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E18 - Stewards of the Future: Can and Should we Count on Boards to do the Right Thing?

Ep. 18

Increasingly, company boards are expected to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into their strategic choices and performance criteria. How, exactly, should they do this? One approach is to integrate the entire costs/benefits of the firm’s activities, including those which are currently unpaid-for externalities, into its balance sheet. But is that really possible? Or, even desirable?


In this episode I discuss this issue – and others! – with my guest, Helle Bank Jorgensen. Helle is an internationally recognized expert on sustainable business practices, with a 30-year record of turning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks into innovative and profitable business opportunities. She is the founder and chief executive of Competent Boards, which offers online climate and ESG programs that draw on the experience of over 150 renowned board members, executives, and investors.


Helle is also the author of the newly published book, Stewards of The Future: A Guide for Competent Boards. This book shows boards must have the insight and foresight to ask the right questions of management on complex issues such as climate change, ESG, corruption, cybersecurity, human trafficking and supply-chain resilience to realize long-term profits and sustainability.


Citations


More Episodes

4/29/2022

E21 - Adding a 'P' to ESG

Ep. 21
Over the last 10-20 years we have seen the rise and rise of populist and nationalist movements in democracies across the world.This, in part, reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the state of our democratic institutions.Many people just don’t believe that democracy delivers for them.My guest for this episode is Professor Alberto Alemanno.To combat the ever-increasing attraction of illiberal political movements, Alberto believes we need to work towards creating a more even playing field between companies and citizens in our civil society.If we could do that, so the argument goes, we would have a healthier polity and more effective democratic institutions.A specific step toward these goals would be to expect private firms to make public all of their political activity – adding a ‘P’ for politics – to their existing ESG reporting requirements.As part of this, firms would need to report their support and membership of trade associations and the policies those associations work for and against.Like holding firms responsible for the ESG of companies in their supply chains, this type of political reporting would hold firms responsible for the interventions in the political system made on their behalf by others.Alberto argues that this would stop companies from playing a double game of supporting one policy publicly while simultaneously working to stop that policy through their support of other organisations and associations.The idea is a fascinating one, and Albertos knowledge and passion of the issues it raises shine through in our conversation.Alberto is the Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law & Policy at HEC Paris.He is also the founder of the civic startup, The Good Lobby, whose mission is to equalize access to power by strengthening the advocacy capacity of civil society and making corporate political influence more accountable and sustainable. He sits on the board of several civil society organizations, such as Friends of Europe, European Alternatives, VoxEurop, Access Info Europe, as well as the citizens’ campaigning movement We Move, which operates transnationally. I hope you enjoy the episode!CitationsAlemanno, A. (2017) Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society. Icon Books.Heimans, J. & Timms, H. (2019) New Power: Why Outsiders are Winning, Institutions are Failing, and How the Rest of Us Can Keep Up in the Age of Mass Participation.Picador.The Good Lobby (www.thegoodlobby.eu)Mancur Olson (1974) The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Harvard University Press (revised edition).
3/1/2022

E19 - Social Media and Social Pathology: Why and How to Hold Platforms Responsible for Harm

Ep. 19
I am joined in this episode by Professor Vasant Dhar where we talk about why social media platforms should be regulated and how we would go about doing so.Vasant argues that we have failed to install any rules of the game when it comes to holding platforms responsible for their demonstratable contribution to social ills.This, according to Vasant, leads to some truly egregious gaps in our ability to avoid negative outcomes and hold those responsible liable for their actions.For example, in our current settings, a social platform could be shown to be responsible for tens of thousands cases of depression, leading to hundreds of suicides but still to have not violated any rule or law and be completely free of liability.Vasant brings more than 30 years of study and research in this area to the table.Vasant is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science.He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the journalBig Dataand the founder of SCT Capital, one of the first machine-learning-based hedge funds in New York City in the 90s. His research focuses on building scalable decision making systems from large sources of data using techniques and principles from the disciplines of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.CitationsBail, Chris (2021) Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing. Princeton University Press.Dhar, Vasant – Brave New World Podcast.See bravenewpodcast.com.Haidt, Jonathan (2021) ‘The dangerous experiment on teen girls,’ The Atlantic, November 21.Kramer, D., Guillory, J.E., and Hancock, J.T. (2014) ‘Emotional contagion through social networks,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 111(24), pp. 8788-8790.