Can Your Organization Do Well and Do the Right Thing?
About This Episode
Organizations around the globe are being challenged to strike a balance between profitability and responsibility, particularly in the context of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) programs. As ESG initiatives gain prominence, these organizations will continue to grapple with the task of defining and operationalizing their commitment to doing “the right thing” while ensuring profitability.
And even though CSR and ESG efforts tend to reflect a company’s values, values and financial success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, values-driven organizations often enjoy greater long-term success by building trust, fostering innovation, and attracting loyal stakeholders.
In this episode of The Edge, Host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek is joined by Layli-Miller Muro, a global consultant and advisor on ESG practices and corporate value. Together, they dive into the differences between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ESG; the value of ESG, particularly to HR leaders; and the best practices for building ESG programs that reflect corporate values and profits.
Interested in Learning More?
- Read Layli’s blog, What’s the Deal with ESG? Everything Your Organization Needs to Know
- Watch Layli’s webinar, Corporate ESG and Sustainability: Understanding ESG Program Best Practices
- Read Skillsoft’s 2022 ESG Impact Report, Living Our Values
- Dive into Skillsoft’s 2022 CSR Report, Corporate Social Responsibility at Work
- Learn more on about Skillsoft’s Leadership & Business and Compliance portfolios
Michelle BB 00:00:13 Welcome to the Edge, the Skillsoft podcast, where we share stories about how transformative learning can help organizations and their people grow together. I'm your host, Michelle B. My pronouns are she and her. And welcome to our fourth season. Over the past three years, we have welcomed guests from numerous industries, technology, professional services, finance, non-profit. The list goes on. I've had enlightening and candid conversations with executive coaches, de and I, experts, leaders, marketers, storytellers, and so many more, all in the service of bringing as many diverse points of view to the table as possible. And one thing I've heard over and over again is that the appetite for businesses to make the world a better place across multiple facets is growing. And with IT many organizations, commitment to corporate social responsibility, C S R, and Environmental, social and Governance, E, S, and G. And yes, it is acronym soup, and I promise we will get into it.
Michelle BB 00:01:19 Not surprisingly, in our most recent Lean Into Learning report, we found that sustainability was a top search query for Skillsoft learners for the third consecutive year. And in our recent C S R report, doing the right thing was cited as the top influencer of C S R priorities by a large percentage of survey respondents. It's really clear that many organizations want to do the right thing, and they're investing in learning that supports this across their organizations, but they're also struggling with how to define and operationalize this effort, especially as we still have to manage financial performance. And that's why it is so important to remember that while organization sustainability efforts tend to reflect their values, values and financial success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, values-driven organizations often enjoy greater long-term performance by building trust, fostering innovation, and attracting loyal stakeholders. And that is something I promise you investors can get behind.
Michelle BB 00:02:28 Which brings me to our topic today. Can your organization do well and do the right thing? Well, I'll tell you yes, but according to our guest, Laylee Miller Moreau, she believes that answer is a resounding yes, but it takes more than just good intentions. It takes refined intention and a mindful application of key strategies. And we have the absolute best person to take us through this. For over 25 years, Laylee Miller Moreau has been a social impact executive, legal advocate, and entrepreneur, named by Goldman Sachs as one of the top 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs by Newsweek Magazine. As one of the top 100 most fear fearless women in the world, go Lely and a recipient of the Washington Post Award for management excellence. Lely is passionate about sharing strategies for success and supporting those striving to make a positive difference in the world. She works with inspiring individuals and organizations who are sincere in their efforts, value aligned in their strategies, innovative in their solutions, and accountable for the impact they are trying to achieve.
Michelle BB 00:03:44 So please join me in welcoming Lely to the Edge. Lely, it's such a pleasure to have you here. It's great to see you again. Thanks for having me. It is so great to see you. Now, before we dive in, we're gonna start with some background. I'll do a little bit, and then I'll ask you to weigh in as well. And it's really gonna be on E ES N G and what it is. And we know that it refers to the three core factors of environmental, social, and corporate governance. And these are the three topic areas that companies are expected to report on. And the goal of E S N G is to capture all of the non-financial risks and opportunities that are inherent in a company's day-to-day activities. From an environmental perspective, it's, it's about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste. Um, on the social side, it means looking at having a diverse and inclusive workforce at the entry level, all the way up to the board of directors and how you treat employees.
