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Matthew Swift on the 2021 Concordia Summit

Matthew Swift, Concordia Summit Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the 2021 summit.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ADAM SHAPIRO: Less than 40 minutes to the closing bell. Here is where we stand as we watch the sell off that a lot of people are attributing to the real estate news regarding Evergrande in China. The Dow now off 894 points. S&P 500 off 117 points. And the NASDAQ off 485 points.

We obviously are keeping an eye on this for you. But we're also keeping an eye on the Concordia Summit. Yahoo Finance has been live all day from the summit. Let's go to Julie Hyman for more and a special guest. Julie.

JULIE HYMAN: Thanks so much, Adam. I appreciate it, indeed. I am here with Matthew Swift who is the founder and CEO of Concordia. Matt, it's great to be here with you.

MATTHEW SWIFT: Great to be--

JULIE HYMAN: Well, Adam was talking about the sort of immediacy of the market sell-off that's going on today. Here, we're talking about sort of big global problems and how to attack them both from the public and private sectors which I think is really interesting, that intersection. And that's where you guys live, effectively.

Talk to me. We mostly look at the private sector right at the corporate world. And so what are you hearing from those folks, particularly over the past 18 months about their willingness and not just willingness, but action in terms of attacking some of these problems?

MATTHEW SWIFT: Well, first, I think things have changed dramatically. And I COVID accelerated. The focus on ESG is stronger than really it's ever been. Companies wanting to come out, especially this week during the United Nations General Assembly high-level week here in New York. Heads of state from all around the world descend upon the city. And companies jump at the opportunity to talk about the issues that they're championing because of this public and private sector cooperative model that we as an institution really drive.

We believe that the free market is a driver of so many different issues, whether you're talking about sustainability issues. You're talking about refugee issues. Or you're talking about any sort of example social issue and around ESG. What's the role of the private sector? What role do they have at the table?

Lastly, CEOs are expected to have opinions on just about every issue you can imagine. It's almost like we look at CEOs as if their heads of state these days. We just heard from the CEO of LinkedIn talking about everything that the company is doing on climate.

We're going to hear on Wednesday from the global CEO of Uber talking about what they're doing to focus on Afghanistan. And so companies immediately enter these public policy spaces, I think, because it plays such a critical role in their brand development. It plays such a critical role to be completely honest in their stock price.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, yeah, I think that's increasingly true and in their consumers as well--

MATTHEW SWIFT: Yes.

JULIE HYMAN: --who are sort of demanding--

MATTHEW SWIFT: They're driving the whole thing.

JULIE HYMAN: Yes, they're demanding that. And that panel that you mentioned was really a highlight for me. You mentioned with the LinkedIn CEO also featured John Kerry as well as Lisa Jackson who's now with Apple, was formerly head of the EPA.

What about momentum when it comes to this stuff? Because I feel like early on in the pandemic, there was a lot of attention being focused on a lot of social issues. And there were sort of a peak in interest. Have you seen that sustain itself through now and continue in terms of action?

MATTHEW SWIFT: Here's what's going to happen. And actually I'm very excited about this movement, which is how genuine are these commitments? Are these communications exercises? Or is there actual change? An ESG report published to demonstrate what a company cares about is fine. But what are they actually doing?

And I think for Concordia, as a convener, we see it as a responsibility to make sure we're holding these companies to account that they're not just coming here and announcing something and then never coming back. But what is it that they're actually doing?

For instance, tomorrow, we're going to hear from the CEO of a medical device company, Hologic. They're launching this new global women's health index. It's in partnership with Gallup. It's one of the best things I've seen from a major company. Yet, we're also hearing from the global chairman of Veracity. A company that advises companies on how to change their ESG reporting structure.

The fact is I think that companies are going to be held to the standard that they should be that it's genuine what they are talking about that it's not just a communications exercise. So what that's going to mean is those companies that are actually not really following through on it, you're probably all of a sudden not going to hear them talk about these issues nearly as much.

