Isla Morningfuture
Inspiring Best Practice 31 December Dec 2018 0830 31 December 2018

Pablo Isla is simply the world’s best CEO

Inditex leader has topped the annual Harvard University CEO ranking twice, thanks to Zara's successes and the group's growth since 2005.

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How does it feel to be the world’s best CEO? The question could be answered by any CEO, with a strong ego, but the only one entitled to give his version of the facts, at least according to the Harvard University ranking, is Pablo Isla. Since 2005 Isla has been running Inditex - the holding company that controls, among others, the giant Zara.

The grey, curly-haired, bespectacled, Madrid-born, Isla, 54, graduated in law in 1987 in his city, when only 23 years-old. From 1992 to 1996 he directed the Spanish Cooperative Bank legal services before spending two years in the Treasury Department. In 2000 he became president of the Altadis group, the Spanish multinational tobacco giant. We are close to the turning point. Another five years and Isla arrived in the place that would change his life. Inditex arrived in 2005 when he was 40, and he took on the managing director role before becoming president in 201. Amancio Ortega gave him the family silver. Ortega was then Spain’s richest man and chose to entrust Isla with the management of his family business.

Isla wants to make Inditex " toxic free ": it means freeing clothes and accessories from harmful substances and reducing energy consumption

The numbers are enough to understand the growth of the group under its management. In 2005, Inditex had 2,692 stores, which had increased to more than 7,000 a decade later. Zara’s iconic showcases conquered China and took leadership in e-commerce which added to an already successful brand growth strategy. The group grew: Inditex controls Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho, and Uterque. Zara which was associated with cheap fashion, now became the brand for the home Zara Home with furniture, cups, cushions, and sofas.

Its business orientation does not prevent Isla from raising the awareness of environmental issues, which are often placed in opposition to economic interests. Isla wants to make Inditex "Toxic free", following the Greenpeace’s 2011 Detox campaign. This means freeing clothes and accessories from harmful substances, reducing energy consumption by up to 50 percent by 2020. Whether or not he succeeds, his intentions are enough to ensure Isla the top slot in the management rankings. For two years Harvard University considered him the best manger from among more than 900 managers scattered in as many companies in 31 different countries. Not bad for someone who wanted to be a lawyer.

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