Leighton Lecture speaker Lindsey connects her soul with her role

1218 Leighton Lecture 1For more than nine years, Connie L. Lindsey has used a simple, yet powerful, motivation to guide her work as Northern Trust’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion.

“At this point in my career, I have the pleasure of connecting my soul with my role,” Lindsey said.

On November 7, Lindsey delivered a message to nearly 1,000 Business 101 students at the 2018 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership held at the Lincoln Hall Theatre.

“The Leighton Lecture is an integral aspect of our college, because at Gies College of Business we empower students to transform big ideas into action,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean. “Having a strong guiding principle in ethics and leadership will help each of our students leave their mark and make a difference this way.

“We are delighted to have Connie here because of the many ways she has made a positive impact at Northern Trust.”

Within the 129-year old company, Lindsey is responsible for the design and implementation of Northern Trust’s approach to corporate social responsibility, community development and investments, as well as global diversity and inclusion. As of September 30, 2018, Northern Trust had $10.8 trillion in assets under custody/administration, $8.2 trillion in assets under custody, $1.2 trillion in assets under management, $132 billion in banking assets, and over 18,000 employees globally.

Lindsey’s oversight includes the development of goals, policies, and programs appropriate to the brand and business unit strategies. She is also involved in the firm’s response to environmental matters and social issues within the marketplace, workplace and the community.

An interactive portion of Lindsey's presentation asked a full theatre of students to use their phone and share a list of companies they admire.
An interactive portion of Lindsey’s presentation asked a full theatre of students to use their phone and share a list of companies they admire.

Her “Conversation of Consequence” at the Leighton Lecture tied all of Lindsey’s experiences together so that Gies Business students could better understand how to approach the issues of social responsibility and diversity once they enter the workforce—and in their studies with Business 101 at Gies College of Business.

Lindsey began by defining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a “business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social, and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.”

Lindsey said that, as a company with a long term commitment in this area, Northern Trust’s CSR statement reflects its views.

“Northern Trust values CSR as an essential element of our mission and culture,” Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Grady has stated. “Our stakeholders expect us to be responsible stewards of the company’s resources, balancing appropriate levels of prudence and risk to create value. We take that responsibility seriously, as demonstrated through our commitment to Achieve Greater through our CSR strategy.”

Lindsey reports directly to O’Grady.

To bring strategic focus to this work at the Northern Trust, Lindsey’s team adopted key performance indicators that align with four of the Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations.

Core aspects refers to Northern Trust’s focus on corporate operations. An example includes the company’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 25%, and another is to increase the number of suppliers that are screened against environmental and social criteria.

Sustainable products & services objectives include formalizing their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing philosophy and continuing to evolve proxy voting policies and practice to capture emergent ESG risks.

Shared value, as defined by Professors Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer of the Harvard Business School, is Northern Trust’s goal to generate economic value in a way that also produces value for society. In conjunction with this objective, the Northern aims to remain in the top quartile of charitable giving amongst peers and to increase volunteer hours by 5% each year through 2020.

Employees are the fourth area of focus. The company’s goal is to recruit, retain, and develop diverse talent. Lindsey also described the design and accomplishments of the Northern Trust’s 11 Business Resource Councils, which support employees in all aspects of appreciating and incorporating diversity at work—including, for example, early career professionals, LGBT, disability, military experience, belief, gender and race.

Lindsey's presentation concluded after a conversation with Gretchen Winter and a Q&A session with students.
Lindsey’s presentation concluded after a conversation with Gretchen Winter and a Q&A session with students.

“Our commitment to ethical business practices is a constant,” Lindsey said. “Reputational risk and significant damage to organizations is a consequence that is mitigated by a strong CSR practice comprised of transparency and accountability.”

And she posed one question that should linger in the minds of attendees that night, especially as Gies Business students prepare to set similar tones for companies in the future.

“What will you, as a future leader, determine is essential to your company’s growth in social responsibility and diversity?”

After her speech, Lindsey was joined on stage by Gretchen Winter, executive director at the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society within Gies Business. In tandem with course director Larry DeBrock, dean emeritus and professor of Finance and professor of Economics, Winter helps shape the Business 101 course.

Before this session concluded with a question-and-answer session with students, Winter asked Lindsey to describe how applicants are evaluated and then hired at the Northern Trust. Lindsey noted that it was important to exhibit the company’s core values during the interviewing process and throughout one’s employment.

“Of course the Northern Trust is an entity, but what makes our core values come alive are our people,” Lindsey said. “We remain devoted to service, expertise, and integrity. How we demonstrate this to the community reflects on each and every one of us individually.”

The annual Leighton Lecture in Ethics and Leadership Series, which includes various opportunities for the Lecturer to engage with small groups of students, faculty and staff, is sponsored by the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society and Gies College of Business. This lecture series is underwritten by generous contributions from Richard (’49) and Grace (’50) Leighton.

Lindsey not only spoke as part of the lecture, but also remained engaged on Thursday. Her day started with a breakfast that included Dean Brown, Dick Leighton, and Winter; a meeting with faculty at BIF, and a lunch/discussion with Enrichment Academy and Business Honors students, among others.