With this year's The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit taking place in Dublin, it was somewhat fitting that the final day both commenced and concluded with two Irishmen, albeit from vastly different disciplines.
Much of this year's Summit focused on achieving leadership through adversity, and there are few environments more hostile than a rugby pitch – so with this in mind, former Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll was well-placed to offer his take on confidence, leadership and teamwork in closing proceedings.
As he explained, in the teams in which he played, developing a positive culture was one thing, but maintaining it was another challenge entirely; words that could easily apply to the business environment.
"Ultimately, leadership lies in the small stuff, the personal talk," he explained. "It's not just messaging for the masses, it's messaging for the individual." True leaders need to "constantly refine what they do" in order to continue to get better.
The day started with a Fireside Chat with Ken Murphy, chief executive of Tesco, who, to use rugby parlance, is seeking to 'take the ball and run with it' when it comes to encouraging shoppers to eat healthier and more sustainably.
Citing the unnerving statistic that childhood obesity rose by 5% during the pandemic, he noted that retailers have a responsibility to "create a movement" around eating healthier, educating consumers on-pack, in-store and via social media.
Elsewhere, with inflation on the rise, and family budgets stressed, Murphy added that retailers can provide a degree of stability in challenging times. In a world that is “deeply unreliable and volatile”, shoppers appreciate the “reassuring reliability” of retailers like Tesco, he added.
Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organisation, has made regular appearances at CGF-related events in many years, and at the Summit he observed that while the industry had hoped to 'build back better' following the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and "triple whammy" crisis situation resulting from it has presented a number of roadblocks.
Worryingly, as he noted, the pandemic "exposed and made worse" inequalities in the international labour market, with child labour actually on the rise on a global level. Where there is willingness from governments, however, such issues can be addressed – Ryder spoke of the ILO's work with the government of Uzbekistan, which has led to child labour being completely eradicated from the cotton supply chain.
Dr Zhang Wenzhong, the founder and chairman of Wumart, one of China's biggest retailers, also addressed delegates on the final day, to discuss the retail landscape in China, and how retailers are increasingly turning to digital to gain a competitive advantage.
"The digital transformation helps retailers to set up closer and more transparent relationships with their suppliers," he explained.
Following Brian O'Driscoll's upbeat message, the final word of the Summit went to The Consumer Goods Forum managing director Wai-Chan Chan, who quoted the singer Sting in encouraging those present to "do, do, do" (albeit without the 'da, da, da').
"We all have short term challenges and they consume a tonne of our energy, but we need to work together and try to figure it all out," he said, adding that the pandemic has made us all realise that we can "do things in miraculous ways".
A full review of this year's Summit will be featured in the next edition of ESM, which will be published in early July. Read our Day One and Day Two reviews here. Next year's Global Summit will take place in Kyoto, Japan, from 6 to 9 June 2023.