Michelle BB 00:04:40 Um, and then governance is really about managing the entire program and making sure that you are acting in a responsible fashion. And while E S N G may be costly and time consuming to undertake, it can also be incredibly rewarding, uh, especially to those of us who are really passionate about it. But I believe that E S N G is extending far more broadly into the organization. It isn't just something that your head of sustainability or your general counsel cares about, but in fact, it's becoming a broader corporate imperative and one that all employees need to be aligned with. And you know, as you reminded us lately in a recent Skillsoft blog, the idea of corporate social responsibility, csr, which is kind of where all of this started, gained traction when the Exxon Valdez, an Exxon shipping company, oil tanker, spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989.
Michelle BB 00:05:41 I remember that well. And after the oil spill, a small group of investors and environmentalists began to reevaluate the role of corporations as stewards of the environment and agents of social and economic change. And yet, while many companies are still developing their C S R programs, they're now facing expectations to have measurable E S N G commitments and related reporting. And so I think as we start this out outlet, Lee, maybe we need to pull some of this apart and talk about the relationship between C SR and E S N G, the evolution of E S N G and frankly, what it means to businesses globally.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:06:25 Absolutely. Yeah. CSR was, was the birth of E S G, for sure. Um, and, and C S R, as you pointed out, was, came well, came out of academic work that was really important. It came out of, uh, increasing consciousness around the role of the companies and corporations throughout the world. It came, I think, from a good moral place where people wanted to recognize the impact that go companies could have on society. Uh, but it also clearly came out of a PR motive and some of the, you know, big events that you mentioned played into that. But CSR traditionally has been very internally measured, subjectively driven, uh, not a lot of external accountability. It's often been housed in the PR marketing departments. Um, and, and that's okay, uh, that that has been helpful. But E S G, in my view, is a progression. It's an evolution that really helps put an organization's values into practice and requires companies to operationalize them in ways that are transparent, accountable, and measurable comparatively across companies.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:07:36 So one of the tricky things about C S R is how subjective it is. When you say you are generous in philanthropic, for example, what does that actually mean? Well, in an E S G context, there can be a percentage allocation that's viewed comparatively by company. Like when you say, we are inclusive and diverse, great that you proclaim that. But what does that actually mean in numbers when you say you're environmentally conscious, great, but what does that actually mean? E S G puts it into a framework that's a lot more measurable. Uh, it, it holds people accountable. And to be clear, the primary audience for the E S G movement has been investors who, at the end of the day, are caring about the value proposition of the company. And so what's born out of a recognition that these things are not just nice to have. And with csr, the framing was more around nice to have. But with E S G investors are basically saying, look, you are not valuable to us. You are not profitable to us if you have governance problems, if you have social impact problems, and if you have environmental problems,
Michelle BB 00:08:48 Lely, thank you for that. I think that was really, uh, insightful and gave us some good background. I wanna talk a little bit about the acceleration of attention towards E S N G, because I think we saw movement and momentum in 2020. I think some of that had to do with COVID 19 as it brought economic disparities to the four gaps in our healthcare system, um, awareness of systemic racism. Can you talk to me a little bit about what 2020 meant and why the dramatic acceleration?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:09:23 Absolutely. I, I, you know, it's very clear that E S G was a movement in progress already before 2020, but it was niche. Very few people knew about it. And then 2020 all of a sudden highlighted big social issues, health issues, environmental issues in a way that brought attention to investors like you and me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So before it used to be, you know, very high level in the no investors who were raising these issues. And all of a sudden the average customer, the average investor, um, became concerned about the companies they were investing in and were caring about whether they were caring about these really important issues facing the world. And so it accelerated it for sure. Um, also, government agencies accelerated regulations and laws and attention to the issue. Uh, Europe has been ahead of the curve. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> implementing a lot of E S G measures.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:10:25 The United States is soon to issue measures. Uh, the s e C has some regulations that are pending, so we'll see happens there. For companies, I think the, so what is that? It's forced what used to be siloed under C S R frameworks. So for example, HR might have been handling diversity, another department might have been doing philanthropic stuff. Their general counsel's office was dealing with investors in the board and governance issues. All of a sudden, all of these siloed functions needed to be coherent, and people needed a comprehensive cohesive strategy around E S G frameworks in order to pull all of it together. The challenge now for a lot of companies is so who owns it? How is it being integrated? How are we getting our metrics and our data? Who's reporting and how? So a lot of that is being worked out, but I I, you know, on average holistic approaches, integrated strategy and corporate coherence is a good thing.
