Image of Business Instructional Facility

Nov 11, 2015 2015-11 Accountancy

Lyceum – Shannon Schuyler, PricewaterhouseCoopers

By Tom Hanlon

Finding Purpose in Your Work

Shannon Schuyler is PwC’s first chief purpose officer. While speaking at a recent accountancy lyceum, she joked that it took her nearly 20 years to find her purpose. But understanding purpose—both individual as well as corporate—and how that purpose impacts corporate responsibility, sustainability, and the global megatrends that all society and businesses are facing can make all the difference. “We are concerned about the evolution of society, of what we can do to grow emerging markets, to innovate in business,” said Schuyler, who is PwC’s corporate responsibility (CR) leader and a member of the firm’s CR board. “This is a dynamic industry. It has the potential to change our clients’ businesses, to change our business, and to actually change populations. That makes it incredibly exciting.” Schuyler told the students that PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. “That’s a pretty big purpose,” she said. “Society doesn’t trust big business. So we need to let people know about our services, about what we care about. “Our purpose is what drives us. We want our people to have a sense of meaning every day when they’re out there, that the hours they spend are valuable beyond their client or just bringing revenue in. It’s what we bring in order to challenge the status quo. It’s us saying we’re not comfortable with where we are or where the world is, and we want to be a part of changing it.” THE MEGATRENDS SOCIETY AND BUSINESSES ARE FACING Schuyler spoke of five megatrends that are happening across the globe: accelerated urbanization, demographic shifts, climate change, a shift in economic powers, and the rapid advancement of technology. Accelerated urbanization. “Fifty percent of the world’s population lives in cities,” she said. “That compares with under 30 percent in 1950. In the next 10 years there will be 22 megacities, with about 10 million people in each city.” The infrastructure changes that need to happen in light of that movement is massive, she said. “It’s going to take $8 trillion over the next 10 years to address infrastructure issues in New York, Shanghai, Beijing, and London alone,” she said. “Think about the companies that need to change their practices and products and services—instead of making things nationally, making them specifically for cities, changing their focus from national governments to city governments. We are looking at that shift and trying to figure out what that means for us. How will that change our business? How can we help our clients shift their business and what they focus on in other areas of the world?” Demographic shifts. Schuyler said that over the next 5 to 10 years, 29 million workers will no longer be working full-time in the workforce, primarily because of a massive shift from full-time to freelance employment. “In 2005, 7 percent of the workforce was freelance,” she said. “Today, 24 to 27 percent are freelancers. By 2020, 40 percent of the jobs will be done by freelancers.” In addition, she said, by 2050, 50 percent of the world’s population growth will be in Africa. “Companies will have to consider how they’re going to address the consumer base there, how they’re going to have storefronts there, manufacturing there,” she said. “It used to be that people would chase where the companies were going; now companies are chasing where the people are going.” Climate change. Right now, 7.6 billion people are living on the planet, with another 2.5 billion by 2050. “To take care of those people, we need 50 percent more energy, we need 45 percent more water, we need 30 percent more food. Where is that going to come from?” Schuyler said. “By 2050, firms across industries are going to be responsible for increasing water and food production. How are we going to do that? These are issues we and our clients are looking at.” Economic power shift. A dramatic shift is underway between the E7 countries and the G7 countries. The E7—seven countries with emerging economies (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey) will become dominant over the G7 countries, those with advanced economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US). “By 2050, the E7 will have double the GDP of the G7,” Schuyler said. So, she said, companies have to figure out how to grow in the E7 countries, because that’s where the growth will be. “The global powers are fundamentally shifting,” she said. “Companies that are trying to wait it out are going to completely lose market share, and many will go under. They need to figure out how can they sustain themselves and be part of the new global economy.” Technology. “By 2050, there will be 50 billion devices out there,” Schuyler said. “That’s an average of seven per person.” She noted that it took 75 years for 50 million people to have a telephone; it took 3.5 years for 50 million to join Facebook; and it took three days for 50 million people to access the game Candy Crush (which was just sold for $5.9 billion and now has more than half a billion monthly active users in 196 countries). “What’s going to happen to the speed of technology?” she asked. “What does it mean for the good that can be done in leveraging technology, and what can happen that’s a negative, both in personal decision-making, buying something with a click of a button, to business decisions? The more data that’s out there, the more at risk we are. Think about all of the issues that have been raised in just the last three years around cyber security. How are we going to protect all that data that is out there? And how can we harness it to solve some of the biggest problems that we’ve never been able to solve before?” YOU ARE PART OF THE CHANGE These megatrends are bringing great challenges to businesses, and students will need to be able to leverage their skills and use them for good, to be a part of the answer to the problems that those megatrends pose. “I challenge you to take the skills you’re gaining and shift them from being transactional to the idea of using them for a transcendent purpose,” Schuyler said. “You’re the people who are going to be able to change the future of those megatrends. You’re going to be able to solve those things for us, but first you need to understand the power that you have to fit into the business world, and you need to realize the scale of the problems that are out there.” Companies, she said, are no longer being sustained by the status quo. Incremental change will no longer work. “We’re no longer saying that you should do it like previous generations did,” Schuyler said. “Now we’re saying tell us how to do it differently, because we have to address those issues, and we want you to help us figure it out how to do it differently. “Otherwise we won’t be able to live out our purpose, we won’t be able to make the changes in society that have to be made.”