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Reflections from the Aspen Institute Business & Society Leaders Forum

Jun 17, 2016

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I recently attended the Aspen Institute Business & Society Leaders Forum June 5-8 in Aspen, Colorado. The Forum which meets multiple times a year is part of a policy program at the Aspen Institute designed to bring together business leaders to reflect and strategize on global issues, risks and opportunities at the intersection of business and society. The group’s primary focus is on sustainability.

The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.Chinese Proverb

The definition of sustainability is seemingly ever changing and expanding. At Qualcomm, we define sustainability as a strategy that drives long-term growth and profitability by including environmental, social and corporate governance issues in our business decisions. We specifically think of it as it relates to our key spheres of influence: our workplace, our supply chain, local communities, our industry and the public policy realm.  

I was joined at the Forum by sustainability-oriented peers (and now friends) from Toyota, Xylem, Banorte, Disney, Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., Autodesk, Hyatt, Chevron and Pearson as well as thought leaders from the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Skiing Company, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the former head of McDonald’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Program.

Qualcomm is a company committed to changing the world – through innovations in wireless technology and through our efforts to do business more responsibly and sustainably. On a daily basis we accelerate innovation, develop technology that positively transforms the world and work to bring the future forward faster. Recognizing that sustainability is critical to everyone’s future, we recently published our 2030 Sustainability Vision, our roadmap to inform big-picture thinking on sustainability issues that are most important to our company, and a tool to help us identify where we can collaborate with our employees, industry peers, suppliers, business associates, customers, governments and civil society to create sustainability solutions.

Several trends emerged over the course of this three-day Forum, including the importance of scenario planning for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, the role of business model innovation for sustainability in an ever-changing environment and the significance of doing business with a purpose and not getting trapped in a cycle of short-term thinking. With today’s complex ethical issues such as privacy and security, big data, artificial intelligence, supply chain sustainability and diversity (to name just a few), we delved into the critical role that collaboration plays: both internally and externally with key stakeholders including employees, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, investors, academia and the media.

The theme of Qualcomm’s 2015 Sustainability Report is “Connecting and Collaborating.”  To be effective, our sustainability efforts must be collaborative and consider all relevant perspectives. We maintain ongoing communications with a diverse range of stakeholders who shape and influence our sustainability policies and initiatives. Our employee engagement campaign on carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions, the CO2 + U QChallenge, is one example of such collaboration. Another example is Qualcomm’s strategic partnership with the World Economic Forum where we explore issues such as the Future of the internet, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence with a range of stakeholders.

We also talked about some of the important qualities necessary to thrive in the sustainability profession. Passion, patience and perseverance in the face of challenging peaks and valleys were key characteristics we discussed. (And no, that’s not a skiing or hiking metaphor!)   A Chinese proverb that resonated with the group reads, “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”   Needless to say, we will be drawing on these traits in bringing our 2030 Sustainability Vision to life.

Finally, I learned that no Aspen Institute event is ever complete without departing with a list of book, app, and movie recommendations to keep my passion, inspiration and motivation levels high to continue forging our sustainability efforts ahead. Stay tuned for my recommendations…


Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

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