ceo column

At the start of this month, nearly 1500 AICD members will gather in Sydney for the Australian Governance Summit (AGS). In its five-year history, the AGS has become the cornerstone of the governance calendar. It brings together our community and sets the tone for the coming year.

The 2020 program, based on the theme, “A new line of sight”, focuses on the challenge of looking ahead to the next decade: What skills will directors need in 2030? How do we stimulate innovation in our corporate cultures? How should we incorporate stakeholder considerations into decision-making? How do we address the risks in climate change? How can boards help tackle the connected challenges of lacklustre national productivity growth and low rates of business investment?

Each year, we hear from our members that the AGS provides practical insights they can take back to their board discussions. It is a chance for members to network, share knowledge and to hear from the leading thinkers in governance.

I encourage you to follow along on social media on the hashtag #ags2020 and to look out for our follow-up coverage in the next two issues of Company Director and on the AICD website.

Forward Governance Agenda: one year on

The AGS will continue the conversation we started a year ago about our Forward Governance Agenda, which AICD chair John Atkin FAICD and I launched at the 2019 AGS. Through this program of work, we seek to lead the debate on governance practice and standards.

In April 2019, we released a consultation paper seeking feedback on our four Forward Agenda themes: standards and professionalism; duties and stakeholders; demonstrating accountability; and culture and remuneration. We received more than 1200 member responses.

Our members called for the AICD to lead on these issues. On standards and professionalism, you supported a revised AICD Member Code of Conduct. On duties and stakeholders, you proposed that the AICD initiate a debate on directors’ duties and engage with stakeholders on the best interests duty. On accountability, most members felt that accountability mechanisms were inadequate, suggesting a need for this to be a greater area of focus for the AICD. On culture and remuneration, you called on the AICD to provide more guidance and resources. We have responded in each of these areas.

The AICD is committed to providing the resources you requested in the consultation. We have so far released a tool on governing organisational culture and, in conjunction with The Ethics Centre, a guide to ethical decision-making in the boardroom. We issued a statement on minutes, summarising key principles underpinning the practice of minute-taking — with an accompanying webinar, which nearly 3000 AICD members registered to attend. We will launch further guidance for directors on how to surface stakeholder points-of-view to the board and on directors’ duties more broadly. We also plan to feature stakeholder voices more prominently in coming editions of Company Director magazine.

We have commenced the review of the AICD Member Code of Conduct with a view to establishing a code that sets clear standards on governance practice. We are looking as well at how we strengthen the AICD Director Professional Development requirements to mandate a focus on ethics. Membership of the AICD is a credential in the governance community. We want to establish a framework for membership that ensures this continues to be the case and lifts standards of directorship.

As we progress this work in the coming year, we will keep members informed. We will need further feedback from you on specific steps we will take to advance the Forward Governance Agenda. This is vital work for the director community if we are to continue serving our organisations, meeting community expectations and, ultimately, strengthening society.