Socially conscious investment and emerging technologies are both areas that will require increasing boardroom focus delegates at ICSA: The Governance’s annual conference in Guernsey heard this week.
According to Fiona Le Poidevin, CEO of The International Stock Exchange recent events like the climate change protests in London and the global campaign for action on climate change reignited by schoolgirl Greta Thunberg are a sign of things to come. She encouraged companies to focus on accountability, transparency and responsibility in their ESG reporting and said that much more capital is needed to address such issues.
She also warned that there is a lack of consistency globally in terms of governmental and regulatory responses to ESG and said that companies are focusing on environmental issues more than on the social or governance side. Fiona similarly cautioned that the growing interest in allocating capital to green investments means that vigilance against ‘greenwashing’ is required.
Duncan Smith, Director of iCompli gave a thought-provoking presentation about the dangers of embracing emerging technologies without giving adequate thought to what the impact of such technologies might be.
The vast amount of personal data that is now held, and the resulting analysis of this data, is allowing algorithms to make inferences, which drive actions which are often hidden from users. He advised companies to write and implement adequate data protection and information security policies and cautioned that there is a skills gap in terms of seeing the opportunity afforded by technology and managing the risk. Duncan suggested that millennials be paired with the senior leadership team and recommended that companies should not just embrace change, but acquire the expertise to lead it.
Simon Osborne, chief executive of ICSA said: “This year’s conference has been of great use in flagging up to Guernsey’s governance practitioners some of the issues that businesses will be faced with in the future. With climate activism increasing and the ESG market evolving, companies that are not paying close attention risk being left behind. Similarly, it is vitally important that boards consider the ethical impact of technological advancements that allow such things as personal profiling.
“A smart vending machine might be able to predict customer preferences, but questions remain about whether or not companies should be profiling and corralling customers in this way. Similarly is it right that the gambling industry targets the poor and ex-gamblers? It is crucial that awareness of such important issues is raised so that boards and the governance professionals who advise them can ensure the continuing vibrancy of Guernsey’s economy.”
Paul Smith, the newly appointed Chair of ICSA’s Guernsey branch added: “The theme of this year’s conference ‘Building Board Resilience’ highlights the importance of organisations having a board that is fit for the future. As a leading financial services centre, there is constant scrutiny on Guernsey’s actions, and our members are uniquely positioned to implement good governance and high standards of compliance in order to safeguard Guernsey’s position as a trusted place to do business.”