Crafting Resilient and Sustainable Enterprises at Scale — In conversation with Liz Lempres

Talking Trends
4 min readJan 30, 2024
Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

In the dynamic landscape of business, constructing robust and sustainable organizations at a grand scale is of utmost importance. This aspiration is upheld by adept board directors who acknowledge that prosperity extends beyond mere financial gains. Resilience in the face of challenges and a commitment to sustainability underpin this pursuit. It strives not only to establish thriving enterprises but also to create a significant positive impact on consumers, employees, and the global community.

We are in conversation with Liz Lempres, a board director passionate about building businesses at a large scale.

You are passionate about creating resilient and sustainable businesses at scale. Could you elaborate on the importance of instilling resiliency and sustainability in such contexts? How do you see these qualities contributing to the long-term profitability and success of these organizations, and what strategies or approaches have you championed to achieve this objective? Can you share an example from your experience where you successfully led an initiative to make a large organization more resilient and sustainable and describe the positive outcomes or lessons learned from that effort?

My passion lies in cultivating businesses that offer distinctive value to consumers. The greatest companies aren’t fleeting players; they’re enduring leaders in their respective industries, serving their customers and rewarding their stakeholders over decades. Building resilient and sustainable businesses at scale encapsulates this vision. Resilient businesses have the capacity to withstand disruptions, whether internal, within their industry, or stemming from changing consumer preferences and broader macroeconomic shifts. These disruptions inevitably occur, and resilient businesses are able to manage through them and, ideally, take advantage of them..”

“Sustainability, in this context, extends beyond longevity; it reflects the commitment to fulfill fundamental consumer or business needs, ensuring long-term viability. Modern-day sustainability extends further, encompassing responsible practices that benefit employees, consumers, and communities. Studies affirm that consumers increasingly value a company’s purpose and values, underlining the significance of sustainable practices. While consumers may not (yet) always be willing to pay a premium for sustainability, its importance in talent acquisition, access to raw materials, and regulatory compliance is undeniable.”

“While sustainable businesses can exist at varying sizes, I am particularly enthused by those that operate at scale. These companies have the potential to make a significant impact, reaching a larger consumer base, influencing national labor practices, and actively contributing to addressing global challenges like climate change. An example is General Mills, where I am a board member, which is at the forefront of “regenerative agriculture.”

“Regenerative agriculture is a transformative farming approach that conserves water, prevents land degradation, and combats deforestation. It fosters soil protection and enhancement, bolsters climate resilience, and optimizes crop quality and yields. General Mills has differentiated itself through its approach to regenerative agriculture, collaborating closely with farmers to tailor the program to local agricultural needs. The company’s commitment to driving sustainable change at scale is exemplified by its pledge to support regenerative agriculture on a million acres by 2030. Other large companies are also playing a role. General Mills and Walmart, for example, are teaming up to accelerate the adoption of regenerative agriculture by 600,000 acres- which is roughly the number of acres required to source the ingredients for the products General Mills sells through Walmart and Sam’s Club.”

“Smaller companies are often cited as being more innovative or agile. I don’t see that as a universal truth, but even if it were, they often lack the resources, expertise, and long-term investment horizon required to make such a substantial commitment. This underscores the pivotal role of larger corporations in driving transformative change on “really big” issues like climate change.

My passion for creating resilient and sustainable businesses at scale reflects a commitment to enduring value, a focus on responsible practices, and a dedication to addressing critical global challenges. Larger companies have the opportunity- and the responsibility- to play a leadership role in shaping a more sustainable business landscape to achieve both commercial success and have a profound social impact.”

Thanks for sharing, Liz.

A seasoned professional with a multifaceted career, Liz Lempres is currently a dedicated Board Director, specializing in cultivating resilient consumer businesses at scale. Holding the prestigious title of Senior Partner Emeritus at McKinsey & Co., her expertise in strategy, organization, and board governance is widely acknowledged. With a global footprint spanning over 20 countries, her international exposure has enriched her perspective, enabling effective collaboration across diverse cultural and business landscapes. Renowned for assuming pivotal roles in audit, governance, compensation, and CEO succession, she brings a wealth of experience to every boardroom. Committed to driving sustainable practices, her active involvement in shaping and implementing ESG strategies underscores her belief in positive change for long-term success in today’s dynamic business environment.

Connect with Liz Lempres on LinkedIn



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