Michelle BB 00:11:29 Yeah, I I, I absolutely agree. Um, when even when I look at our own organization, um, and we have an E S N G steering committee, it reflects, or we have representation from across the organization because there is no way to be able to do this without bringing those different perspectives to bear. But I do think this is a big challenge that organizations have. Like, who owns it, who's responsible for it? And in some cases, I think it depends on the type of organization. I think it depends on where, um, the need or interest or requirement was born out of. And so, as you work with organizations who are on this path to either developing their E S N G initiatives, or maybe they're more mature, how are you seeing that ownership evolve?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:12:16 Yeah, we're, uh, I think we're seeing the ownership shift often from department to department. Um, the best practice really is to have a chief of E S G or a director level who has square and clear responsibility, who then has to matrix manage across all of the different functions in the organization where organizations are smaller, that might not be possible. They might need to have a task force or a committee that is dealing with E S G across the organization. And that can work well if it's clearly structured with a decision making charter with resources that are necessary in order to support them. Because the worst thing to do is expect people with full-time jobs to take on something as a volunteer and expect it to be done well. Right. Um, for a lot of organizations, and this is an increasing trend, they're shifting e s G responsibilities to the general counsel's offices.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:13:12 And this is because at the end of the day, E S G is about the value of the company. It's about investor relationships, it's about board of directors decisions, and it is about risk mitigation. And so many general counsels are beginning to own it. Um, I'm a lawyer. I, I like lawyers on average, I can see some benefit to that, but I do have real concerns. And, and that's simply because as lawyers, our job and what we signed up to and our ethics force us to minimize risk. Mm-hmm. And so it can result in very conservative, um, goal setting by a company. And, and what I would say to any of the lawyers out there who are owning E S G, I think that we can meet our ethical obligations around risk mitigation while also being bold in E S G framework commitments and goal setting by thinking of risk in a long-term setting.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:14:12 So, for example, what the Me Too movement taught us, among many other things, is that those labor lawyers or, or folks who were trying to squash and silence and deal as quickly and expediently as possible, sexual harassment claims took a short term view of risk mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And what they failed to realize was that by not adequately dealing with it in transparently dealing with it in a justice framework with accountability, dealing with it, what they created was long-term risk for the organization. So I, I think that we can still be in a risk framework and do our job, but we have to be looking long term rather than short term. Um, so, you know, there are good news and bad news with regard to how e s G responsibilities are shifting. The one strong opinion I will have and, and share on who should not do it is marketing.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:15:08 And marketing has the best of intentions, but they don't have the ownership, often the decisionmaking authority or resources to ensure that the E s G programs and activities, the substance of it that they are then tasked with reporting on is actually happening. And so they find themselves, and, and I've seen a lot of them suffer under this, they have to kind of polish up and make sound better, what actually isn't working very well. And it's very important that a company get their e s G substance right first, and then marketing can come in and talk about it and report it. Um, and this is different than how c SR often has been. It's often been under marketing. So it's, that's an important shift that's absolutely necessary.
