The four pillars

I believe there are four pillars to governance: accountability, transparency, integrity and stewardship. The board sets the culture of an organisation and it must make sure that all of the process and structures that can define accountability are in place – this is a universal principle of governance. It has got to operate in a manner that is transparent, and that is universal too. You cannot argue with acting with integrity and every organisation has to look to the future in order to be sustainable. The more country-specific measures come after the pillars are implemented.

Looking ahead, the future holds even greater challenges for those working in governance roles. The public will have ever-increasing expectations of the role that companies play in society. They will also have greater expectations on what the governance of companies delivers in terms of services. Governance professionals are going to be at the centre of this – they must promote accountability, transparency, integrity and stewardship.

They will also have to ensure that their organisation operates in a manner which is most productive. Take the transport industry for example: every provider of train services, bus services and ferry services has to publish its on-time rate, its breakdown rate and numerous other metrics on how they are operating. You would have never seen that 10 or 15 years ago – that level of transparency is not going to change.

In addition, governance professionals need consider how to effectively manage supply chains. They will need to look carefully at where they source their goods from and whether they have the mechanisms and the protocols in place to ensure that their supply chain operates with integrity and ethically. This challenge is only going to become greater.

Yet despite the challenges, there will be more opportunities in organisations for governance professionals to have a role which adds value, as opposed to a role which is largely compliance oriented.

The move toward greater transparency and pro-active governance should come from all – companies, governance professionals and external regulation. We all have a role to play in bringing to people’s attention the benefit of a qualified governance professional. The Institute and all of its divisions have a responsibility to cut through the noise and be able to annunciate what value a qualified professional can bring.

Tim Sheehy is Director-General of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators

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