The Conference Board of Canada has longstanding expertise in governance and CSR. It provides insights based on research, analysis, and interaction with members, and delivers those insights through conferences, networks, seminars, published reports, management tools, roundtables and customized services.
Recent events have strongly validated the need for The Conference Board of Canada to focus attention on corporate governance and CSR. Not since the market crash of 1929 has it been more important to build leadership capacity in Canada around these two issues that are so critical to economic and social development.
Organizations typically serve the interests of widely dispersed stakeholders â€“ investors, customers, governments, community members, employees, suppliers, citizens. But day-to-day control is entrusted to a small group of managers who may have little direct interaction with stakeholders. How then to ensure that managers serve the interests of stakeholders, rather than their own private interests?
Governance arrangements are an important part of the answer. They encompass:
the power given to management;
control over managementâ€™s use of power (e.g. via institutions such as boards of directors);
managementâ€™s accountability to stakeholders;
the formal and informal processes by which stakeholders influence management decisions.
In the private and quasi-private sectors, the traditional governance model positions management as accountable solely to investors (shareholders). But a growing number of corporations accepts that stakeholders other than shareholders have an ownership interest in the corporation, and that the corporation must therefore be answerable to them. This powerful idea is the foundation of corporate social responsibility, and provides the link between CSR and governance.
CSR follows from a decision by management to expand traditional governance arrangements to include accountability to the full range of stakeholders noted above. It is not a new idea, but corporations still struggle to apply it to their own circumstances. Increasingly, they see CSR as a business proposition. Offend or ignore any significant stakeholder group for too long and you put the health of the corporation at risk â€“ this is the argument that makes CSR “real” for CEOs.