Michelle BB 00:15:52 Okay. I love that. Um, as a, as a Chief marketing officer and a Chief Sustainability officer, uh, I will tell you that it's been hard to switch the hat, but it's been an important shift because the one thing that certainly we don't wanna do is greenwash. And that is something that has become really important to me as I manage a broad set of stakeholders within our organization, focusing to your point on the substance. So I think, I think you're right. I think you gotta take the hat off of what you were doing. And as long as you are really focused on the substance, what I believe is important when you are putting somebody in this role is that they are passionate, that they know how to work in a matrixed environment, that they can influence decision making, and that they've got the ear of executive leadership and even the board. And so that I think, is what is so critical about who leads it.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:16:51 I think you raise a really good point, because the bottom line, and what I have seen with a lot of marketing folks, and I think you're a great example of how it can work, is if you have power Yeah. In the organization to make sure that the substance of the E S G work is happening and being implemented, and you have access to the resources to make that happen, that can then work. So, I, I don't think it's about a, it's not not a conflict of interest, it's a conflict of authority and resources. And so I think if you can disentangle that as you've done very well in your position, then those two functions can work together. But that's the key.
Michelle BB 00:17:30 No, I agree. And I think it's, look, I think it's a good reminder to me and, and to, and to others who have found themselves in other departments and are moving into E S N G, that we have to really shift our thinking to what's important to the organization, what's important to our stakeholders, and are we making the best possible decisions? I love that. And ownership, you know, ownership sweet spot is critical because, you know, <laugh>, this is about operationalizing our values while ensuring the financial value for our stakeholders. I'm really interested, I wanna go back to something you said before about legality, because I think that there is something afoot that really threatens to upset the balance in a big way. And, um, I think we've seen it recently anti E S G backlash. It's really hard to fathom, but we're seeing it least here in the United States that some of the states are passing LE legislation that are forbidding local pension plans, for example, from investing in E S G related funds. And I've heard you say this, but what is perplexing about it is that E S N G is one of the purest forms of capitalism. So please tell us more about this, because I, I think we do need to understand why the backlash
Layli Miller-Muro 00:18:47 Yeah. It, I mean, why the backlash would require, you know, a degree in psychology that I don't have. So I I'm not gonna
Michelle BB 00:18:53 Yeah, I understand that
Layli Miller-Muro 00:18:54 <laugh>, you know, but, but I think at the end of the day, um, basically values globally are shifting and companies and people are saying, we can be better stewards, we can be better citizens, we can be better members of society, we can care about others, and we can care about our environment. And that is an old world order shift into a new world order way of recognizing our interdependence. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> our humanity and the need to care for one another. But at the end of the day, and notwithstanding how lofty that might have just sounded mm-hmm. <affirmative>, at the end of the day, this is also being driven and in fact, primarily driven by investors. And make no mistake, they wanna make money. The BlackRocks of the world, the Vanguards of the world, state Street, all of these folks who are really leading the charge on E S G want to make money, make money for themselves, make money for their investors mm-hmm.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:19:56 <affirmative>, and they are pushing E S G. So, while, you know, I'd like to think that there's an element of morality in it, I think I will choose to believe that there's an element of morality in it. Agreed. Uh, there's, there's an element of making money in it too. And so, you know, to, the resistance is interesting to me because free markets capitalism and democracy, uh, allow for investors to make choice. It allows for customers to make choice around what they wanna buy, and then for investors who they wanna invest in. And they have spoken, and they have said that E S G is what is interesting to them. Companies that have values that are being operationalized is what they're attracted to. But for some reason, there are, are many who are upset with that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, um, and are there is, there is a backlash.