Olin Business School Leaders in Business Summit probes hot topics for today’s top managers
Black swans, green coal and a blueprint to reduce uncertainty were just a few of the topics discussed during the second annual Leaders in Business Summit Sept. 28 hosted by Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis and Deloitte & Touche.
Over 100 executives participated in the daylong dialogue at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center on the campus of Washington University with CEOs and top officials from industry leaders such as Ameren, AT&T, Edward Jones, Energizer Holdings, Monsanto, Peabody Energy and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Panel discussions moderated by Olin Business School faculty covered topics from corporate social responsibility and sustainability to strategies used by companies to navigate the volatile economy of the past two years. Each panel presentation was followed by a lively exchange with audience members.
James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, shared a cautiously optimistic outlook for the economy. Bullard emphasized that while the outlook for the U.S. economy has been downgraded, it is still positive and the international sector continues to be very strong. Bullard called for an expedited blueprint of how financial reform will be implemented. He said this would help reduce uncertainty in the economy and the financial industry, which is holding back investment in the U.S.
“We are very pleased to see so many business leaders participating in our second annual summit,” said Mahendra R. Gupta, PhD, dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “There is a wealth of knowledge and experience that top managers and our faculty can share, debate and discuss with each other here in the spirit of learning and responding to the challenges businesses face today. It also creates an invigorating learning experience to our students, the business leaders of tomorrow.”
Ward Klein, CEO Energizer Holdings; Mike McCarthy, interim CEO of St. Louis Blues Enterprises; and James Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones shared how their consumer-driven companies responded to the financial crisis and the lessons learned from managing through such a rare and unexpected event referred to as a “black swan.”
Frederick Palmer, senior vice president of government relations at Peabody Energy and Thomas Voss, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren, discussed the need for a national energy policy and continued research in the area of green coal.
Olin MBA students were invited to attend the summit and pose questions to the panelists. When discussion turned to sustainable practices, Javier de Trinidad, MBA ’11, asked if corporations were in danger of leveraging the “sustainability” trend in marketing and messages to the public without actually being committed to the practice. Jeffry Quinn, chairman and CEO of Solutia, said there is not a conflict between sustainable practices and growth and many advantages to adopting environmental, economic and social sustainability policies.
Charlene Lake, senior vice president public affairs and chief sustainability officer at AT&T, reiterated, saying, “We can profit from sustainable efforts like introducing more fuel efficient vehicles into our fleet.”
James Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, and Ralph Scozzafava, chairman and CEO of Furniture Brands International, also participated on the “Sustainability in a Global Environment” panel.
In a presentation on corporate social responsibility, Carl Casale, executive vice president and CFO of Monsanto, described Monsanto initiatives in India and Africa as an alignment of economic interests where collaboration on applying new technologies to traditional agricultural practices benefits all parties in the end.
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Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis is an institution of leaders: distinguished business faculty... exhilarated, brilliant students... and successful, energized alumni. Our 12 business degree and nondegree programs emphasize rigorously analytical, critical-thinking skills; applied learning; global competence; and communication and collaboration skills -- advancing today’s business world and tomorrow’s global leaders. Learn more about Olin Business School on the Web at:
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