Article by Zeynep Bodur Okyay, President & CEO, Kale Group
As Kale Group, we strive for excellence toward the goal of bringing to life our common cause, which is to be the Pioneer in our field deriving from our industrial heritage and entrepreneur mindset, respectful of People and of Nature, leading to sustainable added value. In line with our common cause, Kale Values are trust, justice, sincerity, passion, responsibility and curiosity. As a legacy of Ibrahim Bodur, my father and the Founder of Kale Group, the human-centered approach prevails and reigns not only in discourse but in actual implementation. This understanding and the values are mainstreamed into corporate culture as well as modus operandi.
We have a pledge of leadership. This is by itself the blueprint for ethical leadership. It is an open call for inclusive communication, transparency, innovation, co-creation and inspiration recognizing that our actions influence and impact our customers, our company, our society and the environment. In all our business operations, while bridging technology and design, we believe in sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. We take into account the international standards in the value and supply chain ranging from investment plans to production facilities, from transportation to end-products. We believe and advocate that organizational success is not just about profits, but about ethical leadership. While ethical behavior drives good business, it is most of all about building relationships to spur the energy and creativity of people inside and outside the organization to work together to make a difference.
At Kale Group, while we maintain strong ties with the past and the founding values that cultivate this blueprint, we closely follow global trends and collaborate at national and international levels for designing the future. We believe in Industry 4.0 and try to integrate new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence etc. into our core business. But we believe more in People. For us, the key asset has always been People. Industry 4.0 will surely change the thinking, production and communication patterns. But the changes will most dramatically impact the workforce. Providing them with the right tools so that they can reach their potential will be key in this transformation.
In our view, technology is an enabler and an accelerator. It should be used in a smart way to enhance lives of People. Therefore, it is critical that people or the workforce is equipped with the skills of the 21st Century to be fully prepared for the profound changes to come. We are also investing in and encouraging soft skills that will be in demand in the future, which are the abilities to negotiate, motivate, persuade, and co-ordinate. We gladly observe these good old-fashioned human skills are not becoming less valuable, on the contrary they are becoming more valuable.
We also strongly believe in the transformative power of civil society, that it should have a strong voice in the policy-making and decision-making mechanisms as a way to enhance welfare in all spheres. To this end, I am the founding member of various influential business NGOs, and active participant in many others. In line with my leadership and steering role in civil initiatives, most notably C20 (Civil 20) during Turkey’s Presidency of G20, I became more aware and engaged with problems on the ground related to women’s participation in the workforce and possible remedies to address these. As a business person and an industrialist in a male-dominated sector leading national and international operations and investments, and a firm believer in civil society and its transformative power, ensuring gender equality is one of priority areas. Only by mobilizing the entire population and integrating women into the workforce, can creativity, innovation, and productivity flourish.
Guided by the belief that education is the best tool and leverage for empowered individuals and generations to come, through Kale Foundation, we give scholarships to students from various age groups and from low socio-economic status. Through scholarships and vocational training we help individuals to overcome their socio-economic disadvantages by breaking the pattern of learned helplessness. Vocational training in the field of ceramics helps women and men to acquire technical skills much needed to be employed and integrated into society.
Yet another focus area is regional development. Since its inception, Kale Group encourages the participation of its people and contributes immensely to the socio-economic development of Turkey and Canakkale in particular, where it was born in 1957 but also the wider area of South Marmara region. Each year, we celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of Kale Group together with our People, employees and the local inhabitants on 27 July in Çan, Çanakkale, as the Ceramics Festival of Turkey.
Apart from numerous social and cultural activities, the Ceramics festival is about celebrating production and opening up of new factories and expanding the existing ones. Through its investments, in line with the social fabric and taking into account the specificities of the region, Kale Group works to take forward the investment model created by Ibrahim Bodur, which favours industrialization of Anatolia together with creating a global brand guided by the motto of “trade makes people, but industry makes societies richer” and creates significant employment and life opportunities for people and their families, deterring migration to other cities and even encouraging reverse migration. Through its investments, Kale Group also reinforces its position as one of world’s leading producers. It is an indication of the vision, the strength of intuition and courage; it is making possible what is deemed impossible. A successful blend of local and global guided by ethical leadership.
Zeynep Bodur Okyay
President & CEO, Kale Group
Zeynep Bodur Okyay was born in İstanbul in 1964. She holds a bachelor's degree in management engineering from Istanbul Technical University and has completed graduate degree in management at Harvard University. She has held various executive positions at Kale Group of Companies. She currently serves as the President of Board of Directors and CEO of Kale Group of Companies.
Having assumed the Presidency of Steering Committee of the C20 (Civil 20), an official engagement group of G20, during the Turkish Presidency of the G20 in 2015, Ms. Okyay holds active duties in various non-governmental organizations, associations, foundations and chambers. She serves as the chairman of the general assembly of the Istanbul Chamber of Industry, vice-chairman of the Economic Development Foundation, board member of the Foreign Economic Relations Board, member of the board of trustees of the Turkish Education Foundation and vice-chairman of the female entrepreneurs' board of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey.
In 2006, Ms. Okyay was awarded the title of 'Cavaliere del Lavoro' for her contributions to Turkish-Italian relations. In 2014, she was awarded the Official Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy. Having been awarded the "Turkey in Europe Franco Nobili Award" for her contributions to relations between Turkey and the European Union in 2010, Ms. Okyay received the Turkish Grand National Assembly Outstanding Service Award in the same year. Ms. Okyay co-founded Harvard Alumni Group and has supported the establishment of a Turkish language chair at Harvard University.
Married to Osman Okyay, Vice-President of Kale Group of Companies, and mother of a son, Ms. Okyay speaks Italian and English fluently.