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:20:49 And it's not inconsequential it in the United States particularly, uh, the European Union is, is confused. They don't understand mm-hmm. <affirmative> what we're talking about. But the, in the United States, there is a real backlash. And, uh, it'll be very interesting to see how it all plays out. I personally, because I have kind of a personal ethic or morality about believing that, like when we're given tests or challenges, there are opportunities for refinement and growth. I think this is another one of these moments where E S G was a little bit of, uh, an echo chamber bubble among people who thought the same. Now, I think E S G is going to be required to use language that's comprehensible, to use frameworks that are more simple. And the backlash itself, I think is gonna require a refinement of what is very complex right now in the E S G world, a whole alphabet soup of acronyms and a gazillion different frameworks and measurement agencies. I think it's gonna force clarity and simplicity in a way that's good. At the end of the day,
Michelle BB 00:21:55 I think we would all love that because it seems like every single day, every single month, there's something new that we have to know and or learn or prepare for, or report on. So I, I, I would certainly value more simplicity. Absolutely. Um, in all of this, I, you know, I wanna, I wanna ask you something. You, you, you mentioned governments briefly, and I think this is really interesting because I wanna know really who's, who's kind of leading the charge here, right? Because you've got governments, you've got private corporations, and I know that, that when we discussed last, there's some pretty shocking statistics about when we look at the world's 200 largest economies, which obviously again, this is about investing and this is about being purpose driven. What percentage of those economies are countries versus corporations, and what does that mean to E S N G? Cuz I think this is pretty shocking for most people.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:22:56 Yeah, I'm glad you brought it up. It, it, it is surprising to folks, um, only 21% of the world's largest economies are countries. The rest are companies. And so, you know, from a strict revenue perspective, companies have larger influence and I think therefore greater responsibility to make sure that they're having a positive impact on society. As a human rights lawyer, which is what I did for 25 years, this statistic really also woke me up. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to who, you know, for 25 years I worked essentially against governments and tried to work on human rights issues from a governmental perspective. Um, but in fact, companies often have stronger capacity to make changes in their supply chain and their labor practices, particularly when it comes to violence against women and human trafficking, a number of issues. Companies have huge leverage. And what's what's even more exciting is that they have a lot of goodwill and good intention.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:23:58 And when I look at what companies are doing in order to move the needle on the environment, on diversity, on human rights practices, it's very impressive. And, and they can move quickly relative to governments, they have resources. Um, and, and there's a lot of potential and a lot of capacity for impact. There's also a lot of motivation because 90% of employees today who work at companies with a strong sense of purpose say that they're more inspired, loyal, and motivated. There's motivation also because E S G is now the number one topic investors most wanna discuss with boards of directors during their shareholder meetings. Um, also, 77% of consumers say that they're motivated to purchase from companies who are committed to making the world better. So there are healthy motivations for companies in order to focus on E S G. There are kind of, uh, push factors.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:24:58 Those are the pull factors that I just mentioned. But some push factors for companies are that increasingly there is a compliance rubric around e s G factors, including the environment and governance and a number of other things. This is why general counsel's offices are becoming more and more involved. Global standards are increasing. The S E C is soon to come out with regulations. Um, but at the end of the day, as we've already talked about research from Harvard, BlackRock, and a number of others show conclusively that stronger e s G alignment for companies results in higher profits. And so it's clearly a, a win-win.
