Governance Institute’s National Conference — driving sustainability, trust and shared value

What a day! The bar was certainly set high on the first day of National Conference here in Melbourne, which kicked off with a spectacular human light show.

We had the pleasure of hearing from Amanda Mellor, Group Secretary & Head of Corporate Governance, Marks & Spencer — the UK brand that’s known and loved around the world — flying into Australia to open our first plenary session on the changing frames for corporate governance. She highlighted that corporate governance has a bigger role than ever before.

Sustainability has to be a key component of judging success and businesses and investors need to describe and measure cultural values as a measure of their business success. Corporate responsibility cannot be viewed as a cost for businesses as it’s these stakeholders who will decide on the fate of your company in the long term. The UK Corporate Governance Code challenges organisations to consider all stakeholders. This might make organisations uncomfortable at first. But is crucial for any organisation that is committed to ethical governance practice.

We were treated to an animated fireside chat on global and regional economic mega-trends with:

  • Chair: Paul Bloxham, Chief Economist (Australia, New Zealand and Global Commodities), HSBC Bank Australia
  • Stephen Halmarick, Managing Director, Head of Global Markets Research, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • Su-Lin Ong, Managing Director, Chief Economist & Head of Australian Research, RBC Capital Markets.

The panel discussed the local and international implications for business leaders and boards. Each speaker agreeing that despite gloomy headlines, the global economy has a reasonable amount of positive momentum (currently around 3% growth). Growth will slow — but the positive momentum will continue.

Overseas, the UK economy has shown resilience despite the unknown Brexit economic outcomes. And China’s growth is now domestically driven.

Here in Australia there are two figures highlighting that right now, our economy, in its broadest terms, has positive momentum.

  1. Quarter 2, 2018 showed we were growing at a six-year high.
  2. Unemployment rate is at a six and a half year low.

Melinda Cilento — Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Economic Development of Australia & Non-Executive Director, Woodside Petroleum & Australian Unity — shared her insights on the nature and measurement of social license to operate.

Addressing the challenge of defining and translating service-level objective on the ground, she said we need to treat the licence like any other, as having the credentials and credibility to operate and understand the impact of our activities on the community. You can’t operate without it — otherwise, you’ll struggle to engage the community, retain employees and secure finance. More than that though, you need it to create a shared sense of value.

It’s about engaging with the community (not consulting). If you want to build confidence and trust in the community, this requires you to listen, respond and show them that they are valued.

We wanted our delegates to get the most relevant insights for their role. That’s why we offered three concurrent streams throughout the conference. We wanted to connect the big ideas to mechanisms to create and deliver purposeful, intelligent and value-driven strategy. Delegates mixed and matched between our three streams, including:

  • purposeful leadership
  • the risk universe 
  • societal governance.

In the concurrent sessions, we were fortunate to hear from the likes of Earl Eddings, who has just been announced as Chair of Cricket Australia. Reflecting on his challenging new role, he said that you need the cultural checks and balances in place, but you really need to understand your organisational DNA.

Sean Gordon imparted fascinating insights, statistics and explanations around the challenges and achievements of empowered Indigenous communities.

Gavin Pearce — Chief Risky Dude — offered a refreshing perspective on risk management reporting to create insightful engagement, consider how we react and recovery rate.

We had a queue for Governance Institute’s photo booth during the lunch break, which was a lot of fun!  Thank you to all of our amazing sponsors for their support.

Addressing our climate action plenary, John Price said disclosures around climate change are fragmented — improving how its communicated to investors is more important than just meeting regulatory requirements. It will support customer engagement and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Finding and sustaining funding in a complex environment is the biggest challenge for the modern NFP. John Wylie AM — Founder & Principal, Tanarra Group and Chair, Australian Sports Commission — discussed how the corporate governance model can be effectively adapted to drive strategy, financial stability and innovation in service provision. He believes that we can all make ripples of hope happen. But there are three killers of culture in the NFP sector — hubris, complacency and group think.

We concluded our sessions with corporate Australia’s most prominent headline topic — the Hayne royal commission. Session chair Dennis Gentilin — Founding Director, Human Systems Advisory ­— was joined by:

  • Dr. Deen Sanders OAM, Partner, Deloitte 
  • Helen Bird, Director, Masters of Corporate Governance & Research Fellow, Swinburne Law School 
  • Professor Andreas Ortmann, School of Economics, University of New South Wales

Addressing the professionalisation possibility — Deen stated that professionalisation usually arises from commercial fear. But in the case of Australia’s banks, the entire banking sector was driven by commercial success and entitlement. He doesn’t believe that professionalisation is the answer.

On law enforcement — Helen Bird believes ASIC needs to play their role by providing more data on enforcement activities to help regain community trust.

We ended the day in style with our Thirsty Thursday networking drinks. I had a fantastic time connecting with you all. Great to see so many new faces too — feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, so we can continue these important conversations.

Roll on day two — let’s do it all again! 

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