozen CEOs who gathered virtually yesterday to discuss how companies are thinking about environmental and social goals as part of their corporate strategies. Some excerpts:

“It’s not about the products we make.  It’s not about our brand.  It’s about how are we going to re-motivate people to feel good about themselves and to be able to contribute in a great way.”
—Rosalind Brewer, CEO, Walgreens

“In the modern history of business, the best businesses always attended to these issues…[but] the intensity is far greater today than it’s ever been”
—Chris Nassetta, CEO, Hilton

“I interview a lot of young people coming into the company…and I typically don’t have an interview where the last question from them isn’t: what is your strategy and what are you doing on ESG?”
—Vivek Sankaran, CEO, Albertsons

“I think there’s this generational aspect to it, which is very, very real. The millennials in particularand I think the Gen Z will be even more sothey are voting with their feet. If you don’t have a commitment to social responsibility, if you’re not passionate about innovation and really making things happen, if you don’t have an authentic commitment to diversity, and oh, by the way, if you can’t inspire them, then they aren’t interested.”
—Jim Loree, CEO, Stanley, Black & Decker

“Sustainability, inclusivity, growththese tend to be somewhat separate topics, and I think the time might be right for us to actually bring those three together and to say how do you make it sustainable, and inclusive and have growth. Because you need growth to be able to drive the investments and to drive sustainability, and without an inclusive institution or inclusive world, we won’t be able to get at a lot of the opportunities.”
—Asutosh Padhi, managing partner for McKinsey in North America

“Historically, you could keep stuff within your own four walls. In this environment you just have to be comfortable disclosing things much more openly and hold yourself to an external accountability.”
—Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive

“At Marriott International, we have a board level committee equal to the audit committee, the corporate governance committee, etc., that monitors these ESG goals that are set on a three-year basis and holds us accountable. Every quarter, we come in and report on those goal. This is very unusual for a Fortune 500 company…but it’s a really good idea worth exploring.”
—Stephanie Linnartz, President, Marriott

“As a leader in the HR consulting space, we’ve never seen the people agenda as high.”
—Martine Ferland, CEO, Mercer

“I think pledges and quotas and all of that is fantastic. I also think that one of the more subtle but also very effective ways that we can achieve some of these ESG goals is technology….There’s a whole industry around helping companies achieve diversity and inclusion.”
—Frida Polli, CEO, Pymetrics

“Climate change is having an effect on mental health. The political environment, the race environment, these things are actually all causing health problems, because when you’ve got mental health concerns that leads to other health concerns.”
—Russell Glass, CEO, Headspace Health

“We learned long ago that we cannot succeed unless the stakeholders, employees, the local people, the governments we operate with, all succeed, and that means everything from workers’ rights to managing the environment and dealing with income inequalities. It’s just part of our everyday life.”
—Richard Adkerson, CEO, Freeport-McMoRan

“If we at Delta are going to ensure that our product is our peopleit’s not our planes, it’s not our seats, it’s not our starter destinations, the service we providethe better job we do in taking care of the whole person, the better we’re going to succeed as a business. It’s a source of competitive advantage.”
—Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta

Separately, new CEO appointments were up dramatically in 2021, to their highest levels since Heidrick & Struggles started tracking in 2018. And those new CEOs were more likely to be women, to be from outside of the company’s home base, to have advanced degrees, and to have come from a previous job other than CEO, COO or CFO.  A Heidrick & Struggles report on the trends concluded this “broadening of the scope also reflects the fact that the CEO role itself is expanding far beyond the day-to-day running of the business.” 

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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