Michelle BB 00:25:38 We have a lot of responsibility <laugh>, um, as yes as, uh, corporations. But what that signals to me is that there's a lot of work that needs to be done around internal education, because I'm not sure that if you win in and asked people throughout an organization what E S N G meant, not only just in general, but specifically to their organization, I don't know how many people could actually articulate that. And, you know, it, it, it seems to me as well, like one of the things that we need to come away with is as companies, we can do good and do well. And there's a real opportunity, I think, to make sure that every single employee within a company understands what the commitments the organization is making and what role they play in those commitments. Um, I'll get off the soapbox for a moment. Um, but I, you know, look, I think we've laid some really good groundwork for why this is important. But I also think maybe we should do a little bit of a breakdown for people, because again, it goes back to that education. You know, what is the e what is the S, what is the G? Because I don't know if companies really understand, or, or I should say employees within companies really understand why each is so important and what they need to be thinking about. So do you wanna help us break down those letters?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:27:07 Absolutely. Uh, there are a lot of letters, <laugh> in the ESG world, and ESG is just the beginning of all the letters. Um, so the E factor is, uh, the environment, how your organization impacts the natural environment. So factors that fall under that include things like energy consumption, efficiency, carbon footprint, waste management, air and water pollution, um, understanding how your organization is impacting and, and also helping to fill environmental gaps. Google and and Lego are, are doing that particularly well. Um, Lego has shifted its plastics to that derived from sugar cane. Uh, Google has become carbon neutral. So there's are some good examples. Then there's the S factor, and that has to do with social impacts. And frankly, the S factor is the least objectively measured in mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the frameworks. And, and I think that's another area for evolution, but it deals with workforce, customers and communities.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:28:14 It has to do with pay equity, workplace safety, philanthropic efforts, human rights and labor practices. Some companies who are doing well, um, are Starbucks and Coca-Cola. And you might say, really that I thought they got some bad press <laugh> and the opposite direction, but that's actually, they've reacted to that. Hmm. And they've developed some impressive strategies now that others are looking at. Bridgeway. Capital management is also very impressive, particularly with their philanthropy. They give 50% of all of their profit before owner distribution to philanthropy and have made a tremendous impact. So then there's the G factor, which has to do with governance and governance. You know, when one has good governance, hopefully you're also strong on the s and the E factor, but g is its own thing. It has to do with ethical behavior, um, how your board operates, how decisions are made, issues of transparency, accountability, and Zappos and Salesforce are great examples on the governance factor in particular.
Michelle BB 00:29:19 You know, it's good to see so many leading brands leading the way. I would also add Toms as a perfect example, where you buy a pair of shoes, you give a pair of shoes. I really love this. And one of the things that I've been so passionate about is keeping our purpose close to our product. And for us, it's all about re-skilling and being able to, um, through an education platform, provide opportunities, unlock doors for others by giving them the tools they need to be successful. Whether that's learning how to code in a new programming language, whether it is giving them the leadership skills they need or basic business skills. But to me that this idea of keeping purpose close to product helps you with that e Es and G North Star. At least it's helped me. And I think, speaking of that, let's pretend, and, and we're not pretending as much, but, but, but let's pretend I'm a newly minted e s and G leader and we're having our first conversation. I would love to understand what you would consider some of the organizational best practices as we build the e Es and G program. Cuz you know, again, for me it starts with that North Star. Obviously there are things we need to do. Like I've just had to deal with my scope one, scope two and scope three emissions so that I understand what my environmental footprint is so that I can improve it over time. But that's just a, that's just a, a piece of it. So where should organizations start?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:30:48 Absolutely. A lot of companies are trying to figure out how to evolve their C S R programs or newly implement E s G programs to reflect their values. So you're not alone, uh, but you're pretty advanced also, uh, particularly compared to where a lot of folks are. But E S G is critically important, so it's worth companies spending time mm-hmm. <affirmative> and resources on. Uh, but I don't think that it has to become overwhelming. And so what I did in my Skillsoft training and I do in my other trainings is lay out kind of a do-it-yourself process that companies can engage in. Uh, that's not overwhelming, but one of the first steps is to decide on an E S G framework that works, that works for your company. There are a lot out there right now. They're not mandatory. And so you can cherry pick, you can build your own framework based on different elements that you see that you might like in frameworks, or you can make it simple and just pick a framework that's out there.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:31:44 But there are quite a few. Um, if you're a larger company, there are investors that have mandated certain frameworks like T F C D and others G R I. And so, you know, obviously you'll have to look at your reality. Conducting a materiality assessment is another baseline that all companies have to do when figuring out their E S G goals and then their reporting framework. You know, an E S G materiality assessment is essentially about figuring out what issues are material. So what are most important and affect the value of your company. And it is an exercise in stakeholder engagement because in order to do a materiality assessment, you've gotta engage your stakeholders. It's not enough to subjectively think what, uh, to decide what you think is most important. You've gotta be talking to your stakeholders. Uh, then you establish your e s G goals.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:32:40 You look at your current state, your efforts, and you map that you allocate resources and prioritize how you're gonna collect your data report, monitor and make an impact. You need to track your progress, hold yourself accountable, ensure that you're tracking your efforts with precision. You need to make sure data is reliable. That can be a whole project in and of itself. And then finally, report on and promote your progress. Let investors, employees, vendors, partners in the community at large know how you're doing with respect to your e s G goals. It's important to be accurate and transparent and honest.
