Letter From the CEO: Pursuing the Integrated Bottom Line in Today’s World
As a company, as a nation, as a global community, we find ourselves in the midst of enormous and simultaneous social, economic and political crises. Initially brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, inequities that may have been perceived as minor fault lines have now ruptured open with alarming force, revealing fundamental and pervasive economic and racial disparities in our economy – from law enforcement, to our justice system, education, to access to clean air and water. In truth, these fault-lines have always been there, both deep within and in plain view – in our federal and local governments, our corporate institutions and the social networks that connect us. It has taken the devastating reality of a pandemic to expose just how prevalent and destabilizing they are – to all of us – not just to those who suffer disproportionately at the lower socioeconomic rungs of these inequities. So where do we go from here?
In my view, companies not only have an opportunity, but a responsibility to address and heal these systemic divides that breed a sense of “other,” of pitting the interests of one group, for example, the rich against the poor, or employees against management, especially when we and our elected officials have exacerbated rather than bridged these gaps. Historically, and within the context of today, many companies have often been complicit and have participated in perpetuating attitudes and practices that breed inequity along economic and racial lines – these fault-lines that actually have foreshadowed the explosive consequences that we see today – and that top economists have warned we’ll continue to see unless we successfully address them.
Traditionally, companies have focused on short-term shareholder value and the bottom line, first and foremost, but particularly in times of crisis, and very often at the expense of a company’s broader vision and mission. And the tragic irony is, as companies in the 21st century are at the forefront of innovation and technological breakthroughs, their boards of directors, executive teams, overall governance, hiring practices, employee pay rates and benefits tend to be grounded in the legacy of antiquated attitudes about race, qualifications, and formulas for success, all practices of the 19th and 20th century. Evidence of this legacy and the antipathy characteristic of corporations toward their employees can be seen in the necessity of labor unions and the role they must still play to protect workers’ rights in the face of corporate malfeasance (meat packing plants with little protection for employees facing COVID), as well as legislative initiatives like affirmative action and the ‘minimum wage’, which have been critical in the path toward progress, but ultimately not enough in the pursuit of true economic or social equity in the 21st century.
Again, this is where companies can make a profound impact in people’s lives and society at large. Innovation must take place at every level of a company and across all operations and departments, from its business models to its hiring practices and pay scales, not just in its technological advancements, but also in how it advances the wellbeing of its employees, the customers and communities it serves, as well as the planet it inhabits. The good news is that even in the face of these economic hardships, there is a new brand of leadership that is taking shape across corporations globally, leadership that is becoming emboldened in the face of these multiple crises, not intimidated by them, pursuing a greater mission and purpose as guiding principles, not reverting back to traditional notions of short-term shareholder value and the bottom line. About 200 CEOs, including the chiefs of Apple, Walmart and JP Morgan Chase, reflected this shift when they signed onto a joint statement last August.
As the CEO of a technology company that at its core is about empowerment and community, that believes technology should and can be developed, leveraged even, for the greater good, beyond the expedience of markets and competition, to secure a more equitable future based on the principles of an integrated bottom line – people, planet and profit – I am heartened by these new leaders. Fundamentally, corporations and markets are run by people. The world view and core values of those people define a company, and as such, each of us, in small and large ways, stand to make a difference, for the better – or for the worse – from the CEO to the front-line workers. People – their convictions, commitment and passion – are the greatest assets in any company, institution, or endeavor. Who we are as people infuses everything we do – at home and at work. Our beliefs, our world view creates a lens through which we interpret and interact with the world, with the company, with each other. As human beings, we are connected and do not act in isolation. And sometimes the ‘small’, simple gestures and actions made on a daily basis are what make the most difference, as those gestures lay the foundation upon which all else rests.
SimpliPhi Power is dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of all its employees, its customers, strategic partners and the global communities it serves. Without you, there isn’t a company. Each of us, no matter what our specific job description or title, are integral to what this company is and what it represents. Our contributions, whatever they are, have the potential to significantly impact our individual and collective success. – or failure – as human beings, as a company, as a planet. What we do, how we treat one another, matters and reverberates beyond our immediate actions, whether we acknowledge the impact or not.
SimpliPhi is re-affirming its commitment to these principles and our core values with an emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) stewardship. One such step is that we’ve signed on to the UN Global Compact. Other steps are on the horizon and will continue to evolve as we navigate our collective future. But I take heart in every step and every person that we touch and that touches us, recognizing that there will be missteps and mistakes. Innovation necessitates a willingness to fail and an unrelenting commitment to keep persevering, even in the face of that failure. It is through our shared experiences, as well as our differences, that we become stronger and make a positive impact.
I write all of this with deep appreciation for the conviction, commitment, and tenacity of every SimpliPhi team member, as well as the partners and communities we collaborate with globally.
Catherine Von Burg
CEO & President