Business without borders (Sponsored)

Feb 11, 2020
The Trinity Business + Technology Forum will address the issues of climate change, digital transformation, finance, and the new Europe.

More than 400 delegates representing the Irish business community are expected to attend the Trinity Business + Technology Forum 2020 in the new Trinity Business School on Wednesday 4 March. With a theme of ‘borderless business’, the forum will explore how the new world of business is increasingly making national borders irrelevant.

While many small, open economies such as Ireland have a long history of not being insulated by their borders, current environmental, technological and socio-political events are sufficiently disruptive to cause a reconfiguration of many business norms. The Trinity Business + Technology Forum will draw upon on both university and industry experts who, through engagement with the audience, will explore these new forces of change, assesses their impact, and identify their consequences for managers, business and society.

“This is the fourth year of the forum,” says Trinity Business School Dean, Professor Andrew Burke. “It brings the business and technology communities together with Trinity experts to tackle the issues facing business, as well as to network, explore new technology, and make things happen.”

According to Prof. Burke, several common threads will run through the half-day conference. These include the fact that digital technology creates instantaneous global marketplaces; freelance and flexible organisations enabled by digital platforms and new workforce models promote remote cross-border trade in professional services, which previously would necessitate migration; and social media pays no heed to borders as it facilitates international social movements drawn together by common beliefs, purpose and preferences.

“The consequences of the climate emergency respect no borders, whether we deny its existence or not,” he adds. “And many long-standing national border configurations, many going back to the birth of what is now the European Union, are being challenged and redrawn with the rise of nationalism.”

The event will comprise three keynote addresses, two parallel panel discussions dealing with the future of Europe and climate change, and several other panel discussions and workshops.

“Brendan McDonagh is a non-executive director in Allied Irish Bank and chair of the Trinity Business School Advisory Board. He will cover the theme of borderless business from both a business and societal perspective,” says Burke. “Our second keynote speaker is Alice Delahunt, Chief Digital Officer with Ralph Lauren and a member of our Advisory Board. She will focus on the digital side and the transformation it will bring about for business.”

Sustainable finance is the theme of the third keynote address. “Frank Sixt manages one of the biggest sustainable investment funds in Hong Kong for CK Hutchinson,” says Burke. “The fund takes substantial positions in companies that enable it to influence and control them. He will discuss a level of risk management beyond what is being taught at top business schools. He will also give his views on the outlook for the global economy, as seen through the lens of a sustainable investor.”

The environment and climate change are recurring themes throughout the conference. “They are picked up in many places,” Burke notes. “Norah Campbell, Associate Professor in Marketing here in Trinity Business School, will chair the panel discussion ‘How soon is now? What climate science wants business to do’. This will look at what business needs to do to take lessons from science. It’s about putting what Greta Thunberg is saying into action.”

The ‘New Europe’ panel discussion is being run in conjunction with the Institute of International and European Affairs. Chaired by Ibec chief executive, Danny McCoy, it will look at the reconfiguration of Europe and the business outlook post-Brexit. “It will also take a look at environmental policies and the new European Green Deal.”

A further panel discussion chaired by Martha O’Hagan-Luff, Assistant Professor in Finance at Trinity Business School, will look at the impact of financial markets on climate change. The workshops will look at sustainable technologies and the “borderless Irish border”, and whether it really will mean business as usual.

“Between these keynotes, panel discussions and workshops, there will be plenty of time for audience participation,” Burke adds. “It will be quite an intensive day. Primarily, our objective is to have a major networking event where people can get informed on the cutting-edge issues facing society today. There will also be an exhibition of the technology transfer and research being commercialised at Trinity College Dublin. We want to let people know what’s happening in Trinity concerning both business and technology.”

Looking at the overall conference themes, Burke says society and business are now at an inflection point. “We are now at a point where we have to address the climate change challenge, and anyone who thinks they can deal with it without it costing something is not dealing in reality. We will look at ethics and leadership in relation to climate change. The key thing now is persuading people that they have to change. It’s not just organisations that have to change.”

This presents new challenges for businesses, he continues. “In the marketing area, for example, businesses can persuade people of the benefits of one product or service over another. But they will now have to persuade consumers to make choices that cost more because they are better for the environment. It is difficult to navigate to the other side. A new type of leadership is required to persuade people to change their preferences.”

That is reflected in Trinity Business School’s activities. “We have adopted a carbon-neutral strategy for air travel,” Burke points out. “We are travelling less, using smarter ways of conducting meetings and so on. We have also adopted a vegetarian-first food policy. The idea is to flip the menu choice around and make vegetarian the default option. That whole philosophy and approach is new and challenges us all to think differently. The school wants to play a role in meeting the challenge presented by climate change. We are walking the walk here and the Trinity Business + Technology Forum is helping to address the leadership issues.”

It’s time for all businesses to follow suit. “Business has been talking about ethics for a long time, but very few have adopted carbon offsets for travel – let alone set carbon neutral targets,” he concludes. “We don’t have all the answers, but we like to think we are at the cutting-edge when it comes to finding them and that we can play a role in setting the agenda.”
(This article is sponsored by Trinity Business Technology Forum)