Michelle BB 00:33:21 You know, I'm, I'm feeling much better because I feel like we've taken a lot of your guidance here and we're implementing it here at Skillsoft. And I am sure that this is gonna be valuable to so many other companies in. Look, I especially love this. I think the be accurate, be transparent, be honest. It's super important because this is a process in which you are, you will be audited, people will ask you how you got to certain pieces of data, and you have to be able to provide that backup. And I think that's critically important. Look, we're, we're all gonna make mistakes as we learn, but we're gonna find our way forward. And again, I think that's, um, one of the keys to success is that we learn and then we grow. Um, and I, I think if, if learning more about e s and G is something that our listeners want to dive into, I would love for you to recommend. I mean, obviously we've got some, some learning on Skillsoft, but, but where do you suggest people start? Are there some books or resources that you think are really valuable?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:34:24 Well, I of course was gonna first recommend learning on Skillsoft. Cause
Michelle BB 00:34:27 That's,
Layli Miller-Muro 00:34:28 That's the most important
Michelle BB 00:34:30 Resource
Layli Miller-Muro 00:34:31 <laugh>. Um, you know, I, I hate to say there is no book I would recommend and, and I say that because Oh wow. It's changing so quickly.
Michelle BB 00:34:38 Yeah.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:34:39 So I, you know, I just don't think the timeline of publication and editing and writing has, has allowed for, for comprehensive and coherent material that people really need for their e sg journey. Um, that said, I do think very highly of, um, a, a class at Berkeley Law School. And it's not just for lawyers, um, but it's on E S G and sustainability law. And it's very well done, very timely. Uh, they, they evolve the curriculum week to week. Um, and it also is a great community of learners. And so it's, it's at an advanced level, but you can come into that, uh, course at any level. And I saw a lot of different people come in at different levels. Um, frankly, the World Economic Forum is keeping very close tabs on E S G. And I think they've done a great job at issuing updates and, uh, newsletters and, you know, you can find out what happened yesterday easily through that forum. Um, and then to be frank, you know, I, I, I have Google tabs set on E S G because I think news is coming up from lots of different places, including, uh, Africa, India, you know, Europe, um, also Latin America a little bit. And in order to keep abreast of E S G, it requires a global mindset. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I don't know that there is one source, right, that will give you that. And so I think, I think one has to look at multiple sources in order to keep abreast of what's going on.
Michelle BB 00:36:11 I love that. I'm gonna look up that Berkeley course. Thank you very much. And hopefully you're not hearing the thunder that is booming outside of my house isn't always interesting when we are recording and, you know, the, the doorbell rings or right <laugh>, the dogs come in, or thunder,
Layli Miller-Muro 00:36:29 Where are you located?
Michelle BB 00:36:30 Um, I'm in New Hampshire and so we are getting just massive thunderstorms. Um, you know, Laylee, first of all, thank you. This has been such a treat for me in my role. I'm really grateful. I've learned a lot just in this conversation alone. Oh, and here comes my dog cuz he's scared to death. Um, but you know, we, we we're we are about out of time. I hope you'll agree to join us again. Cause I think there's a lot that we can explore. And I'm sure that there is a part two, but, but here's kind of the fun part since I, I began this, uh, three years ago. This is our fourth season. Um, I have asked every guest the same three questions. And it is, it's really just, you know, some insight that you can share with us. And it's a three part question. So it's really three questions. Number one, what are you learning right now? Or what have you learned recently that's had an impact? Second, how are you applying what you've learned? And then third, what advice would you give to others based on that learning? So what have you learned? How are you applying it? What advice would you give? Go?
