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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Siemens CEO touts social responsibility along with profits

Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, knows a thing or two about leadership and she shared her insights Wednesday night as part of the Bob and Elizabeth Dole Series on Leadership.

Humpton’s views have been shaped by a 30-year career that included senior positions at Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton before she joined Siemens in 2011 as senior vice president and chief operating officer of the federal-facing subsidiary Siemens Government Technologies. She eventually became president and CEO of the SGT business before her appointment as CEO of Siemens USA in 2018.

She is one of a growing number of executives who believe that corporations have a social responsibility. She describes her company as being a Business to Society enterprise, not a business to business or business to consumer.

What does this mean?

For Siemens it means being carbon neutral by 2030 and meeting half of that goal this year, she said during her Q&A session the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

“We see the world’s mega trends such as global climate change and we are committed to helping to solve them,” she said.

The challenges these trends present also line up with Siemens' three core capabilities around electrification, automation and digitization, Humpton said.

For example, the growing divide between rural and urban areas means that Siemens is supporting efforts that increase access to power and communications bandwidth in more remote locations. Siemens also is supporting policies around workforce development such as fostering life-long learning.

She shared a story about how Siemens is working with the local government and community of Sterling Ranch, Colorado to create a smart city. One man there maintains and services MRI imaging equipment that is located in India.

Because of the pace of innovation, people have to be life-long learners and one way Siemens has fostered this internally is through multi-generational teams that tap the strengths of veteran workers and younger, so-called "digital natives.

“Staying power matters but you have to bring in the "newer perspectives,” Humpton said. The combination means that these teams generate better ideas and solutions than either group would alone.

Humpton also voiced her support for the Business Roundtable’s new “Purpose of a Corporation” document that reverses the stand that shareholders are the primary stakeholder of corporations. The new statement released in August places employees, communities and customers as equal stakeholders to shareholders. That’s a significant shift.

In addition to Siemens, many CEOs from other companies active in the government space signed the statement like Accenture, AECOM, Amazon, AT&T, Bechtel, Boeing, Carlyle Group, Cisco, Dell, Deloitte, Fluor, General Dynamics, IBM, Huntington Ingalls, Jacobs, KPMG, L3Harris Technologies, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Raytheon, Rockwell Automation, Salesforce, SAP, SAS Institute, United Technologies Corp. and World Wide Technology.

“We need to be more responsible,” Humpton said of the role of corporations in society.

Local, regional and national governments face large problems that can only be addressed through technology that enables people. “More collaboration, more public-private partnerships reduce risk,” she said.

People should not fear what Humpton called the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the digitization of everything and the advent of disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Every industrial revolution has been scary,” she said. At one time it was electricity that replaced steam. Or machines that replaced walking and horses.

“Now, we are using data to do things differently,” she said. “But these are tools that elevate what humans can do.”

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:42 AM

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