But those companies that are actually championing these issues in a genuine and powerful way in a legitimate way, they're going to be brought to the forefront and celebrated that much more. And that's certainly something we're prioritizing here.

JULIE HYMAN: And also probably they'll have a leg up when it comes to hiring which has been such a tough area as of late. Something else that the LinkedIn CEO brought up that I thought was really interesting. He said, you know, companies like ours owned by Microsoft, Apple, we have a lot of resources.

We can afford to hire the top talent to work on these thorny problems. We have money to spend on it. He said but really, you have to also pay attention to giving the resources to smaller companies and enterprises and organizations to make sure they can do that. How are we seeing that sort of move through the system?

MATTHEW SWIFT: Well, I thought it was so interesting when hearing from Apple today. I thought one of the things that was most interesting is the kind of pressure that they can put on their suppliers. As they said, one of their main objectives by 2030 is to be completely carbon neutral. An operational level, they've met that commitment. But they want to do it with their entire supply chain.

What better way to change companies globally to have impact on sourcing materials companies, manufacturing companies all around the world where Apple manufactures their products. When Apple comes back and insists not only do you have to meet these standards, but actually we're going to teach you how to do it. And I thought that was really interesting.

Again, to my point about being genuine as a company is to see the fact that they are actually teaching these smaller businesses how to do it. For LinkedIn, I believe it's what-- $850 million users, I think. What their CEO talked about was how much more activity is taking place because there's so much changing in the job market going on.

And so LinkedIn as a platform to talk about these different issues is going to be huge because as employers, the only way to attract that top talent is not only talking about it, but also doing it. And that's what I thought was so great about Apple's-- what the comments from Apple.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, yeah. Finally, I wanted to ask you just about where we are.

MATTHEW SWIFT: Yeah.

JULIE HYMAN: What we're doing-- the fact that you guys have put this together at an unprecedented time. For me personally, this is the first conference I've been to since COVID. I think that's true of a lot of the other attendees. It is a hybrid format in person and virtual.

I got tested this morning like everybody else here did when they came in. Like, what was that effort like to put this together? And how different was it from other years?

MATTHEW SWIFT: Here's what I learned at the beginning of the pandemic because we're in the business of bringing people together. And so when the pandemic hit, it essentially wiped out our entire model that we'd worked on a decade to develop is put your flag in the ground and shoot for that target. And you will figure it out along the way. But here's the key ingredient to it. Be transparent and bring your community along with you in the process.

So when it was announced the vaccine was rolling out, we made a commitment that no matter what, we are going to figure out a way to bring everyone together in person. We figured it out. We worked with different companies. Multiple people on the Concordia team got certified by the city of New York to be able to do this.

This is a fraction of the people that normally come to our summit. But we also knew we need to get back to it a little bit and calling out some of our peers in this process who are either canceling their events or going entirely digital-- get over the fact that you're not going to have immediately what you had before COVID and get back to it.

So many people here today have told me, you know, I was so nervous coming in. But then it felt a little better after getting the test. And I feel great. I'm so glad to be here. We're not wearing masks right now because we're doing an interview. But everyone's been wearing masks and social distancing. Everyone was tested.

And you know what. There's a way to do it. Let's get back to it. And as I mentioned this morning in the opening, I do not believe that digital is a replacement for that person-to-person encounter. And so it feels great to be able to be back in person even if it's just a fraction of our community.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, again, personally, I can say it's very nice to talk to people in person.

MATTHEW SWIFT: Oh, it's about time.

JULIE HYMAN: --in person even if people are wearing a mask. That's-- I'm fine with that.

MATTHEW SWIFT: Exactly.

JULIE HYMAN: Oh, and I see a former colleague of mine who I'm going to talk to right when we get out there. Matt Swift, thank you so much--

MATTHEW SWIFT: Thank you.

JULIE HYMAN: --and CEO of Concordia. Adam, back to you.