Layli Miller-Muro 00:37:35 So I, you know, what I struggled with this que i I struggled with how to be interesting versus how to be accurate <laugh>. And I think I I Im gonna fail at the interesting part. No, but I, I figured I'd just go for accurate. So in fact, what I have been learning and reading a ton about lately is diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from an evidence perspective. Um, there are several clients and a number of trainings that I'm doing on inclusive leadership practices and unconscious bias. And I am passionate about, you know, as you can tell, I'm a values-based, purpose-based person, and I believe strongly in high ideals, but I have very little patience for things that don't actually work. And in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, we have had a little bit of time over the last 30 years or so to look at different practices that are effective or not effective.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:38:32 And unfortunately, a lot of it is actually ineffective. It causes more bias than less bias and more division rather than unity and, you know, different things like that. And so, um, I've been really reading a lot about that and thinking passionately about it. So, okay. How have I applied what I've learned? I I've been completely redoing my training materials. Oh, wow. Um, based on some recent studies, particularly in 2021 that have studied what kinds of training is effective to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion in a long lasting, meaningful, not just performative or tokenizing way. Um, so third, what additional advice I, I guess I would, and this relates to the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but I think it's about learning in general. My biggest piece of advice is to get really comfortable with discomfort. You know, we know that biologically muscles do not grow unless you pick up heavy, heavy stuff.
Layli Miller-Muro 00:39:36 And muscles don't grow unless you experience soreness and pain and micro tears in your muscles. And I think that in life everything is like that. We simply don't grow if we stay within comfort and if we stay within ease. But un unfortunately, I think our culture in our society, monetizes, comfort, <laugh>, um, you know, even close friends, even therapists and TV shows are telling us to get rid of people who aren't perfect, who challenge us or who disagree with us. And I, I think I'm just feeling really passionate these days about being around people who are not perfect, who make us uncomfortable and lift heavy stuff, lift heavy emotional stuff, intellectual stuff, and, um, and grow as a result of it, but embrace discomfort.
Michelle BB 00:40:33 Lily, I love that. Thank you for that tremendous advice. And thank you for joining us today and for sharing your expertise, your wisdom, your warmth, your insight on how we can prosper with purpose as responsible businesses and to everyone out there. Uh, here at Skillsoft, we propel organizations and people to grow together through transformative learning experiences. And if this wasn't a transformative learning experience, I don't know what is. So, I hope you've enjoyed this episode of the Edge as much as I have. And be sure to tune in again as we unleash our edge together. I'm Michelle bb. Until next time, keep learning, keep growing and be well. Thank you.
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About Our Guest
Layli Miller-Muro is an internationally recognized social impact executive, human rights expert, ESG trainer, and purpose-driven thought leader. She is currently a Principal at Miller-Muro Consulting where she works with leaders and organizations to help them operationalize their values, develop their ESG strategies, and prosper with purpose. Through consulting, coaching, and training, she guides executive leaders’ efforts to turn values-driven platitudes into practice.
Layli is a member of APCO’s International Advisory Council, which is comprised of internationally experienced leaders, who come together to offer APCO Worldwide’s clients expert counsel to address the toughest challenges and biggest opportunities facing their organizations. Layli also serves as a board member of the historic Meyer Foundation, which was founded by the publishers of the Washington Post and is focused on funding efforts to combat racism.
Trained as a corporate attorney at Arnold & Porter and the U.S. Department of Justice, Layli served as CEO of a social justice organization for 20 years, which she scaled to a $24M organization with over 120 staff in five cities. In those capacities, she engaged with CEOs, general counsels, and board members of Fortune 100 companies to help them navigate their fiduciary obligations and efforts to positively impact the world.
Layli was included in Goldman Sachs' list of the Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs and named by Newsweek Magazine as one of the 150 Most Fearless Women in the World. She has appeared in numerous news outlets including CNN, Fox News, NPR, PBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Layli is also a frequent lecturer and trainer, at both corporate and global venues, including the United Nations; Women of the World Summit; TEDx; Paypal; Etsy; and others
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.