Boards in Unsettling Environments: From Digital Transformation to Climate Change

LDN.1.04, Loughborough University London

Loughborough University London

This mini-conference organised by Loughborough University London, brings together board members, senior executives, start-ups, academics and policy makers to explore how board directors and senior executives cope with modern challenges arising from digitisation and climate change.

While the current debate in media and academia has focused on these challenges independently, with this conference, we aim to establish if the capabilities that drive boards processes towards adopting sustainable practices to combat climate change would also be responsible for digital transformation. As companies digitize through their supply chain and are regulated to tackle climate change (take the recent UK government decision to end the sale of new petrol/diesel vehicles for instance) it becomes increasingly important to determine the points of synergy or contention between digitalization and sustainability.

Data is increasingly considered by firms as a key asset, yet, cognitive or regulatory constraints make it difficult for the organisations to fully explore its value. The conference will provide a glimpse into the future of digitalization, and then focus on a practitioner-oriented panel debate on the role of boards in driving the digital transformation.

Climate change has been debated at governmental and global levels, yet organisations do or know little about the exact steps they should make to tackle it. There is an emergent debate about how organisations should take part in addressing climate change, not necessarily as a consequence of their operations, but as powerful actors in the globalizing world. We will provide an update on the latest research on climate change, followed by a diverse panel focused on organisational and board dynamics to tackle climate change.

Preliminary Schedule

9am-9.30am Registration and coffee

Introduction by:

  • Professor Aaron Smith, Associate Dean for Enterprise at Loughborough University London
  • Dr Louise Scholes, Director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Dr Anna Grosman, Senior Lecturer within the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
9.45am-11am Keynote – “A glimpse into the future of digitisation”, by Rashik Parmar, MBE (IBM)
11am-11.15am Coffee break
11.15am-12pm Digitisation Panel
12pm-12.45pm Keynote – “The Role of Chairman”, by Fiona Hathorn, CEO (Women on Boards Association)
12.45pm-1.30pm Lunch
1.30pm-2.30pm Keynote - “Digital technologies and sustainability: opportunities and challenges”, by Professor Nilay Shah (Department of Chemical Engineering Imperial College)
2.30pm-2.45pm Coffee break
2.45pm-3.30pm Climate Change Panel
3.30pm-4.30pm Show case
4.30pm-5pm Concluding remarks
5pm-6pm Invitation only dinner
Book your place

More about the keynotes

Keynote – “A glimpse into the future of digitisation”, by Rashik Parmar, MBE (IBM)

Image of Rashik Parmar.

About Rashik

Rashik is the IBM Fellow and Vice President responsible for creating and driving IBM’s European technical strategy. His focus is in helping clients on the journey to become a cognitive enterprise leveraging Cloud, AI and IoT technologies whilst creating a dependable IT platform. Drawing on thirty-six years of practical experience at IBM, he is uniquely placed in developing strategies that are realistic and whilst providing tangible business impact. He has worked with financial, retail and manufacturing clients on IT transformation projects of all sizes. Overall, he specialises in ensuring the technical success of complex IT projects that transform business models. Some of his work is summarised in the HBR Article he co-authored “New Patterns for Innovation” – Jan-Feb 2014.

Rashik has been appointed to the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership Board and chairs the business communications group. He is helping develop the innovation strategies to accelerate growth of this £55bn marketplace. Rashik is also IBM’s Partnership Executive for Imperial College London. He is also an Adjunct Professor for Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Imperial College Business School and Visiting Professor to the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group at the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Rashik was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) as part of the HRH Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday honours for his contribution to business and innovation.

About the keynote

We have become accustomed to digitisation being a primary source of innovation and competitive advantage for businesses of all sizes. Yet we are still at an early stage in the journey and the opportunity for digital disruption is anything from $0.5tr to over $4tr. The hyperscalers have shown that it is possible to create new $1tr businesses by leveraging the opportunity for digitisation. However, many open questions remain. Can an established business transform into a digital native organisation? How can this be done responsibly and create a sustainable platform? By distilling insights from a range of digitisation programmes, this presentation will provide a framework that business leaders can use to develop their digitisation strategy to maximise the chance of success.

Keynote – “The Role of Chairman”, by Fiona Hathorn, CEO (Women on Boards Association)

Image of Fiona Hathorn.

About Fiona

Fiona is the CEO of Women on Boards UK, a Non-Executive Director of the gender pay gap company Spktral, an advisor to mid-cap stockbroker Peel Hunt, Chair of the nominations committee for Hanx, a new FMCG sexual health start-up and an Advisory Board member for Kings College London’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. She is an expert in the areas of Governance, Regulation and Talent Management. Fiona is also a Patron of Fight for Sight (a medical research charity) and was formerly a director for Hill Samuel Asset Management, running the Emerging Markets Desk. Additionally, Fiona is a Judge for the Non-Executive Director Awards, sponsored by The Sunday Times.

About the keynote

It is the board's job to consider, and thus look after, the long-term survivability of the company to ensure that it has the best chance of success for both existing and future stakeholders. The duty to promote the success of the company is one of the 7 statutory duties, outlined in section 172 of the Companies Act.

In the recent past companies have tended to be focused on the here and now, and thus focused more on short term profits (particularly the listed sector). However, this is increasingly no longer acceptable to society and the younger generation, which brings the Environment and need for ESG reporting into the mix of directors’ duties. A digital strategy is also relevant here.

Whilst the CEO is responsible for running the company the board is responsible for setting the company's strategy, its culture and governance. Only the board can ensure that ESG is taken seriously and having a good chair is crucial.
This discussion will be based on recent corporate governance studies and will introduce the audience to the fundamental principles for a Chairman to adopt in the face of sustainability and climate change.

Keynote - “Digital technologies and sustainability: opportunities and challenges” by Prof Nilay Shah

Image of Nilay Shah.

About Nilay

Professor Nilay Shah is the Head of Chemical Engineering and former Director of the Centre for Process Systems Engineering (CPSE) at Imperial College London. His research interests include the application of modelling and mathematical/systems engineering techniques to analyse and optimise low carbon industrial and energy systems, including hydrogen infrastructures, carbon capture and storage systems, urban energy systems and bioenergy systems. He is also interested in devising process systems engineering methods to optimise industrial processes and in the application of model-based methods for plant safety assessment and risk analysis. He has published widely in these areas and is particularly interested in the transfer of technology from academia to industry. He has provided consultancy services on systems optimisation to a large number of process industry and energy companies. He was a co-founder of Process Systems Enterprise Ltd., an advanced process modelling company now part of Siemens Digital Industries.

About the keynote

As indicated in the theme of the day, two global industrial trends are a focus on improving sustainability and ensuring relevance in a low carbon future, and digitalization. The latter is a somewhat catch-all phrase and has taken on a number of different emphases in different sectors. Here we shall use it to mean the use of data and model along with computational methods and algorithms to improve decision-making. This talk will first explore some key decision-making challenges around sustainability and then consider the role of emerging digital technologies that can support or indeed possibly hinder progress to improved sustainability. Case studies from retail, process and energy sectors will be used to highlight opportunities and challenges.