How to Navigate the Era of Responsible Leadership in Today’s World

Fifty years ago, the economist Milton Friedman proclaimed that “there is one and only social responsibility of business – to use its resources to engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”[1]  He decried as “unwitting puppets” those executives that take seriously their businesses’ “responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, [and] avoiding pollution.” Fast forward to today, and we see a growing paradigm shift where industry leaders recognise the value in aligning the needs of people and the planet with profit. Last year, for example, the CEOs of Business Roundtable – representing the CEOs of America’s largest corporations – recognised that “companies should not only serve their shareholders, but also deliver value to their customers, invest in employees, deal fairly with suppliers and support the communities in which they operate.”[2]

Technological innovation is creating new challenges and opportunities for those businesses striving to exercise responsible leadership. In an increasingly digital economy, corporate leaders are finding that they must keep pace with rapidly changing consumer behaviours and expectations, concerns over data privacy, and inconsistent government policies that often fail to keep up with technology.

The mobile industry, which sits at the heart of the broader digital ecosystem, is putting responsibility at the core of how it does business. Key to this is ensuring trust – that people feel safe and secure as they live and work in a digital world.

Against this backdrop, at the beginning of last year, the GSMA Board alongside 40 CEOs across the digital ecosystem, united behind a shared vision and a set of principles and launched the Digital Declaration. The Digital Declaration aims to showcase what responsible business practices look like and how technology can be a driving force in empowering consumers, enterprises and society.

Since its launch, the Digital Declaration has continued to gain traction, with more than 80 CEOs now as signatories. These companies are turning their aspirations into concrete actions and setting a course for a sustainable and ethical future.

With the participation of several of these companies, as well as senior representatives from international organisations, the GSMA, together with Edelman, a leading global communications firm, has developed a report – ‘Navigating responsible leadership in today’s world: A perspective from leading technology executives”. We hope that this report can serve as a helpful guide for the types of concrete actions enterprises can start taking today, to make a real difference.

The report is available for download on the Digital Declaration website. Furthermore, the GSMA hosted an open webinar to launch the report on Thursday 10 December at 14.00 (GMT). During the first part of this leadership event, I moderated a fireside chat with Andrew W. Wyckoff, Director for Science, Technology and Innovation at OECD; and in the second part, Gerry Wisniewski, Managing Director at Edelman, moderated a panel of distinguished executives from companies that took part in the report. If you missed the webinar, watch the highlights on-demand here.

The report aims to inform and further inspire companies to embrace the Digital Declaration Principles and take concrete actions to progress with them. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, like never before, the importance of digital connectivity and services, as well as the digital inequalities that remain in today’s world, and made the need for responsible business leadership all the more imperative.

Read the Report