The shortlist nominees for this year’s 2018 Excellence in Governance Awards aren’t just practising good governance. They’re practising great governance.
The Governance Professionals of Canada (GPC) received more than 80 nominations this year from organizations of all sizes, across all sectors. Winners in each category will be announced at the EG Awards gala dinner tonight at The Carlu in Toronto.
Each of the shortlisted nominees were chosen for their approach to corporate governance, demonstrating consistency, innovation and out-of-the-box thinking — taking governance from good to great.
For HSBC Bank Canada, shortlisted for the Best Practices in Subsidiary Governance award, this involves rules, policies and systems that ensure the bank is well managed, with effective oversight and control.
“But, good corporate governance is not just a tick-box exercise. We are focused on doing the right thing so we embrace new ways of working to foster excellence and bring value to our stakeholders,” said Josée Turcotte, SVP Corporate Secretary and Head of Governance at HSBC Bank Canada.
“We place significant importance on diversity in the composition of our boards and our employees. We are particularly proud that women at HSBC Bank Canada hold 60 per cent of senior leadership roles, including our CEO, and that the board of directors has been gender balanced since 2013,” said Ms. Turcotte.
HSBC Bank Canada further enhanced the diversity of perspectives around the boardroom table this year by inviting members of other boards within HSBC worldwide to participate in thematic deep-dive discussions about opportunities and risks facing the bank, which facilitated the sharing of best practices.
If the goal is promoting an overall culture of transparency and ethical business conduct, then good corporate governance is essential.
“Our vision of ‘Together, Creating Sustainable Value’ means that every employee should have clear guidance on our company values and expected behaviours,” said Anna Tudela, VP of Diversity, Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Secretary with Goldcorp Inc., which is shortlisted for the Best Practices in Sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) award.
These principles are summarized in the company’s code of conduct, which provides guidance on regulatory compliance, Goldcorp standards and voluntary commitments, as well as responsible risk management, community engagement and continuous improvement.
“Our code of conduct is applicable to everybody at Goldcorp, regardless of level, role or location. It means that we must be accountable for our actions as individuals since these actions are fundamental to achieve our commitments as a company. We see third parties as a strategic extension of Goldcorp, and therefore we have the same compliance expectations that we have for our own employees,” said Ms. Tudela.
“We strongly believe that the only path to follow in our efforts to create sustainable value for all our stakeholders is by acting ethically and with integrity,” she said. “Our integrity as an organization depends on how each of us acts individually and collectively as a company.”
For companies such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, good governance is about encouraging accountability and allowing everyone to have a voice.
“For us, good governance is about making decisions with the best interests of the co-op and its five million-plus members in mind,” said Shona McGlashan, Chief Governance Officer with MEC, Canada’s largest co-operative by membership and a democratically owned business.
MEC is shortlisted in two categories – Best Engagement by a Governance Team and Best Practices in Sustainability and ESG.
“Everything MEC makes, buys, sells or touches has an impact on our environment and society. We aim to find innovative solutions that reduce our footprint as much as possible. We set ambitious targets for waste diversion, water use, lowering carbon emissions, and producing Fair Trade Certified products — and to remain accountable, we report back on our progress to our members,” said Ms. McGlashan.
For MEC, taking corporate governance beyond the status quo means having structures in place that encourage accountability and responsiveness to members’ evolving needs — all in the service of being able to fulfill MEC’s mission, which is to inspire and enable all Canadians to lead active outdoor lifestyles.
But it’s also inspiring Canadian companies in the area of great governance. “Ultimately,” she said, “the better the ESG practices of all organizations are, the better off we all are.”
The night’s top honours will go to Scotiabank’s Chairman of the Board Thomas O’Neill, who is winning the 2018 Peter Dey Achievement in Governance award. The former CEO of PwC Consulting is also the current lead independent director of Loblaw Companies Ltd. and a past chair of the board for BEC Inc., Bell Canada, St. Michael’s Hospital and PwC Consulting. He has long been a supporter of Canadian higher education, supporting the boards of his alma mater, Queen’s University.
“Good governance is at the root of our culture,” said Julie Walsh, VP Corporate Secretary & Chief Corporate Governance Officer with Scotiabank. “It permeates every level of our institution and defines who we are. Culture is something that is of fundamental importance to public companies, but particularly for financial institutions because of the trust that has been placed in us by our customers. We can never take that for granted and we must always look to how we can improve.”
Scotiabank was the first financial institution in Canada to create a Corporate Governance Office in 2014. The fact this office reports directly to the chairman of the board is telling, she said, as it speaks to the board’s focus on corporate governance matters.
Mr. O’Neill is known for providing steady leadership; he has placed particular emphasis on cybersecurity and financial compliance, which he feels are major issues in corporate governance — both of which benefit from good board culture. But he has also articulated that good board culture doesn’t require expertise on every topic; it’s more important to have passion and interest, and be willing to engage and ask the right questions.
Mr. O’Neill has said the culture of management and the board must be harmonious: “I think anybody who doesn’t feel they’re equipped to be mentors should not feel that way. We can all be mentors.”
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