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Georg Kell might not have anticipated the global reach of his work when he started his career more than 30 years ago. After joining the United Nations in 1987, the opportunity for global influence presented itself. Georg took full advantage.
Georg started his career as a research fellow in engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Innovation in Berlin. He then spent a few years working as a financial analyst in various countries in Africa and Asia, helping him to gain a global perspective.
After joining the UN in 1987, he became “obsessed with modernizing the UN from within and working with the private sector,” he says.
A key point in his career came 12 years after joining the UN. “In 1999, I helped craft a speech for Kofi Annan, then UN secretary-general, calling on business to look beyond profit and to contribute to society, the environmental and global governance,” he says. “The reaction overwhelmed us. It made the front pages in major papers. That’s where the real story of building the Global Compact started.”
Vince Molinari, the CEO of Oisa Capital and former CEO of Gate Global Impact, which partnered with the UN Global Compact, explains the impact the Global Compact has. “UNGC has done an amazing job of creating awareness and convening the private sector around global issues and the imperative of public and private collaboration to drive sustainability and civil society. This was born from the passion and vision of Georg and now is being carried on by Lisa Kingo, UNGCs new Executive Director.”
Georg is philosophical about the challenges he’s faced in his career. He points at his experience starting the UN Global Compact as an example.
“Launching the Global Compact, for example, was chaotic. With a budget of just $10,000, the first office in the basement of the UN had no windows and one of the team slept there. It was a real start-up within the UN. The working conditions were tough but the spirit was high, and it was a challenge which I learned a lot from,” Georg says.
He identifies two keys to success based on his experience.
First, he says, “My advice to anyone would be to discover your inner skills. If you identify an opportunity, try to be the best at it.”
Second, he sees value in being able to see beyond the walls of your own silo. “I also always advise people to be horizontally oriented. It’s great to dig into something very specific but connecting the dots and seeing the opportunities in connecting them, there’s a premium on that.”
Today, Georg serves as the Vice Chairman of Arabesque, a fund manager focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria. With offices in London and Frankfurt, the firm focuses on trading and investing in 1,000 global stocks. This opportunity gives him the opportunity to continue his work of getting the private sector to focus more energy on doing good.
Molinari also admires the work Arabesque is doing. “Arabesque is innovating and bringing together the converging of transparency, shareholder and consumer alignment, corporate governance and sustainable values into investable products that are open to all level of investors.”
“This is truly game changing to have capital markets, technology and sustainability pioneers and experts all converging in one company,” he adds. “This is the epitome of multiple paradigms shifts intersecting at one company under its visionary CEO Omar Selim and his team, resulting in the future of investing occurring in the present.”
On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 3:00 Eastern, Georg will join me for a live discussion about his career, the UN Global Compact and Arabesque. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Arabesque:
Arabesque is a specialist ESG Quant fund manager that uses self-learning quantitative models and big data to assess the performance and sustainability of globally listed companies. The firm’s investment technology processes over 100 billion data points to select an investment universe of equities, integrating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) information with quantitative strategies.
Georg Kell is the founding Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative with over 8,000 corporate signatories in more than 160 countries. As its founding Executive Director, Kell helped to establish the United Nations Global Compact as the foremost platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible and sustainable corporate policies and practices. In a career of more than 25 years at the United Nations, Kell also oversaw the conception and launch of the Global Compact’s sister initiatives on investment, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and on education, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), together with the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative.
Mr. Kell now serves as Vice Chairman of Arabesque.
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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!