Bringing Sustainability to Liz Claiborne

By Helen Serebin  — MBA 2012

CEO Bill McComb – Bringing Sustainability to Liz Claiborne

As all of us head (whatever our job function or role) into a world where we must view everything through the lens of sustainability, Bill McComb’s remarks on February 16, to a packed room of Zicklin graduate students, offered some food for thought.

While Mr. McComb’s remarks were in the context of a CEO’s role, these points have resonance in whatever role we may find ourselves.

  • One attribute of leadership is having a vision that has no reality in today.  The ability to envision a future, and then connect the dots of today’s reality to that future, is key.  We need a lot of this kind of leadership now, and we will need even more in the future, because business tomorrow is going to look nothing like today.
  • Moving people cross-functionally throughout an organization contributes to a broad understanding of an organization.  This is an obvious point.   The application this has to sustainable operations is profound.  The ability to see the macro view is important to understand the impact, mission, and strategy in a way that is not apparent from a micro view.
  • Ethics and sustainability start at the top of an organization.  Honesty is key ingredient to both and as Mr. McCombs pointedly remarked, a culture of honesty is not Sarbanes-Oxley honesty.
  • Lastly, without personal sustainability, not much can be accomplished in the long run.  For Bill McCombs, this means the office door closes at 5:30 and doesn’t re-open until Monday morning.  This comes with a caveat: no office cooler chats or non-work lunches.  But the return is great: a work-life balance that is in balance.

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